Where Will Tomorrow’s Managers Come From?

tomorrow's managers

Part of growth for every successful business owner is learning when to step back and delegate parts of the business to managers who can oversee the day-to-day. But small business owners may struggle to find managers, a new study by CareerBuilder suggests.

The poll of over 3,600 full-time employees found that the vast majority (66 percent) has no desire to be managers of any kind. And when it comes to C-level management, a scant 7 percent aspire to this level.

However, there are some important exceptions to these figures. African-American (39 percent) and LGBT (44 percent) employees are more likely than employees overall to want leadership roles. Men (40 percent) are also more interested in leadership roles than women (29 percent).

What is holding people back from wanting to be managers? More than half (52 percent) of those who have no interest in leadership say they just enjoy their current jobs. That’s perfectly legitimate.

However, there are three more troubling reasons people don’t want to be managers:

1) 17 Percent Say They Don’t Have the Education Needed for the Managerial Role

What’s the solution to this? First, make sure workers aren’t making incorrect assumptions about the level of education they need. While in big corporations, rules about college degrees, etc., may have to be followed for promotions, in a small business, you have flexibility to make your own decisions as long as your decisions are fair (i.e, you can’t promote one person who doesn’t have a degree, then not promote another and say it’s because they need a degree).

If the issue is one of training, consider how you can offer on-the-job training, find outside training (such as online education, industry association courses or local adult education courses) to get the person up to speed to what they’ll need to know. This approach can also give the employee a better idea of whether they would actually enjoy being a manager, so that you don’t end up promoting someone unsuited for the role.

2) 34 Percent Don’t Want to Give Up Work-Life Balance

Is this the reason so many fewer women are interested in leadership roles? While women of childbearing age have typically been the employees most interested in work-life balance, this issue is becoming increasingly important for employees in the Millennial generation — who don’t mind working hard as long as they have time to enjoy their lives — and for older employees, both male and female, who are caring for elderly parents.

Again, this can be a matter of perception. Leadership roles in big corporations, especially at the C-level, can be all-consuming — but the same is often true at small business startups due to the lack of manpower. Talk to employees about their concerns and take steps to make work more balanced for all employees, using tactics such as flexible hours and remote work.

3) 20 Percent of Employees Overall Believe There is a “Glass Ceiling” Keeping Women and Minorities From Attaining Leadership Roles

This is perhaps the most troubling finding of the study. While only 9 percent of white males believe the glass ceiling exists, among employees who want to be managers or senior managers, 24 percent of employees think there is a glass ceiling. And the percentage is even higher among females (33 percent), Hispanics (34 percent), African Americans (50 percent) and workers with disabilities (59 percent). (Interestingly, only 21 percent of LGBT employees think there’s a glass ceiling for them.)

You may scoff at the idea that there’s a glass ceiling at your company, but if you’re a white male, you might need to re-evaluate your practices. The study found only 9 percent of white males think there is a glass ceiling for women and minorities in their companies. Look around: What do the managers at your company look like? Diversity (or lack of it) sends an important message to the rest of your team about whether they would or wouldn’t be welcome at higher levels.

For small businesses, there can also be perceived barriers that have nothing to do with gender or ethnicity. Is yours a family-owned business where all the managers are family? Did all the managers go to school with you or are they all buddies of yours outside of the office? Look at your management team from all angles as if you were an outsider, and think about whether you’d feel comfortable breaking in.

The glass ceiling may be the hardest perception to overcome, but you can do it by extending opportunity to all employees, treating everyone equally and making sure you aren’t showing favoritism to anyone in the business.

Interview Photo via Shutterstock


Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

5 Reactions
  1. Also, there is an issue on pay. Most people don’t want to take on leadership roles if it does not have the perks that comes with it. If there’s no prestige and no pay, then people will not want the role.

  2. Well its not just education, but managerial skills does helping in making a good manager. Who can take important decision, at the same time leads the team from the front.

  3. I would like to add that managers in their current positions are usually there because they are, “TEAM PLAYERS”. Meaning they will suck up and are not always in positions to make the best decisions to move the company forward.
    I have found that true leaders do not run with the pack, they have the ability to think outside the box and posses quality of work.