The Worst Feeling in the World.

Jun 07, 2024

Being Promoted to Senior Management and Being Told You’re Not Stepping Up

You finally did it. After years of hard work, late nights, and going above and beyond, you’ve been promoted to a senior management role. This is what you’ve been striving for—recognition, responsibility, and the chance to make a real impact. But instead of feeling elated, you’re overwhelmed, exhausted, and doubting yourself more than ever.

The Crushing Reality

Once the initial excitement of the promotion fades, the reality of your new responsibilities set in. Suddenly, you’re swamped with more tasks than you can handle. Your inbox is overflowing, your calendar is packed with back-to-back meetings, and every decision you make feels like it could make or break your career. You spend as much time managing other people's feelings and egos, as you do on your actual job.

Then comes the feedback. Your boss sits you down and tells you that you "need to step up". You’re not meeting expectations, and worst case, if things don’t change, there could be consequences. It’s like a punch to the gut. You thought you were doing everything right—working harder, putting in more hours, taking on every task. But it’s not enough. You’re not enough. But you don't know how to be enough. 

The Emotional Toll

Feelings of inadequacy might start to creep in. Self-doubt becomes a new companion. You replay the feedback over and over in your mind, wondering where you went wrong. What you could or should have done differently. The weight of expectations looms, and you’re terrified of failing. The pressure to prove yourself is immense, but the harder you push, the more it seems to backfire.

You feel isolated. As a senior manager, you’re expected to be an expert in leadership and help inspire your team. But you know you’re struggling. You don’t want to show weakness or admit that you’re overwhelmed, so you keep it all inside and do your best. The stress starts to take a toll on your health and well-being. You’re not sleeping well, your eating habits have deteriorated, and you can’t remember the last time you truly relaxed.

The Coping Cycle

You double down on your efforts, hoping that working even harder will turn things around. You stay late at the office, cancel plans with friends and family, and sacrifice personal time in the name of work. You hear yourself saying things like "If we can just get through this week, month, quarter". But no matter how many hours you put in, it never feels like enough. You’re constantly behind, constantly firefighting, and constantly exhausted.

Every email, every meeting, every task feels urgent and critical. You’re caught in a cycle of reaction, always putting out fires and never having time to think strategically. The more you try to control everything, the more chaotic it becomes. You’re spread so thin that you can’t give anything the attention it deserves, and the quality of your work starts to suffer.

The Personal Sacrifice

Your personal life begins to suffer too. The long hours and constant stress leave little time for anything else. You miss important family events, neglect your hobbies, and lose touch with friends. The things that used to bring you joy and balance are pushed aside, and you’re left feeling unfulfilled and disconnected.

The guilt sets in. You feel guilty for not being there for your loved ones, for not taking care of yourself, for not being able to handle it all. The boundaries between work and life blur, and you’re always on, always thinking about the next task, the next meeting, the next problem to solve.

The Reason Why

The reason you’re feeling this way is that you’re still operating like a manager, not a senior leader. It might be one rung on the company ladder but it might as well be Mars! 

Senior management isn’t about doing more tasks; it’s about leading differently. This transition requires a whole set of new skills and ways of working that aren't often shared in traditional management/leadership training. It includes strategic thinking, empowering effectively, and inspiring your team. To thrive, you need to shift from managing tasks to leading people, cultivating innovation, and setting a vision for the future.

The Path Forward

Recognising the need for this shift is the first step. If you're feeling like this, I get it. I wrote this journal entry 6 years ago as part of an assignment. I also worked out how to solve it and I'd love to help. 


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