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Recently I found myself the last man standing after layoffs, and I was given a manager job. I did well for a few months, but my manager started to get in my head with small things I was doing wrong. I became overwhelmed with volume and started worrying that this wasn’t for me.

I approached my manager for feedback and even though they said I was doing good, since I wasn’t happy, they suggested maybe a new role in an other division would be good. Looking back, I think this would have been perfect, but my indecisiveness and fear of failure led me to turn it down. They offered me my old role back with some new responsibilities and I took it with not a lot of thought about what I would think and the ramifications going forward, as I was just thinking about the present.

Now I'm in the role, I feel like I have completely crushed my reputation and any future with this company. Everyone says its fine, but I would look at me as someone who wouldn’t be approached now for anything. How can I restore my reputation? Do I just put my head down and hope for the best? Is this something where I just need to look elsewhere if I want to have any hope at future promotions?

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Here's what you don't want. You don't want, here or at another company, to get a "promotion" into a role you don't know how to do, haven't trained for, and can't tell if you're doing ok at. Some people would be fine with that, they'd figure it out on the fly, they'd trust their manager if the manager said they were doing ok, and they would muddle through somehow. That's not you. You have learned this about yourself. And you've even done it without being fired!

So, you worry about having hope of future promotions. But you don't want vague general "promotions", do you? That's the sort of thing that lands you where you just were. You want something specific. Something that you know how to do now, or you're willing to learn how to do. You can talk to your manager about this. What you would like to move up to some day and what it would take to get you there. Formal training? Shadowing someone a day a week who has that job now? Seems like "just trying it" isn't an option, but plenty of other things are. Think on this. Talk to your manager on this.

Once you know what you want, and what the steps are to getting there, you can work at making it happen. You're clearly good at something -- good enough to be the one who wasn't laid off, good enough to be kept when you rejected two possible positions (the one they put you in, and the one they offered you in the other department), good enough to make room for back in your old role. You need to think on that too. What are your strengths? What do you bring this company that they really need? Be a bit of a cheerleader for yourself, not to your manager (who seems to already know) but to yourself, the little voice that uses words like crush, ruin, no hope of any future, not approached for anything. That little voice needs a talking-to.

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  • 3
    +1 for the great pep talk and positive attitude.
    – Al rl
    Jul 2 '21 at 21:40
  • 1
    +1 for framing the usual ‘figure out what you want, and build towards it’, into specific, emotional advice. It’s ‘logically obvious’ that failure is a step to success, but motivation and positivity support us to see it that way. Great answer!
    – Enthus3d
    Jul 3 '21 at 13:01
  • Great Advice. Now I just need to get out of my head the negative thoughts and power on
    – A Duggan
    Jul 3 '21 at 14:25
  • I was once a manager, I was so pleased to leave that company and be an engineer again. My philosophy is, if I'd wanted to be a bean pusher I'd have studied beans.
    – RedSonja
    Jul 6 '21 at 10:47
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First, I will say that I don't see any evidence that you've actually done yourself any real damage. You're feeling very insecure about this, but that's not surprising given that you apparently switched off of being a manager because your stress mas maxxed out. I can at least tell you that it's not nearly as bad as you've convinced yourself that it is - the series of events that you've described don't result in anything like "completely crushed my reputation". At worst, they might conclude that you are not well-suited for a management position. Honestly? That could be okay, because based on what you're saying here, they might be right. You tried a manager role for a few months and got overwhelmed and unhappy. You don't want a role that's gong to make you overwhelmed and unhappy. I know a number of people who actively avoid manager roles for just this reason, and they live better lives (in high level technical roles) as a result.

So, what should you do about it? Well, first, before you do anything drastic or try to make any serious changes, just get your feet back under you. Let yourself recover mentally and do your current job well until you get some of your confidence back. Make sure that you're a valuable, contributing member of the team in your old role (plus a little extra) and let yourself feel good about that. No company worth working for is unhappy to have competent, productive technical personnel on staff. Then, from that healthier, happier place, think about what kind of a role you actually want, and, in particular, what kind of a role you'd be happier in. Figure out what was making you unhappy about being a manager (not what you think now, but what you'll be able to conclude once you're feeling relaxed and more confident and looking back on it). Figure out what it's going to take to avoid those. Then start talking with people about what you actually want to transition to (if you still want to transition at all).

This solves three problems. The first is that it lets you get past your current psychological debt before you try to make any more changes. The second is that it gives you much better chances of getting a new role that's a fit for you, rather than one that's a promotion into a slot that won't actually be good for you. The third is that you'll actually have an answer for the recent events. You took some time, you figured out what didn't work, and you'll have a plan for why this new change won't have those issues. After all, if you're being useful and productive in the role you're in, and you want to transition to another, then nobody wants it to be a role you're going to fail in. Showing that you've put in some serious thought and care on your own part to avoiding that outcome will help reassure them on that concern as well.

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shrug - you haven't left the company. You haven't broken anything.

You still getting your work done as asked?

Something comes along you want, tell management you want it; show the initiative that you're interested when you realize what it is you want, and it will probably be fine

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