Career Advancement: The Management Trap

You should put in an application for team manager, Sam. When the suggestion to apply for the position was mentioned, my reaction was instantaneous. God no!! Over the last year and a half, I had observed the current managers, and I discovered that I never wanted to advance into that position.


Before we delve into why I may not have management potential, let’s touch on what makes a manager successful? After all, managers are a central part of a business team, so the wrong manager might lead their team to disaster.

What are the characteristics of a good manager? Managers are skilled at:

  • Leading a large team through distress and to success.
  • Inspiring team members to seek out new tactics and run with them.
  • Connecting and mediating contrasting personalities who might butt heads a bit.
  • Tapping into their vast collection of knowledge about their field.
  • Up-training seasoned and new team members.
  • Recognizing and reacting to emotions in a way that demonstrates a high emotional IQ.


Why would I make a barely passable manager? I can lead a small group in a confident manner, but I tend to clam up when surrounded by larger groups.


If you, dear reader, identify similar problems in your current skill set, don’t panic. If you have dreams of an exalted management position, you can obtain your goals. The skills required to become a successful manager can be learned.


Stop for a second. Let’s take a moment to consider what has set you on the management journey.


Do you have a deep desire to lead teams? To help your co-workers reach their full potential? Have you always thrived when guiding groups through difficulties? Then management might be the right path.


Do you think management is the only way to have a successful and satisfying career? Do you need a higher wage than your current wage cap allows? Then management might not be the correct career path.

You discovered what makes a good manager, and you decided that management is not for you. What next? And that is the dreaded management trap. The Management Trap: when you must choose to enter a management position you are unsuited for, or remain at a lower wage position.


It’s an unfortunate reality that many American businesses have developed policies that place management on a pedestal while undervaluing regular employees.  And it’s not doing businesses any favors. The management trap:

  • Encourages employees to seek management positions for the wrong reasons.
  • Increases the likelihood that “bad” managers will be hired.
  • Moves skilled employees to seek positions elsewhere when they cannot move into a management position.
  • Increases the number of new employees must be hired.


The solution? Rand Fishkin, from internet marketing company Moz, suggests an alternate company structure. Rather than pushing everyone into management. Moz created two career advancement tracks within the company, Individual Contributors and People Wranglers.


Individual contributors are responsible for their own work. As they progress in their career path the employees see an increase in salary and responsibilities. They even adopt some of the People Wrangler responsibilities on a smaller scale.

Very few companies have adopted this type of system. As individuals who do not foresee a management position in your future, you can keep an eye out for companies that have similar systems. As a career girl, I want to be a part of a company that values the skills and professional drive that I bring to the table. Not one that decides my skill set and professional goals are inferior.



Samantha Stauf

Samantha Stauf graduated from the University of Idaho with a degree in technical writing. In the last year and a half, she has been working in the marketing department at a local start-up