Lonely at the top


Cynthia Maxwell, an engineering director and project manager who has led teams at Apple, Google and Slack, recalls overhearing a colleague say, “As a manager, you are no longer part of your team.” Her initial thought was to push back, but then, she says, she came to see her colleague’s point.

“Once you become a manager, people will treat you differently. They will begin to withhold information from you or bend facts, not out of malice, but because they need to present themselves to you in the way that they want to be seen as an employee, as someone who is deserving of a promotion, a raise, or a big opportunity. And in many cases, no matter how much trust you think you’ve built, you are still just their manager.”

Writing recently for Fast Company online, executives Mollie Lombardi and Terra Vicario state that new managers are often surprised by the isolation of the role. “Sometimes, being a manager means holding on to information that no one else can know. Sometimes it means being at odds with other managers when it comes to resource allocation.”

Leaders have fewer people in the office they can turn to for guidance. Leadership coaches advise newly named managers to find a peer group or search for a mentor. Finding a leader with past experience relevant to yours who is willing to be your confidante can be a big advantage.

Instead of thinking of your team as a family, think of your team as a collection of individuals you are coaching and stewarding for a finite period of time.