Push has come to shove

So… work:

This week marked my six month anniversary of being a manager of my team of six in northern Sydney.  And at the end of the week, I was offered the opportunity to make the management role permanent.

Ironic – as I didn’t apply for the role.  I applied for advertisement for six roles at the same level, at three locations, one being where I’ve been working.  Like other applicants, I opted for the locations that suited me.  Alas, it seems like no one *read* that part.

The informal story is – I wasn’t meritorious enough to get the role in location I preferred.  Interestingly, that means I’m offered something I didn’t ask for.

Truth be told, this was the most probable of the scenarios I’d envisioned!


My loyal readers, you’ll recall my first foray into management, titled I’m not ready for management. (which I followed with this post, and this). That was just a YEAR ago.

My first foray was a short six week period.  Then I went into acting as a Senior Engineer, with no staff reporting to me, but a higher pay scale and added responsibilities (like formal disciplinary interviews and ethics training).  As the restructure continued to unfurl, I was moved to a more northern location, for what I saw as a short term stop gap for the business.  And exactly six months, almost to the day, the applications are submitted, the interviews are completed, and the offers are imminent (I’m lead to believe I have a jump on those?!)

But true to my word then, and now.  It’s not right for me.

What I do know is, I CAN be a manager.  I have valuable skills beyond my first few years in the section, where I was a paperwork machine.  I can track and manage progress on any number of fronts.  I can empathetically support staff, all but one, older than me, and the complexity of humans and their lives – difficult pregnancies, ill partners, children with ongoing health concerns, staff with health issues!  I’ve balanced the responsiveness needed for our section, against a team with all their competing personal needs.  And, I’d like to say, we’ve *killed* it.  Myself included, we came to form a section with about 3 years COMBINED of experience in the skills in the portfolio.  That’s basically saying we built from the ground up.

I've been on both sides of the fence now. source
I’ve been on both sides of the fence now. source

I’ve learnt to balance, and come to enjoy, the commitments beyond managing my team.  I sit of a few committees, and despite my relative youth, I come to feel I have something to offer.  I have a strong understanding of what ‘my people’ do, and how to relate that to people rolling out new technology.  Or the committee who drafts the ‘Rules’.  And on a committee when I work to implement legislation that’s neigh on impossible to implement in the financial climate, but alas, due to the Black Saturday Bushfires, we must do, and without a moment of delay.  Through all these, I’ve exposed myself to far more people than ever before, and I have a far greater understanding of all the moving parts of the business. I am gobsmacked to find the level below the COO, knows my name in a meeting.  Gosh the COO “reply all” to an email, and I was CCed in, just this morning (yes, Saturday!).  I feel like saying no now isn’t the end of my future.  Maybe I’ll be wrong.  But I’m confident in myself and my value, to this business.  And if not to this business, I now trust I can add value elsewhere.

Strange side note – I was searching my COO, and his linkedin profile shows he did a MBA (only recently) in a very prestigious French institute.  And he did his undergraduate degree where I did… Well there you go!

What are your thoughts?

9 Replies to “Push has come to shove”

  1. Oh, rats. I'm sorry, Sarah. That's not the way I was hoping this would work out. I agree with you – I don't think saying no will preclude you from a similar position in the future. Especially with all the experience you've gained and how well you (and your group) performed.

    What are your next plans? Will you switch back to an engineer position?

    1. Thanks Amanda, I'm so thankful to have my readers for another perspective.

      Well, the next step came WAY sooner than expected! I got suggested for another role, at lunch time – and it seems like a good fit and pretty promising!

  2. Ooh – this is really hard. I am very torn in commenting on this.

    Part of me wants to say, "Grab the current opportunity with both hands." One thing I have discovered (from turning down 'management' roles) is that it can be very hard indeed to work below those with the power to make change. Sometimes, it's the lack of power to create change that can ultimately lead to people throwing in good jobs.

