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I'm burnt out on programming. There was recently a job opening in my department for a manager (IT mgr position). The department head encouraged me to apply and thinks I would be a good fit...but I'm not sure. Then again I don't want to be stuck working for a bad boss. What would you guys do?

Those of you who have been promoted, would you say that it was a good thing for your career or do you regret it?

EDIT: Thanks all for sharing your experiences.

Somebody told me that if I have to ask then I'm either not ready to be a manager or don't want the job. Does that sound right? I just like to research what I'm getting into before I actually make a big decision. Honestly there seems to be just as many (if not more) cons than there are pros.

I can't make up my mind :(

After comparing a list of pros and cons...there seems to be just as many (if not more) cons than pros.

The pay is certainly better but I'll be expected to be plugged in 24/7 and possibly work more hours.

My goals are currently concrete but they would be more abstract in this role. I hate passing up on an opportunity especially since I was encouraged to apply and there's potential for growth, but I just don't know if it's worth it. If I take the job and it doesn't work out, there's really no turning back if I want to stay in the company.

@dauphic - I think you're half right. He probably wants me out of code but not due to performance...he might be planning to outsource.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by MichaelT, gnat, Kilian Foth, Jimmy Hoffa, World Engineer Jul 17 '13 at 19:41

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

you can run, but you can't hide. – Steven A. Lowe May 3 '11 at 7:32
sure you can,essentially that is management. – Aditya P May 3 '11 at 7:34
If I were you I would take out some time to sit down and think about where all did I comprise when I shouldn't have which resulted me in such a state – Imran Omar Bukhsh May 3 '11 at 13:39
I think a holiday is a better way to deal with burnout – John Shaft May 3 '11 at 14:37
Not trying to sound mean, but if your manager is suggesting that you should move into management, it's probably a friendly way of saying that your programming is no longer up to par and he wants you out of the code. If your programming was valuable, any decent manager would go through great lengths to keep you with their team. – dauphic May 7 '11 at 23:13

11 Answers 11

Going into management is an awful way to deal with burnout. Burnout is caused by stress, and if there is one thing that is common in management, it's permanent stress. Much more than in a reasonable development position.

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Since it'd be in the same department it's almost guaranteed he'd inherit his old stress and the new stress. – edA-qa mort-ora-y May 3 '11 at 9:18
+1 for management equals stress – Kris May 3 '11 at 13:56
I don't know... I think burnout can also be caused by repetition and boredom. I suppose that ultimately means stress, but "stress" means different things to different people. – Aaronaught May 3 '11 at 15:27
@Aaronaught Burnout is definitely caused by stress. Can repetition and boredom be similarly damaging on morale? Sure. But you don't get burned out by it. – Rein Henrichs May 3 '11 at 15:31
Aaronaught: What you mean is called "boreout". – user281377 May 3 '11 at 15:39

I had worked 18 years as a developer when I moved into management. I liked development but it was getting to be a grind and I was feeling burnt out. I have a great boss who makes it look easy, so took a promotion.

Now I'm starting to realize that being a manager is a lot harder than most programmers think. At least being a good manager is harder. The amount of crap I have to deal with to keep my team out of it is crazy. I'm not sure how companies survive with all the totally political, childish stuff that goes on.

So, my stress has increased not decreased. I'm still committed to making this career transition stick, but I'm making changes to adapt to the stress.

I don't regret the transition, I just wish I'd known a bit more before moving into management. Not that it would have stopped me but I could have been better prepared.

EDIT : Since you edited.

I always hear a lot of people say they would never want to go into management. I was one of them years ago. But what makes this field marginally easier to tolerate are good managers. They're few and far between and we could all maybe name one or two we've worked for. But it wasn't until I was promoted that I saw the potential to make a difference and at the same time enjoy doing something else.

I think anyone who gets a chance to move into management should at least give it a try. You can always go back. But maybe, just maybe you'll be one of those good managers that we need more of. How can you tell until you try.

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Burned out as in overworked (Can't keep up the coding pace.) or you're not being challenged/bored? Take the job and if you want to leave and get back into programming you can just claim you tried being a manager but have decided you really want to be a programmer. If your goal is to leave your current company, you'll be able to apply as a manager as well.

Who knows, maybe being a manager for awhile will make you appreciate being a programmer?

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I am manager, in fact I'm the CTO of large company. I started as a .NET developer and worked my way up, without my knowledge, into a managerial position. One day I was offered the job and I took it because I have small kids and a pay hike sounded like a great thing. I was nervous though because I still loved to code and was afraid I'd be giving up that aspect of it. While it's true that I don't code as much as I used to, I do enjoy doing the management thing. I get involved more in the high-leve architecture decisions, and overall grand scheme type of things. For instance, I get to pick what technology stack we use, how best to deploy applications, implement agile technologies, and that sort of thing. I still write code but it's mostly for testing and review. The one thing that I was stunned by is the sheer amount of writing that I have to do. I wasn't prepared for that part of the job but when you're in charge of a group, the people above you want constant communication as do the people below you. It's a challenge and can be a rewarding one, just make sure that it's something that you're getting into for the right reasons. Sometimes burning out might be dealt better with a lateral move to another company. Perhaps try a new technology or working environment (small agile teams). Either way, it's important to remember that software development can be a really fun and rewarding job you just have to find the right environment to settle into to.

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As someone who's currently taking a career break due to a massive burnout - and who's done a heap of research into burnout, I'd say proceed with caution. Unfortunately, it's very individual and can go either way.

If there's anything I've learned about burnout, it's that it's extremely deeply rooted into the personality and past of individual sufferers. What works (as a preventative measure and/or recovery plan) for one person might do nothing (or even make it worse) for another.

