By Brian Weberg
Should you accept a management position when offered? There often isn't much choice about this, whether you work in the legislature, elsewhere in government or the private sector. Management jobs typically are the ones at the top of the compensation food chain and to say no to a directorship or similar title can mean saying no to earning the best salary available in your workplace.
Too bad this is so often true. Some people just aren't cut out for the managing role or aren't really interested, or at least aren't adequately prepared for it. It should be OK to decline these jobs and just keep on being the best bill drafter or researcher or computer programmer or budget analyst that you can be. But the culture and pay plans in many legislatures make saying "no" to managing a very tough choice.
An interesting article on this topic titled "Maybe Management Isn't Your Style" appeared recently in the New York Times business section. Author Peggy Klaus comments, "...a bad boss is born each time someone goes into management without knowing whether he or she is truly suited for the role." And, as she points out, bad bosses are one of the leading reasons good people quit and productivity suffers.
Managing is a professional specialty just like the other staff specialties found in state legislatures. Yet most legislatures, and maybe most workplaces, push people to the top of their organizations and into supervisory and management roles without much attention to developing the knowledge and experience they need to take on these roles. Years ago I had a good friend who worked in a large accounting firm. It was no different there. The best CPA talent moved up the ladder quickly and into "senior manager" positions where many of them failed miserably at their new management responsibities. Great accountants, poor managers.
Klaus offers a list of things to think about before moving into management and recommends that "If you decide to take the plunge, accept that being a great manager, or even a good one, is a learned skill. Like many professionals, whether N.B.A. players of opera divas, you will become successful by honing the right skills with huge amounts of practice." Great advice, to be sure. But maybe legislative staff organizations also need to do more to help. Some, like in Connecticut and Nevada, are offering in-house leadership and management training opportunities. Legislatures also could do more to reward and find nitches for their super-talented, high-productivity employees who don't want to manage but who rather desire to keep on doing what they do so well.