10 Reasons It's Hard to Be the Boss

Jun 15, 2012
5 Min Read

People who have never managed before often don’t think about the downsides of the job – and people who do manage are often surprised by how hard the role can be! Here are 10 of the toughest parts about being in charge.

1. You have to make decisions people don’t like. Whether it’s ending a popular incentive program, not hiring an employee’s friend, or telling your team that they need to work late, managers have to make decisions that their teams aren’t always happy about.

2. You have to tell people when they’re not doing a good job. Sometimes these are people you like and people who are genuinely trying hard. These conversations are difficult and many managers hate them, but they’re also unavoidable.

3. When things go wrong, you’re the person who gets blamed. When things go right, you give your team the credit. But when they go wrong, you’re the one who shoulders the blame. And even if the problem was due to an employee’s mistake, you’re ultimately the person accountable.

4. Your decisions have high stakes. If you hire the wrong person, release the wrong product, or make the wrong budget trade-offs, your decisions could cause serious problems for the company, even leading to people losing their jobs. Every decision you make, even the smallest ones, could have unforeseen price tags.

5. You have to enforce rules you might not always agree with. If your company has a policy you don’t agree with, it’s still going to be your job to enforce it. And if you don’t, or if you mention your disagreement to your employees, you’ll have undermined your own boss.

6. People bring you ridiculous or awkward complaints. Managers get asked to intervene in personal squabbles, talk to the guy with body odor issues, and tell the receptionist that she’s coughing too much.

7. You need to give up some workplace friendships. Since managers need to have professional boundaries between them and the people they manage, you can’t have the same types of office friendships that you had before you became a manager. You might really click with someone on your staff, but you can’t become close in the same way you could before.

8. You’re being watched and scrutinized. As the boss, everything you say or do carries more weight. If you express enthusiasm for one person’s idea, people will assume that’s the idea they should back. And if you’re in a grumpy mood, people may spend days wondering what they did wrong and agonizing over their relationship with you.

9. You might need to let people go. Easily the worst part about being a manager is telling someone that they no longer have a job. It’s not as hard as being on the employee’s side of the conversation, of course, but for most managers it’s agonizing.

10. Some people just won’t like you. If you’re doing your job, not everyone is going to like you. You are going to tell some people their work isn’t good enough …  hold accountable people who may not want to be held accountable … enforce policies that may irritate the heck out of some people … and yes, fire people. It’s unnerving to know that some people will dislike you simply because you’re doing your job, but it’s unavoidable.

Of course, there are plenty of upsides to being the boss – probably more than the downsides. But it’s harder than it looks from the outside!

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