7 Signs It May Be Time to Step Down as a Manager

How to Know When It's Not a Good Fit

Stressed manager with a lot of people looking for his help

Not everyone is cut out to be a manager. Many people fall into management for the wrong reasons, or don't realize what the job really entails.

Organizations also don't always do the best job of assessing leadership potential to decide who should be promoted to management positions. One of the most common mistakes made is to take the best engineer, salesperson, or accountant and promote that person to manager. Unfortunately, the outcome is all too often the loss of a great individual contributor and the creation of a poor manager. 

Before accepting a management position, it’s important to be sure that you have the right motivations, goals, and skills to become a successful manager.

Management Doesn't Have to Be a Forever Role

However, I’ve seen plenty of managers that were promoted for all of the right reasons and were initially very successful in their management roles. They enthusiastically took management courses, read all of the hottest management books, and thrived on leading and developing people. Then, for one reason or another, they derailed. Employees no longer wanted to work for them, their reputation as a manager grew tarnished, and they ended up stuck in a job they no longer enjoyed. In fact, they were miserable. They were burned out on being a manager.

These managers might have been more satisfied and productive if they knew when it was time to step away from management and look for an individual contributor role that better leveraged their strengths and interests. Their employees would have been better off too. Perhaps one of them could even have stepped up and done a better job leading people.

How do you know when it’s time to step down from being a manager? There are seven telltale signs.

You've Become Complacent

You haven’t tried or done anything new in a long time and are not interested in learning about new ideas. All new ideas sound like “flavor of the month” whims that would require too much effort and risk to implement. When your employees come to you with new ideas, you tend to pop more balloons than you inflate. The status quo seems comfortable for you. You stubbornly defend “the way we have always done things” and find yourself frequently saying “we tried that before, and it didn’t work.”

You Stopped One-On-Ones Long Ago

They just became too formal, too much of a bother, too messy, and always seemed to uncover complicated problems that you had to deal with. You have adopted the motto, “no news is good news.” Dealing with people has become something that you find tiring. Your best days are the ones where you could stay in your office and work uninterrupted on your favorite project.

You’ve Lost Interest in Becoming a Better Leader

Look at your bookshelf. When was the last time you read a management or leadership book? When was the last time you took a management or leadership course? When you did, did you approach them with an open mind, or with cynicism? Do you find yourself more interested in learning about the latest technology in your field and less about leading people? Has your passion shifted from leading people to doing stuff yourself?

No One Is Asking You to Mentor Them

Many of your staff used to look to you for guidance in their professional lives. Now, though, your high potential employees that are interested in management are flocking to other managers for advice and support.

You Don't Get Invited to Speak

In the past, you often spoke at management training seminars or other company events. These guest speaker opportunities are only for “role model” managers that organizations want aspiring managers to emulate. If you're not getting invited to speak anymore, you may not be considered a role model worthy of emulating.

Your Employees Aren't Getting Promoted

If you're stagnant, your team will likely become stagnant as well. It may be because you’re no longer developing your employees. Your complacency is spreading to your team. The last time you were up for promotion you didn’t get the job because you were seen as “irreplaceable” in your current role.

Your Health Is Suffering

The stress of management is having a detrimental impact on your health. Your energy level is down, and you’re no longer happy. Depression is creeping into other areas of your life, and you can't seem to shake it off over the weekend.

Make the First Move

It can be hard to step down from a management role. There may be a loss of status, power, and even a pay cut. However, it may be better to do an honest self-assessment and take control of your destiny. Chances are, if your performance has been off the mark for a while and your attitude is showing, you're boss may be looking for an opportunity to demote you. Why not take the chance instead and step into a conversation about finding a better role for you?