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Ask Ash

15 January 18

Advice column: am I cut out to manage; and the importance of demanding some down time

Dear Ash

I’ve taken on a promotion recently and am really regretting it. Not only am I working really long hours but I’m also feeling very isolated, as I’m now managing people and am expected to know all the answers. My colleagues also seem less friendly since my promotion and there seems to be some clear envy around it. Although prior to my promotion I worked hard, I also felt able to rely on the support of colleagues and being able to bounce ideas off them; however, now it seems they are expecting me to know it all. I’m not sure this is for me, but my partner thinks I just need time to adjust and that I should stick it out.

Ash replies

Welcome to the world of management! Without wanting to sound like the cliché, it sometimes can be lonely at the top. When you are first in a management position it can be quite tough to adjust, and colleagues may be unsure of how promotion will change you as a person or affect the office dynamics.

In any managerial position it is not a case of everyone necessarily liking you; it is more important instead to gain respect and credibility from colleagues even when difficult decisions have to be made. A great saying sums up the role very succinctly: “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.”

You therefore need to focus on the tasks allocated to you and seek to develop a strategy for effectively managing the workload; with this strategy you should be able to identify what input you will need from individuals in order to reach the end goals.

Walking the tightrope of management is never easy, but you may find that talking to your own manager about how to approach the situation may provide you with valuable insight. Try also to recall which managers you enjoyed working with in the past and to use this experience as a basis for inspiring your own team.

I suggest that you do try to give yourself some time to settle into the role, but if you still find you are not happy after a few months, give yourself the time to reconsider your options. Management is not suited to everyone, but that should not be perceived as some form of failure, as for any effective team there will always require to be a balance of leaders and followers. You just need time to discover which role is for you.


Dear Ash

I am in a job where there seems to be no real concept of being able to switch off. On weekends and even so-called annual leave we are all expected to attend to emails and respond to urgent calls. On a recent holiday abroad I was expected to get up early and join an urgent conference call, which resulted in a family outing being cancelled. My partner is getting increasingly fed up and I don’t blame her. Our boss seems to think that as he takes a similar approach towards his work, he can expect the same from his team. When I raised this with him he alleged that he did not specify that anyone had to work without a break and perhaps it was my time management which needed to be developed!

Ash replies

Modern technology means we have made ourselves potentially available 24/7, and some workplaces take advantage of this. A colleague recently advised that one reason he preferred to fly rather than take the train to meetings was not having wifi while in the air! 

However, with increasingly sophisticated technology it is important that a cultural change occurs whereby employees stand up for their right to take a break from their work. Terms such as “workaholic” seem to be a badge of honour in some workplaces, and it is important that we move away from this way of thinking. 

A workplace that expects its employees to continue to work without proper time out does not appear to value its employees; and it does not take a genius to work out that sooner or later something will give and it will normally be at the expense of the employee. Your boss clearly does not seem willing to address your concerns, and if anything is trying to claim that it is your problem rather than his.

Therefore please take this new year as a new start for you and if things cannot change in your current job, find a post in which your mental wellbeing will be valued equally with your productivity.

Send your queries to Ash

“Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and trainees, which can be put to her via the editor: peter@ connectcommunications.co.uk, or mail to Suite 6b, 1 Carmichael Place, Edinburgh EH6 5PH. Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.

Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Education, Training & Qualifications team. For one-to-one advice contact Katie Wood, head of admissions on 0131 476 8162 or by email: katiewood@lawscot.org.uk 

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