That said, I'm 80% sure that this would be a bad idea. Here's why: Burnout usually happens as a slow downward spiral that's reinforced by being in an uninspiring environment, eg. Dilbertesque management, boring work, bad practices, even superficial things like an ugly office space. The example I always use is Peter Gibbons from "Office Space". It's sometimes hard to tell at the time, but looking back people often say (as I have) that the actual work itself was anywhere from 0% to 10% of the cause. It's more the "everything else". So then, the problem with going into management, as others have said, is that you're just taking on more of the same stress - in that same environment that caused your burnout in the first place.

Of course, I could be wrong. Some burnout sufferers just need a stiff jolt out of their current role and any kind of shakeup would do. But as said at the start, it's all far too individual to give concrete advice either way.

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How long have you been off? Have you recovered yet? – Rich May 4 '11 at 5:12
@Rich: Almost four months. Starting to get better. I'll be looking into doing some short term contracting soonish to ease back into it (instead of committing to fulltime work right away). I'm keeping a blog about it (linked on my profile) if you wanna know more. :) – Bobby Tables May 4 '11 at 5:29
Office space is a great film. – John Shaft May 4 '11 at 12:41

Get into a management position in a different place. This will prevent bias,decrease the possibility of being taken for granted, renew your interest in career .

what ever you do, make sure you don't do the same(burn out) to your minions :) .Be a better manager than the one you had.

Also Remember grass is always greener on the other side.So it would be best to determine what exactly caused the burnout and if the change in position/role will overcome this.

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Our entire staff is on the verge of burnout. I thought maybe I would be able to help the situation if I became manager but that could be wishful thinking. I suppose I could go elsewhere if things get worse but then I would have to move because there are not a lot of tech jobs where I'm at. – Rich May 3 '11 at 17:40

There's not a lot of information in your question, so I may be way off track. I would suggest you step back and try to pinpoint why you are feeling burned out. Are you overworked? Bored? Feeling like you're in a rut? I think the answer to that question is necessary before you can see the way out of it. There are other ways to relieve burnout if you understand what's causing it. How about picking up a new language/platform or finding some interesting work to do on your own time. I would say that becoming a manager, in most cases, will not solve a burnout problem.

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I would say all of the above (overworked, bored, and in a rut). I've been in the same role for years and much of the burnout was caused by a manager who wasn't really empathetic. He would constantly pull me away from coding to put out fires. Just about everyone on the team is on the verge of burnout after we've been through several rounds of layoffs. I'm just afraid of getting another manager that does the same thing or makes the situation worse than it is. – Rich May 3 '11 at 17:40

I went into marketing instead. All you need is a whiteboard and some good ideas (and a lot of OTJT). Tradeshows are fun and you get to meet prospects/customers and help them solve their problems. Like programming it is still using technology and problem solving but in a different way and with more tangible and satisfying results.

If you want a change I would suggest going for the new job, especially if you are being encouraged to apply and you might get mentored.

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How did you transition into Marketing? Do you have a Marketing degree? – Rich May 4 '11 at 5:10
No marketing degree, just was in the right place/right time and was the only developer who listened to their problems. It didn't take a lot of coding to solve their problems with the product and they were happy. Programming/software/hardware problems have been easy and boring ever since google arrived. Problems with people/prospects/customers/products/etc are much more challenging and interesting. Ask yourself - when will I get another opportunity like this? – james May 4 '11 at 14:03
That's what I'm afraid of....another opportunity like this may not come and I'll be kicking myself for not applying (especially if we get a bad manager). – Rich May 4 '11 at 16:40

I hate being a manager/supervisor. The slight (in my experience anyway) increase in pay was never worth the added responsibility, visibility, and stress. My supervisor, for example (for whom I fill in when he's on leave) has 3x the workload, and only makes 10-20% more. Not only that, but if any of us screw up, he's the one held responsible. Middle management can also be lonely; too junior to be good friends with upper management, and too senior to be good friends with your subordinates, so it's good if you have friends outside of the workplace, or at least working in a different area.

I'd say the experience is important and necessary -- especially if you want to do something like start your own business, with the possible exception of consulting -- but I've never found it to be a rewarding experience. Under the right circumstances, if I was a team leader or project manager for a creative project, I'd do it again, but in my current line of work, management = TPS reports and scapegoat.

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Moving into management is really not the best way of dealing with burnout. Management positions are always more stressful and demanding. A better solution might be to switch a company or field of expertise, or if you really feel that you hit the ceiling, but still want to stick around then finding a professional group you can attend to might solve your issue(I know it helps me). If you still decide to take the path of going into management then look for a way to combine it with practicing your main profession, otherwise you'll get out of shape really quick.

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Do you know why your department head felt you would be a good fit?

Ultimately, "I'm burned out programming" is not a positive reason to look at change - you need to be looking at what management can offer you positively rather than negatively.

I would say this: being a good manager is good for your career. Being a burned out manager is bad. You need to figure out which you'd be and without knowing why you feel burned out on programming, that's hard to give a call on.

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I was surprised that he went out of his way to encourage that I apply. I have both good people skills and good tech skills so I guess that is why he approached me...and he doesn't want to lose me to the competition. This might be his way of justifying a pay bump but I'm not sure. – Rich May 3 '11 at 17:39
It's entirely possible that your department head recognises the issues between you and your line management (I'm making the assumption that they are different people) and also recognises that in that case, you have positive assets that are not being exploited correctly by the company. I'd consider this though: if you don't go for this, are you considering other options and desires, and if not, why not? – temptar May 4 '11 at 9:16
I am one of those rare techies with good people skills. I have been considering other options but there are so many I have been trouble deciding. Everything from starting an ISV on the side to consulting to getting an MBA. – Rich May 4 '11 at 16:50

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