Jennifer materialized in the doorway of my brand-new office without a sound.
I nearly jumped when I looked up and saw her standing there. Her pursed lips struggled to keep her face from spilling the emotion that was clearly dammed up.
It wasn’t good.
It was my first week as a manager — my first week having an office with walls and a door that closed, not to mention a big window and a fancy Herman Miller chair.
What did I do?
Thoughts of self-doubt welled up in me. I had been promoted to lead the team that I had been a member of just days earlier. She’s probably upset they chose me, or she thinks I don’t deserve it, that I’m too young, too inexperienced. Could she be right? I’m only 27, and she started her career when I was in grade school.
“Oh! Hey, Jennifer. What’s—” I didn’t get to finish.
“Ryan, my husband cheated on me,” she said. Her voice quivered.
“He wants . . . a divorce.”
If this moment had a soundtrack, Jennifer’s words would’ve cut the music with a giant record-scratch.
Why is she telling me this? What am I supposed to do? My mind reeled. I couldn’t imagine divulging this kind of information to my boss (especially someone I only knew casually as a peer a few days ago), let alone having any clue what to do when I was the “boss” getting it dropped in my lap.
I had not counted on this kind of conversation in my new leadership role. Nobody told me that a manager would have to deal with situations like this.
Welcome to management.
If you are holding this book because you’ve just been promoted and are in a new management position, congratulations. You are now the subject of the dinner table conversations of every person who reports to you.
You have become the individual your employees complain about to their spouses and children. You are now responsible for the careers of those who report to you. You are now “the boss.”
Did you realize what your manager did when you were an individual contributor? Did you think they had it easy?
If you’re like I was, you probably couldn’t wait to get your promotion and become the boss. Unfortunately, you don’t fully appreciate everything management entails until it’s your job to do.
With Jennifer standing there, waiting for me to respond, I quickly realized there was so much more to leading a team than I had previously thought. In that moment, it dawned on me: I wasn’t sure what a manager actually did.