Not everyone wants to manage people to progress in their career. There are numerous stories where individuals who have excelled as individual contributors have been encouraged or urged to seek a team leadership role or a larger role than their current one. For certain individuals, they simply don’t want to be a people manager.
The big question, is why should anyone be pushed reluctantly into an undesired role? Some individual contributors have excellent abilities to work and influence cross-functionally, without people reporting to them. To move to the next level in some organizations, it may actually be necessary to accept “people” management to advance.
Lisa Quast wrote an article Forbes entitled, How to Push Back When You Don’t Want To Take On People Management Responsibilities. She offered some advice for those in this situation and you can read the original article here.
Lisa offered the following advice for anyone wishing to remain an individual contributor:
Speak with your boss. Sit down for a discussion with your manager and let him or her know how you feel, such as: “I truly enjoy being an individual contributor and find that I work best as a specialist. One of my skills is my ability to influence cross-functionally without those people reporting to me. I’d like to understand how I could continue to grow and develop in my career here by remaining as an individual contributor. What do you see as ways I can accomplish this?” Then listen to their response.
Obtain feedback from HR. Have a similar discussion with your HR representative to obtain feedback on individual contributor roles within the company and ways to continue to develop your career.
Seek out other successful individual contributors. Look for others in your organization or industry who are successful in individual contributor roles and them for tips and advice.
Explore job levels within your organization. Many companies provide employees with the ability to grow into other job levels, without taking on people management responsibilities. Some examples include additional responsibilities or the possibility of creating new roles that would allow for continued growth.
Research roles within other companies. Look into other companies in your area to see what types of individual contributor roles they offer. You might be able to use this information to create similar roles within your current employer. If you cannot persuade your employer, this outside research might be helpful if you decide to look for a job elsewhere.
Take small steps to see if you might enjoy people management. You may not want to manage others right now, but you just might change your mind in the future. Try taking a few steps to test the waters by asking to lead a small project team. If you enjoy it, you could volunteer for larger projects or even consider the career area of project management. Then, if you ever decide to move into a people management role, you’ll already have experienced what it will take to be a successful people manager.
The bottom line is that not everyone seeks to become a people manager and you should look for ways to create a successful individual contributor career that will keep you challenged and engaged.
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