    On the other hand…if you do turn it down, what will be the odds of getting the same level of seniority in the preferred location? You mention there's been one knock-back – are there location-specific reasons they might want you to gain more experience further out?

    A last consideration…how significant is it to you to 'race to the top' before possible future family considerations come into play? Another thing I've learned is that if you take 'time out of the workforce' at any point, it is vastly easier to re-enter on parity from a higher-up position.

    There is so much consider! A nice problem to have but admittedly a lot to contemplate!

    1. I can see what you mean – it might just drive me bonkers to be 'unempowered' and sit under someone who doesn't do things the way I woulda/coulda/shoulda.

      So, today I got offered (more or less) a role in another not so good location, but will come with a car. And there's some things I've not shared on the blog about the current location that add to it being 'not ideal'. But will another commute (~40mins by car) push me too far? I'm hoping the none sweaty commute will be an improvement, this summer has been brutally humid!

      This alternate role is a great opportunity to manage more (!) people, but also a stepping stone for other roles, but still using the skills I have now, and have honed recently, so that's exciting…

      1. That's fantastic and very exciting! A 40 minute commute is not so bad (I have 30 mins which kinda seems short compared to distances many do in outer-suburban Melbourne.) I think having your own car will make the world of difference. It still amazes me that you've made it 30 without getting on the 'car repayments treadmill.' That is quite a coup!

        I hope you'll feel very comfortable with how it has panned out once the dust settles 🙂

  3. I'm thinking they asked you to take on a permanent management role in your current location because you are getting good results there, so why offer you a position elsewhere (from their perspective!)

    I guess there are just two things to think about: What do you want? and What are the implications of turning it down?

    You have built good skills as a manager and will be a good manager now or in the future if you choose. Will you be happy back in your former job? Will you be comfortable working with any manager who is assigned to you? Is work-life balance key for you right now? Then you would have to balance that against: How will it be viewed if you go back to your previous job and keep applying for other openings? What if your employer decides to hold you back from future opportunities because you turned down (what they see as) a good offer? Are they they kind of company who would hold it against you for a long time or forever? If so, would you ever leave to take on a management position elsewhere?

    If you were my employee I would probably have advised you to accept it and look for another role in the company in a year or so! Or you could have accepted and told them that you would be looking for another opening in 1-2 years. Failing that, I would think very carefully about the reasons you give your employer for declining, and would tell them something that would hopefully not limit you in the future. For example, if you say it is too far away and it is tiring, they might perceive that you don't have the stamina for a permanent management role, even if you know that's not true. I would probably say something like: I am hoping to do more temporary assignments to explore different roles in the company before I decide on one, or I am hoping to work with certain people or on specific teams before I take on a permanent role, or I am planning to get my certification or take courses in an area of expertise first, or some other reason/excuse that will put your decision in a good light.

    I bet your current coworkers will be disappointed to lose you – let them down easy!!

    Good luck, Sarah, I know you will think things through and do what's best for you.

    1. OH so many good questions, which I read after I'd sent the 'no' text message. And for a while, I had a sinking feeling of "what now?" And also the logistics of untangling from one role and moving to another. But as my other comments, I was visited a few times through the day as the situation unfolded (others were advised of their appointments) and by lunch, there was an alternative role I was suggested to apply for. So – as to holding me back, I think, no! Phew, cause there was certainly every chance.

      I have to say, my mentor (which I sought independently, and is a higher level manager) has probably been somewhat informally instrumental in all this – and I'm ever so grateful. I can't believe when I emailed to ask if he'd be my mentor, how terrified I was (as if no was so scary!). It's turned my career around in the past year, coincidentally. The best thing about a mentor is the confidentiality of the relationship – my mentor understands what's going on in my life, and has weighed that with my decisions… And all's turned out (for now) promising!

        1. Yeah him having the 'in' on my 'out' probably helped me case in way's I might never know… If nothing else, he's got me in his mind when his subordinate manager was looking to fill a vacancy, so that's a blessing I couldn't have expected when we first started 'mentoring'!

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