I’ve long tried to describe the sudden disorientation of losing immediate feedback that comes with being a first-time manager. Recently I heard the term “managerial sensory deprivation”, and I think that’s a useful phrase. When you’re hands-on doing the work of reearch computing and data, you get immediate, almost tactile feedback with what you’re doing, whether it’s from the systems or from the researchers. As a manager, any action you take has only indirect results that could take days, weeks, or months to really play out. And by that time, it’s hard to connect it unambigiously to something you’ve done.
Your work senses are getting no signal back, or weak signals seemingly unconnected to what you’re currently doing. You’re feeling a kind of sensory deprivation. And wikipedia helpfully reminds us that “extended or forced sensory deprivation can result in extreme anxiety, hallucinations, bizarre thoughts, temporary senselessness, and depression”.
This has come to mind lately being a new part of a big organization and, frankly, having no idea what I’m doing yet. I’m accomplishing stuff, but is it the right stuff? Is it having any kind of impact? If yes, is that impact positive? How and when will I know? Having moved organizations (and sectors!) I’ve again lost my bearings and my feedback mechanism. It’s apparently not an unusual situation; I heard the same thing from a reader who I talked with earlier this week, who’s also in a new job. (By the way, I love hearing from RCT readers - never hesitate to email, or even book a quick chat.)