Five Career Problems of Young Managers

1. Early Frustration and Dissatisfaction

Young managers' job expectations often exceed reality. Since their academic training may have focused on cases in which they took the roles of top-level executives, they may now expect to get a lot of responsibility quickly. Instead, they are often placed in routine, boring jobs until they have proven themselves. As a result, young managers may experience severe reality shock, become frustrated, and perhaps leave the firm. If the company has painted an overly bright picture when recruiting, this reality shock may be especially great.

2. Insensitivity and Passivity

Organizations are political. Often young managers are either insensitive to the political aspects of organizations or may resent them. Or they may simply be passive, hoping that things will turn out for the best. As a result, they may not actively explore the organizational environment to understand relationships and attitudes and clarify their own positions. Further, they may be unaware of the real criteria by which performance is rated. In some cases hard criteria such as performance are difficult to assess, and superiors may focus instead on whether the young manager fits their prejudices. Appearance, speech habits, managerial style, and other subjective measures may be used for evaluation.

3. Loyalty Dilemmas

Most people in authority value subordinates' loyalty, variously defined. However, there are many versions of loyalty. Some see loyalty as obedience-subordinates are loyal if they do what they are told. Others interpret loyalty as putting in effort and long hours to prove concern for the company. To still others, loyalty is successful completion of tasks, or protection of the superior from ridicule and adverse evaluation by others, or giving the superior honest information about mistakes and potential failures. Unfortunately, young managers often do not know which version of loyalty the organization or superior-expects. Sometimes multiple versions are demanded simultaneously. For instance, the superior may expect strict obedience but be angry if obedience leads to poor performance. These uncertainties and conflicts may cause the young manager to conform to power and authority, to try to change the superior's expectations, or to leave.

4. Personal Anxiety

Young managers may experience anxiety. They often find that, just at the time they are beginning to reap the rewards of their jobs, they question the value of what they are doing. They may say, "I am making $ 30,000 a year, 1 but I don't think what the company produces has much value to society." As a result, young managers may fear that they are "selling out." These concerns can lead to difficult choices.

Young managers can change their personal values, appear to be troublemakers, or leave their jobs. Young managers may also feel anxiety about commitment to the organization. Though they may feel they would benefit from conforming to the norms of the organization and having a sense of certainty about their careers, they don't want to close doors and shatter illusions about possibilities.

Finally, young managers may feel anxious about being dependent on others in the organization. Just at the point in their lives when they are declaring psychological independence from home and parental authority, they are becoming dependent on superiors and others in the firm. They may also feel anxiety because others in the organization-subordinates, peers, and even superiors-are dependent on them.

5. Ethical Dilemmas

Most young managers face unexpected career dilemmas that force them to think about what is ethical and unethical. In making ethical choices, young managers may find themselves torn between economic self-interest, obedience to the law, observance of religious principles, obedience to a superior, and doing the greatest good for the greatest number.