I hate to be the one to break this terrible news to you: your manager is not God. I wish someone sat me down and told me this when I’d started working.
To begin with, I did not have healthy experiences with authority figures in my life. So I just assumed that everything they said and did was golden and that they would automatically know what I was thinking and feeling and would respond to me accordingly.
(This misconception doesn’t translate well to other important relationships, either).
Most of the time, when I put my mind to something, I get it done. And although I was never the ‘perfect employee’, I think that most of my managers enjoyed having me on their team because of my ability to show results. What I (subconsciously) expected from them though – and they weren’t really able to give – was to hold my hand on days that I was struggling and tell me that everything was going to be ok (fine, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit here but you get the idea).
I didn’t know what I needed from them until I noticed that I wasn’t getting it (like acknowledgement for something done well, some thoughtful coaching when I’d made a mistake and shown how to improve next time).
Until I was a bonafide manager – with title and everything – I had no idea how tough it was. There are multiple pressures coming at you all the time, you have to juggle a number of projects simultaneously and when things go wrong, you’re the one that has to be held accountable. It was easier to hate my previous managers before I become one.
Now I have more empathy for them.
We’ve all heard the saying that “anyone can be a manager but not everyone can be a leader.” Just like the saying “anyone can be a dad, not everyone chooses to be a father”. Ultimately it comes down to how much an individual chooses to rise to the level of responsibility in his/her life. Some will lean into it and grow – others will cave under the pressure and abdicate responsibility.
I have more impetus than ever before to grow into this level of leadership. Coaching has helped me tremendously in this regard.
Just because someone has a title, doesn’t mean that they suddenly have demi-god powers that makes them immune to the same things everyone goes through. Growth takes time. Your manager is human, as are you.
Yes they have more responsibility to learn how to lead and manage a team effectively – but that doesn’t remove the responsibility from you to be a proactive and engaged employee. When I notice the pressures that my manager(s) face, I think about ways that I can be most helpful to them. Most of the time, that means buckling down and accomplishing the tasks that have been assigned to me already.
Try to take your focus off what your manager should be doing to improve your work life and rather use that energy to invest in your own personal development.
You’ll be happier for it.
Work week reflection question: In what ways am I indulging in unrealistic expectations of my manager and how can I focus on how I can improve the work environment?