You want to remain an individual contributor, but your boss is pushing you to take on people management responsibilities. Here’s how to handle it.

Share story

You just received great feedback from your boss during your performance appraisal, and now he or she is asking you to take on people-management responsibilities. But what if you want to remain as an individual contributor? Here’s how to push back, without offending your manager.

Have an honest discussion. Speak to your boss and let him or her know how you feel. For example: “I truly enjoy being an individual contributor and find that I work best as a specialist. One of my skills is my ability to influence cross-functionally without people reporting to me. I’d like to understand how I could continue to grow and develop in my career here by remaining as an individual contributor. What do you see as ways I can accomplish this?” Then listen to their response.

Explore job levels within your employer. Many companies provide employees the ability to grow into other job levels without taking on people-management responsibilities. For example, in a marketing role, it might be to advance from associate marketing manager to marketing manager to senior marketing manager by taking on additional products, product lines or geographies. Meet with your HR representative to understand advancement opportunities for individual contributors.

Seek out other successful individual contributors. Look for others at your company (or within your industry) who are successful in individual-contributor roles and find out what it took for them to get where they are or to convince their managers to allow them to be individual contributors and continue advancing their careers.

Research roles at other companies. Look into other companies in your area to see what types of individual-contributor roles they offer. You might be able to use this information to create similar positions within your current employer. If you can’t persuade your employer, this outside research might be helpful if you decide to look for a job elsewhere.

Take small steps to see whether you might enjoy people management. You may not want to manage others right now, but that opinion might change in the future. Try testing the waters by asking to lead a small project team. If you enjoy it, you’ll already have experienced what it will take to be a successful people manager.

Bottom line: Not everyone seeks to become a people manager. If this is you, look for ways to create a successful individual contributor career that will keep you challenged and engaged.

Lisa Quast is a certified executive coach, and the author of the book Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach. Email her at lquast@careerwomaninc.com.