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We are going through a system modernization (government) and volunteer teams from each division were formed to work on the effort with the vendor. I volunteered to be a member of the team to assist, but soon after my joining the leader of the team was removed due to some bad behavior with another team member.

My management asked me if I wanted to fill in temporarily as the team lead. I have never led a team before (or supervised) and I told them this. They assured me I would be fully supported, so i said yes. Now two months later I am still the lead and it appears permanent until I say so. I am not enjoying this lead role nor do I feel adequately supported.

I am torn up about this as I want to succeed but I'm leaning towards going back to my regular position (which is waiting for me). How do I step down without it looking bad?

  • Welcome to the workplace @abracadabra. While I appreciate that you've marked my answer as accepted, we encourage you to not accept answers too quickly. We typically suggest waiting one or two days to give others a chance to answer. Questions that have an accepted answer are less likely to receive input. You are free to undo the "mark as accepted" check or select a new answer to accept at any time. – Lilienthal May 6 '16 at 19:32
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    Thanks again for your sage advice! I'm just learning this site, so it's a big help. – abracadabra May 6 '16 at 19:33
  • Please add some specifics on "They assured me I would be fully supported... I do not feel adequately supported." Seems like you never brought that to them, they may genuinely believe they're doing everything to support you, and it may be a simple (albeit huge) misunderstanding. How often do you have a 1-on-1 with your manager where you can bring things up? Should be a brief mtg at least once a week. If not, the onus is on you to calendar a regular 1-on-1. – smci Aug 21 '17 at 0:53
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First things first: you need to talk to your manager. You need to ask about the direction the team will go in and the timeline for the future.

When I first took on this position you assured me that it would only be temporary. Is there a plan to hire/promote a new team lead? Can you give me an idea of how long I would remain in this position?

Change that wording as you'd like. The key point is to get a sense of your manager's goals for the position and the team. Now, most people in your position would ask if it was possible to make the temporary promotion permanent (and include salary negotiations etc.), but if you truly feel that you're not ready for the role or never want to move into a management position, you need to make that clear. That's because it's an easy assumption to make that you'd welcome this opportunity so you need to be explicit.

I didn't mind taking on this position temporarily and I've done my best to keep things running smoothly but...

  • I feel that I'm just not ready to take on this kind of responsibility with my current experience
  • I've realized that management is not something that I'd want to move into and I'd like to return to [whatever your previous role was/did]

Can you give me an idea of the plans you have for this position in the long-term and how much longer I'd be in this role?

Keep in mind that this is a career-limiting move! If you just feel uncomfortable with your new role then I highly suggest the trite-but-true "fake it till you make it" approach. Ask for more help from your manager and regular feedback. Read some management books or blogs and focus on developing your soft skills.

In about 95% of all industries and jobs, a career will involve managing others. Turning this down now will make it harder for you to get that kind of promotion in the future. If you're working for a company that has an "up or out" system then turning this down may cost you your job if you do it poorly. In that case you have to focus on "I want to do this but I don't feel ready and want more experience in X, Y or Z first".

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    Thank you so much for your answer! As challenging as this new lead is for me, I see that stepping down has major disadvantages. I'm in the growing pains phase of learning how to lead. Your point about communication is key. I need to voice my questions and concerns more to my management. I'm probably going to "fake it til I make it" as you say. I just need to educate myself more about these soft skills that i have never used before. – abracadabra May 6 '16 at 15:08
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    @abracadabra You're welcome. It sounds like you're just anxious about the responsibility and I encourage you to communicate openly with your boss. He said you'd be fully supported and it's reasonable for someone with no management experience to require some guidance. It's far better to realise that you could do better than to assume you're a Natural Manager. In your situation I'd suggest weekly check-ins with your manager if that's feasible. If your new role will be permanent I would also encourage you to negotiate for a raise once you've grown into your role. – Lilienthal May 6 '16 at 19:28
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    Finally, I often plug Alison Green's articles here as a good resource for people in the workplace. Have a look at The Most Important Advice for New Managers or How to Manage Former Peers After Promotion. If you have any further questions or want input from people about small things that don't deserve a question, consider joining The Workplace Chat. – Lilienthal May 6 '16 at 19:28
  • I'll check those resources out. Great tips! – abracadabra May 6 '16 at 19:34

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