Rising up the corporate ladder is good, it comes with increased salary, reputation and other good things but there are also certain curses associated with such a change. For one thing, your friends will become less easy-going towards you as you become part of a new elite group whose dealings you cannot comfortably share with everyone. You will also make less new friends simply because the pyramid narrows as you go up. Company processes that you used to make fun of in past, you might find yourselves having to impose the same processes on your subordinates, some of whom might still be your friends and may point out that you didn't support these processes either while you were one of them. You can be asked to give feedback on your friends who now report to you and it might be hard giving a negative feedback for a friend who really is not-so-good. And no matter what you do, people will hold you partly responsible for their poor appraisals.

Consider an example conversation like below:

A (manager) : Hey B, you are supposed to complete these weekly reports by Friday evening. Today is Monday.

B (managee) : Come on A, you know no one is going to look at them before month end. I have plenty of time left, I will do it later.

A : No, that's not acceptable. You should have finished it by Friday only. Please finish it first thing today itself.

B : OK man, I will do it. I have to say you are becoming more and more like one of them with every passing day.

C (neutral observer) : My sympathies are with A. He .............

What does C say? Are there any idiomatic expressions in English to represent this curse of being at the higher position in a workplace?

  • 2
    There is "The Peter Principle", not exactly what you're looking for but related.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 28, 2015 at 6:48
  • In your example conversation A is being an asshole.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 28, 2015 at 14:02
  • @Hot Licks, I had heard of the expression "You rise to the level of your own incompetence", but didn't know it had a name, thank you. Its an answer as well.
    – 7caifyi
    Nov 28, 2015 at 14:35
  • 1
    @HotLicks You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it . A may have a manager of his own who says that it is A's job to ensure all his subordinates' reports are ready by friday evening. Really there could be a lot of reasons why A says what he says without him being an asshole.
    – Vivek
    Nov 28, 2015 at 16:01
  • @HotLicks In fact, your calling A an asshole is a perfect example of the curse I am talking about. I am sure B would be feeling the same way :)
    – Vivek
    Nov 28, 2015 at 16:27

3 Answers 3


C may say: "It's the burden of his duty" (or "the burden of leadership").

"Burden" definition: that which is borne with difficulty; obligation; onus:

Example: A pale man with a receding hairline, Mr. Picard looks more the part of unassuming accountant than celebrity attorney. In public now, he often seems to wear the burden of his duty on his face: a convoy of lines encircling his eyes, mouth slanted seriously downward, only to turn upward on occasion into a shy grin.

  • Thank you, this is simple and gets across the point. I suppose there are no idioms for what I am looking for.
    – Vivek
    Nov 28, 2015 at 16:12

Firstly, "managee" is not a word that anyone uses - instead it would be subordinate, or simply employee or worker.

Secondly, I'm not sure there could ever be a (C) "neutral observer" in such a situation - I think they would by definition have to be either on the side of management or the workers - or at least along such a spectrum somewhere.

Are there any idiomatic expressions in English to represent this curse of being at the higher position in a workplace?

Thirdly, your premise: it is very debateable whether this is ever considered a "curse" - people who are promoted are talented or ambitious or shrewd, and would very rarely see their higher level as a burden on a day-to-day basis. Some people say (usually ironically): "It's tough at the top.".

  • I beg to differ. While "managee" may not be the Queen's English it is a very common term in the workplace, at least in the US.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 28, 2015 at 13:58
  • And I've known several managers who hated management, got into it because they were forced, and were quite happy when they were able to go back to being a normal person.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 28, 2015 at 14:01
  • Yes - "managee" doesn't roll of the tongue (and my US Windows spell-checker doesn't recognise it, along with the Queen), however if it is common-place American work-speak then I've learnt something. And sure - we have probably all known people for whom a promotion to management ranks didn't bring happiness, however I was addressing the tone of the OP where there is an implication that the negative side of management is common - almost intrinsic. If this were true far fewer people would compete for such jobs.
    – Cargill
    Nov 28, 2015 at 18:34
  • "Managee" is used because it's not ambiguous. "Employee" may mean an employee of the company, vs a "direct report" to the manager. And "subordinate" has a pejorative sense. (And why do you think that a lot of people do compete for management jobs. Mostly they do it for the money, or out of a sense of duty to their coworkers, or because they have a psychopathic personality. And far too many of that third group, especially since companies often make it a PITA to be a good manager.)
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 28, 2015 at 19:11

C (neutral observer) : My sympathies are with A. He "enjoys the privileges of rank." (The phrase is used ironically, of course; hence the need for quotation marks around it.)

Except in military manuals, I've only heard "the privileges of rank" used ironically as a lament to imply the burden you describe. For a literal use, see this as an example: http://tinyurl.com/hyybjnt

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