This is personal story and one I wanted to share about how knowing yourself and your place within an organization is the best thing you can do for your career, your organization, and your life.
Around the middle of last year, I was promoted to a supervisory position within my office—I became the leader of a new team, had my own budget, joined the “leadership” ranks within the office—it was due, in part, to recognition of my work over the past 7 years at the U.S. Geological Survey. It wasn’t a “grade” increase, it was a change in responsibilities. I was thrilled, to say the least, and honored to be recognized for my hard work and to be seen as part of the future of this organization’s leadership.
Having started out as a contractor in 2004 doing web application development, becoming a Fed a little over a year later, and taking lead in bigger efforts like social media coordination for the USGS in the past couple years…this was the next logical step. I knew that it wouldn’t be easy…going from a “worker bee” to a supervisor. That’s a big change to undertake and one that was ready to take on full-force. I’ve never backed down from something that challenged me professionally and there was no reason why this would be any different.
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I soon learned it was much harder than what I had ever expected.
Fast-forward to January. For many months prior, I had been feeling very overwhelmed, stressed, worn down, and just not happy. Yes, I did my job and was doing everything I had to do to be a good supervisor, manage projects, help my employees the best I could, etc. But it was draining on me, personally. I came to realize that being the worker-bee for so many years and being in a position with creative freedom was much more my style of work vs. managing people and all the general things that any supervisor would eventually have to deal with (rules, administrative work, team concerns, personality conflicts, etc).
Then last month, I took the next step in my career…I asked to demote myself. Well, I didn’t use that term (that’s just for dramatic effect), but I did request to step down from being a supervisor and get back to what made me happy to come to work everyday…being a worker-bee. After a few serious conversations with my managers, they full-on supported my decision and understood where I was coming from and agreed to do whatever was necessary to make things work better.
Wow! If anyone ever tells you the Government doesn’t care about its employees or people…bull. I don’t know about elsewhere, but at the USGS it’s very clear that many of our managers genuinely care about they’re employees’ well-being.
I’m still wrapping up some of the loose ends from switching out of the supervisory role, but I can tell you that I’m much happier now and more comfortable with what I’m doing.
What are the lessons learned from this?
- Know yourself (you work ethic, your work style, what makes you tick)
- You’ve got to be happy with what you’re doing…if you’re not happy with what you do, it will be drain on both you and everyone else around you…or those that you manage. That’s worse then trying to stick it out.
- Be honest with your managers. That might be hard for some to do, but the job of a manager is to help their people excel. If your manager is truly a good manager, they’ll find a way to do that.
- Admit when you’re wrong. I’ve never backed down from a professional challenge. I did this time around. Admitting that wasn’t easy to do, but it was necessary.
- Admitting you were wrong is =! fail (for you non-coders, =! means “not equal to”).
I may not be supervising as Leader (big “L”) anymore, but I’m in a much better position to further excel at what I’m good at doing and STILL be a “leader.” In the end that’s good for me, my career, my life, and my organization.
Note: This article is my own opinion and is not endorsed by any organization.