(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY If you ask 10 senior executives if they like their jobs, I bet most would say yes. That's what I would have said back when that was my job. Pay, power, perks -- what's not to like, right? Not exactly.
You see, a funny thing happens when you've been out of "the life" for a while. You get some perspective. Don't get me wrong. I have all sorts of great memories from my career in corporate America. It was a real blast.
But if I said there wasn't a downside, I'd be lying. The truth is you can't have everything in life and everything worth having has a price. Significant gains, personal or professional, require sacrifice. That's just sort of the yin and yang of things. And management is no different.
My 20-plus year career in management was more or less like a rollercoaster ride: hyper fast-paced, harrowing ups and downs, lots of screams and laughs, and a few times I definitely felt like I was going to throw up.
By comparison, the past eight or nine years on my own have been sort of Zen-like. And while I don't regret the crazy ride that got me here, I'm still happy it's over. Why should that matter to you? I'm not sure, but I'm thinking my after-the-fact perspective can benefit you before the fact. At least that's the theory.
With that in mind, here are seven things I don't miss -- maybe "hated" is a better way to express it -- about the rollercoaster ride I called my management career.
Politics and hidden agendas. I love doing business, I really do. It's remarkably satisfying. Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged inspired me like no other book I've ever read. That's probably why I despise all the politics and games people play at work, not to mention all the hidden personal agendas and passive aggressive behavior. And while most of those people self-destruct sooner or later, some of them do manage to get ahead. It's enough to make you sick.
Tyrannical, control freak CEOs. I used to think I was a magnet for dysfunctional, lunatic bosses; now I know why. I was one of them. Not the worst by any stretch, but still. We must emit some sort of bizarre, mutated pheromone that attracts us to each other. I don't miss working for them and I'm guessing that most of my former employees feel pretty much the same way.
The PTSD-like stress. It's amazing what a human being can handle, but looking back on it, I'm not entirely sure I'm not suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after years of working more or less in a war zone. In all seriousness, I've never been in combat, but I bet there are some similarities with dictator-like CEOs, crazy political factions and sniper employees ready to shoot you in the back the minute you turn around.
Living out of a suitcase. Last year I hit three million miles on American Airlines and I don't know how many on all the others combined. Maybe four or five. The vast majority of that was over a 15-year period. I used to wake up in hotel rooms in the middle of the night with no idea where I was. At this point, I'd just as soon never get on a plane again. No kidding.
Not having a life. I'm always hearing about all sorts of ways for people to be more productive, effective, efficient, and manage their time better. Well, all I can say to that is that I couldn't pull it off. Most of the time I was either on the road or double booked in meetings, so I got a lot of my work done evenings and at home. And a lot of the time I was home I was thinking about work. Whenever I hear someone say, "get a life," I think "Where the heck were you when I actually needed to hear that?"
Monday morning staff meetings. If they're managed well and the right people are there, meetings can be great. Meetings are how things get done in the business world. Except -- and I don't know exactly why -- I hated, and I mean really hated, Monday morning staff meetings. Get this. For over a year, when I commuted weekly from San Jose to Dallas, I had to fly in Sunday night or take a red-eye to make an 11 a.m. executive staff meeting. Worst year of my life.
Layoffs. Giving it straight to people who need improvement -- telling them things they don't want to hear but need to -- comes with the territory. It's what good managers do and benefits employees in the long run. But having to tell good people they're out on the street because the company didn't perform is about as bad as it gets. And yes, I know it's harder on them. I've been laid off. I know.
If you're an up-and-comer with hopes of climbing the corporate ladder all the way to the top, then I'm sure this won't deter you, and it shouldn't. Hope you like rollercoasters; enjoy the ride.
Updated 3/21/12, 9 am PST