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Ask Kate: “I’ve lost my drive and feel disengaged with my team.”

Published 16th May 2022

Hi Kate. Like many, I switched to remote working during the pandemic. As a newly promoted manager, I found the transition to video calls and online tools quite tricky, and I wasn’t sure how hands-on I needed to be for my reports. Despite making it through, I was excited to get back to the office when everything opened up again. However, I was shocked at how different I felt going back. It’s as though I’ve lost my fire and drive to do the job, and I can feel myself disengaging with my team. I’m frustrated because I worked so hard to become a manager and was thrilled to be promoted, but now I’m questioning whether it’s something I actually want to do or if I should look for a new role and have a fresh start somewhere else. What do you think? 

Jade, Manchester 

I’m sorry you’re feeling disengaged, Jade. I know how hard you must have worked to become a manager, so to feel like this must be disappointing. It probably comes as little comfort right now, but you’re not alone. The Great Resignation was a very real workforce movement that swept across all industries and sectors last year, and its effects continue to be felt in 2022. What made thousands of workers voluntarily up and leave all of a sudden? A combination of factors, including dissatisfaction over pay and conditions, a need for something new or, as you put it, a fresh start, or a quest to achieve a healthier work-life balance, to name a few. 

For some candidates I’ve spoken to, the decision to pursue a new challenge was born out of a desire to make a difference, whether that saw them swap the private sector for public or target employers with strong social values and green credentials.

I bring up the Great Resignation because, while some people were confident in their decision to move on to pastures new, others described feeling the same way you do and struggling with a lack of motivation. With the latter, fewer actually did change roles as it transpired there was a conversation to be had with their employer and a request for more support. 

As a recruiter, the easiest thing I could say is: “Time to find another role – let me help!” However, the part of your email that caught my attention was when you described the remote working period of the pandemic as “making it through”. I’d love to know more about this time and how it was for you as a new manager. Did you receive support and guidance from senior management? Managing people is challenging at the best of times, let alone having to handle this remotely. 

I recently spoke to a manager who became hyper-aware of micro-managing their reports throughout the pandemic and essentially left them to it. It worked well – productivity remained high, and his team seemed engaged – however, he began feeling redundant. As a result, he picked up more tasks and effectively became another member of the team. Great from an output perspective, but not so useful for his management development.

This may not have happened to you, but the point is that the pandemic ripped up the rulebook for managers and leaders everywhere. Seasoned leaders could adapt their style and find a way of working that suited them, their team and the business, but it was harder for less experienced managers. Without the proper support and guidance from those above you, I can see how this time would have been challenging to navigate.

My advice would be to look at the role requirements for your management position to see whether it aligns with what you’re doing now. If you’ve strayed into new territory that isn’t working for you, it’s time to flag it. There’s a conversation to be had with your manager about how you’re feeling and establish some perspective on where the role fits into the bigger company picture. Now is also a good time to request any training you might need, whether external or delivered on the job. Simply having regular check-ins with your managers where you can share how you’re feeling and ask for advice can go a long way, too. 

As a new manager who has made it through the pandemic and emerged on the other side with a happy team, the chances are that your employer values your input and skills, so don’t be afraid to ask them for more support. 

If, for some reason, this isn’t an option for you and the input you need from higher-ups doesn’t exist in your company, then it could be time to explore your options. You now know what you need from an employer, so management support and development should be a priority before anything else if you decide to move on. Don’t settle for a role that looks similar, and don’t be afraid to challenge potential employers about the measures they have in place to adequately support and grow their managers. 

I want to say a huge well done for navigating management through the pandemic. What you did shouldn’t be underestimated, and I hope your employer (or a new one) provides the support you need for your career to continue flourishing.


Got a question for Kate? 

If you’ve got an issue or work-related question you’d like to put to recruitment guru Kate McCarthy and her network of HR experts, email enquiries@mccarthyrecruitment.com with the subject line “Ask Kate”. We can’t answer every question, but we will try our best to point you in the right direction.

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