Today’s Newest Star Employees: Yesterday’s Managers?

In today’s fractured job market, a new reality just might become more and more commonplace: Former managers taking entry level jobs, and liking it.

It could be that Web designer sitting next to you at work is an MIT Neuroscience graduate, or that lineman climbing the power pole in front of your house; fixing your electricity used to be an IT department manager. Or how about that project manager down the hall who actually spent years running a successful Real Estate firm. Conventional wisdom identifies these people as depressed, abjectly miserable individuals who drone away at their daily tasks, soaked in their own misery and pining for an eventual return to their former lives. How accurate is that picture though?

We are beginning to see a new trend in today’s workplace of high competition and scant opportunities, one that puts former managers back in the trenches they have been used to directing and controlling; and the reason may not always be what you think. As you ponder the obvious cause, take a look beyond the economy and begin to look at the human picture changing the face of today’s workforce, putting industry management performers back into jobs they held 5-8 years ago.

When you discover that the job market no longer has a place for you, decisions have to be made: Hold out for the job you are qualified for and suffer months and if not years of broken dreams and endless rejections, possibly taking unemployment payments to get buy or adding their names to the welfare rolls? Or sacrifice that lifelong career goal in order to keep you family afloat? The obvious answer is that yes, sacrifices will be made, but the employee you gain under those circumstances is bound to be dissatisfied and disgruntled, eager for the merest hint of a chance to break out back to where they truly belong. But what if that’s not the whole story? What happens when people used to the ruthless pace and stress of middle management start to get back into duties that provide more immediate and tangible rewards and discover that they like it there?

That former manager who is used to treating his employees as resources to be managed is now working side-by-side with others whose goals are more immediate and in many ways, simpler than their previous positions that may have involved more politics and manipulation than actual nose-to-the-grindstone effort. In many cases they are beginning to discover direct gratification in working at a level they had long since abandoned, dealing with people on a more personal level, seeing more immediate results after helping a coworker resolve a problem.

Some are starting to realize that part of themselves that they lost in pursuing that career, the family relationships that they sacrificed for those long hours and long term projects. How many former managers, having been forced to step back into the general workforce are finding it far more rewarding than being a manager ever was?

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