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The Question

I have been a market researcher for five years and have enjoyed my work immensely. I was promoted to senior researcher last year, then director a few months ago. As a director, I oversee a staff of seven and take part in higher-level planning. Managing doesn’t come naturally to me and I find myself yearning for the simple days of research work. While I have a great relationship with my boss (she’s allowed me to participate in workshops to pick up managerial skills and supports my growth as a director) I’m not sure I want to climb the corporate ladder. Is four months long enough to know that I’m not suited to be a manager? Should I consider trying to “demote” myself?

The First Answer

Zuleika Sgro, CHRL, vice-president, people, Saje Natural Wellness, Vancouver: First off, I celebrate your self-awareness and your courage. Recognizing our natural strengths and opportunities is often a challenge. Ego may get in the way of us doing what we love each day, doing what we are naturally good at and growing in the areas that excite us most – regardless of title/status.

Instead of demoting yourself, have an open conversation with your manager about how you are feeling. I would also recommend you write out what you love doing in your day-to-day – what comes easy and what does not – to help gather your thoughts. Focus your conversation with your manager on what you love doing and what you are naturally good at that brings value, Then, highlight the areas that don’t light you up to come up with a solution together. This could lead to modifying your role, or some further development. It is important to have these conversations early on so you don’t miss the opportunity to save your love for your job before it’s too late. Four months can be long enough to recognize how the role is going for you and how you are doing in it. It’s usually a reasonable time to rate one’s performance in a new role much like a standard “probationary period,” which is typically at the three-month mark.

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We often put ourselves or stay in positions for our ego and at the end of the day, our happiness suffers. In turn, we lose motivation for what we once loved doing which shows up in workplace results.

The Second Answer

Peter Caven, managing director, Launched, Toronto: I encourage you to not act too hastily. Four months is not long enough to determine whether you are suited to be a manager. Give yourself six months to a year before you make a final decision. This is an opportunity for professional and personal growth which are integral parts of career satisfaction. If you were to step away from a leadership role now, it would be difficult to get back into a similar role in the future.

I recommend you do the following:

  • Ask your boss for immediate feedback on your leadership of the team.
  • Ask your boss to provide some ongoing coaching in any areas that have been identified as deficient.
  • Request a 360-degree feedback involving your boss, peers and those who report to you at the six-month mark.
  • Keep a diary of your daily activities and note how you felt: Were you energized and engaged or not? Review the diary weekly and look for patterns. Identify times when you were “in the zone” – what were you doing and with whom?

Review what you learnt in these steps and determine your strengths. If they are not aligned with those required in a leadership role, then demote yourself. This process will eliminate any second guessing of whatever decision you make.

The organization believes that you have leadership potential and the fact that your boss has provided training is a real vote of confidence. If you conclude that you do not want to climb the corporate ladder, discuss your rationale with your boss and develop an alternate career path.

Have a question for our experts? Send an email to NineToFive@globeandmail.com

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