According to conventional career thinking, once a manager, always a manager. But a Djøf survey in 2014 tells us otherwise. Some 22 percent of non-manager Djøf members have previously held a management position. Stepping down is more common than one would think.
Why step down?
Why let go of the satisfaction of formal power, high position and high salary? For some, the upsides of the management job no longer balance the downsides of longer working hours, performance pressure and staff conflicts. You are simply not happy with your job. Others like to pursue a different career path as a specialist or a consultant or just want more time and flexibility in their private life. Finally, some are asked to step down and decide to give it a go.
Down is the difficult part
In your new position as a non-manager you will experience the full effect of your choice. Feelings you did not anticipate may emerge such as loss or even defeat. It may challenge your self-image. The opinions of others will also matter. For a period a feeling of less worth is not uncommon. For example, you need to understand that people won’t seek your advice like they used to.
Accepting the loss is an important first step and may constitute a turning point when you embrace your new role as a colleague. Existing and new colleagues will relate to you in a different, often more personal and less strategic way. You will begin to experience the advantages of the shift – such as more flexibility and fewer worries.
Find meaning and energy
You will need to re-establish meaning and motivation. You may ask: how can I use my experience and knowledge to help others to succeed? Take a while to consider this. Be curious to ask what ex-managers have experienced in this situation. Find an area in which you can excel. Be patient and expect a transitional process of up to a year or more before your energy and balance is fully restored.
Finally ask yourself: What is your experience in stepping down and how did you re-establish meaning?
Christian is a leadership and network consultant at Djøf, the Danish Association of Lawyers and Economists. He is a blogger and moderates workshops and network groups for managers and executives. He is interested in ‘network management’ and how connectivity and knowledge-sharing can enhance job satisfaction, performance and innovation in businesses and public administration.