I work for a large publishing company. I started here because my dream is to someday be a published author, so I thought I would at least be in the industry.
I have been here for four years. I started in marketing and am now an editorial assistant, which sounds a lot loftier than it is. I get a lot of coffee, manage schedules, and, very occasionally, read submissions.
Anytime I am asked to do anything remotely editorial, I end up doing it on my own time, because my boss—who is very erratic and disorganized—is constantly throwing tasks my way. I also get tasks from other editors who apparently don’t trust their own EA to do them correctly. My free time is when I work on my novel.
My boss recently asked me if I would be interested in managing all the editorial assistants. It sounds like I would still have my job as her editorial assistant, but would also oversee the nitty-gritty for all the others (there are six of us). Basically, none of the senior editors want to do the paperwork involved with annual reviews, vacation requests, or dealing with poor performance.
My boss is positioning this as a promotion. There would be a bump in pay, which would be welcome since the pay is barely adequate as it is (some EA’s work remote, but I am in NYC and the cost of living is absurd). However, the job would entail a lot of responsibility, which would make it almost impossible for me to do the work I want to be doing. Plus, all these people are my friends, and I would be taking the side of their boss in holding them accountable and giving them feedback.
I already know who the slackers are—the ones who duck work and slide by doing the bare minimum. What I really want is a promotion to full-time editor. I have never wanted to manage people; I can barely manage myself. I want more money, but this feels like I’m making a deal with the devil. Also, if I don’t take it, one of my peers will and then I would potentially report to someone I know way too well and don’t respect.
I am in such a muddle. I don’t want to sell out my dream. Can you help me with this?
Deal with the Devil?
Dear Deal with the Devil,
Yes. I can.
I can tell you that you already know the answer. There is no muddle here. You see the whole landscape very clearly. The editors are trying to delegate work that is at best tedious, at worst emotionally draining.
Trying to manage your peers will be the exact nightmare you anticipate. You will be able to manage the poor shmo who eventually bites this fishhook. Just don’t let your lack of respect show.
If you need time to write, you must fight to protect it. You can live without expensive treats like Starbucks, but you can’t give up on your dream. Not yet, anyway.
There are not that many truths to live by. For example, when something seems too good to be true, it is. When people tell you who they are, listen. The one to apply in your case is when you suspect you are making a deal with the devil, you are.
PS: I am an obsessive reader, so if you need readers, I promise I will read your novel.
Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.
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