I’m Working as Hard as I Can

By Cindy Currie | STC Fellow and Kit Brown-Hoekstra | STC Fellow

Ask a Tech Comm Manager is an advice column geared toward answering all those questions you have, but might be uncomfortable asking. We glean the questions from social media, forums, and most importantly, from you, dear reader. If we don’t know an answer, we will interview experts and get information for you. Send us your questions to or tweet them to @kitcomgenesis or the hashtag #askTCmgr.

Q: What skills do I need to move into a manager role?

A: There are six truly essential skills you need to be an effective manager:

  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking
  • Finance
  • Project Management

To grow into a manager role, first learn about what management positions are available in your organization, understand the responsibilities of each, and determine what your near-term and long-term career goals are.

Be sure to talk to your current manager about your career goals and ask for support for your aspiration to be a manager. You may find that your manager is willing and able to guide you toward management positions, and to work with you formally (perhaps via your individual development plan) to help you move forward. There might also be aspects of your manager’s job you can help with now to jump-start or enhance your learning.

It’s important to do a self-assessment of where you think you are regarding the six skills listed above. Ask your manager for input on your current level of skill in each of these areas as well. Together, you can understand where you are now and chart a course for future growth.

Also consider side gigs (as discussed in our last column). If you’re looking to improve a skill, and you find an opportunity outside your company to work on something that will give you the experience you are looking for, take advantage of that opportunity (as long as it does not conflict with your company’s policies on outside work).

Q: My manager thinks I need to be more productive, but I’m working as hard as I can. How can I tell him that he’s not being realistic?

A: First, you need to ask your manager to elaborate on what issues he sees with your productivity. Make sure you understand completely what these issues are before you attempt to counter his claim, as you and your manager may be talking about different things. You need to understand what productivity measures are being used and how they are measured. Do not necessarily counter his claim during this initial discussion. Be sure you are listening to understand what he is saying.

Then, take some time to consider what your manager has told you, and see if there are some things you can do differently to move closer to meeting productivity goals.

Once you are sure you fully understand where the concerns lie, and if you still feel your manager is being unrealistic, start to build your case—based on demonstrable facts, not emotions—about how and why things are unrealistic. If you are comfortable doing so, talk to a colleague or two for their opinions and advice. Prepare as many examples as you can. Then, arrange another meeting with your manager to present your case, in a calm and professional manner.

If you and your manager are still at odds about your productivity, it could be time to move on to a different position.

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