Pulse Point – The Taken for Granted Middle Manager Role
The middle manager role is crucial to an organization as they touch all facets of a business across people, processes, and systems. They delegate to and coach their team members, manage their manager, collaborate with peers, run projects, and execute and communicate strategic initiatives and goals; middle managers often do this with little to no guidance, development, and support. On top of this, a recent Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) article noted,
“Managers' jobs are 10 times harder than before the pandemic. Managers are struggling across the board, mostly with staff retention, hiring and team performance.”
The role of the manager has become larger and “managers are expected to excel in all aspects of the job—from training, coaching and motivating employees to analyzing data and providing recommendations for improvement.
Unfortunately, companies don't take the time to properly train new managers or support experienced ones. The end result is that many managers are left feeling overwhelmed and underqualified."1
In a recent McKinsey podcast, Bryan Hancock, leader, and talent expert noted the difference a good manager makes,
“When managers spend the majority of their time coaching and leading, we see real returns. And during COVID-19, people are starting to realize that extra manager time really makes a difference.”2
“Middle management is part of the fabric of your leadership pipeline. These roles should be coveted, nurtured, and curated,“2 noted fellow McKinsey leader and talent expert, Bill Schanginer, in the same podcast.
Gallup is a strong advocate of the following statement,
“Managers Are Your Front Line Against High Employee Turnover -- And Employee Turnover Costs.”3
“Based on Gallup's workplace analysis, retaining employees through policies and pay is only a partial fix to the problem of high turnover. Managers who are interacting with their employees on a regular basis, and who provide support and guidance, should be at the center of your retention strategy.” 3
We realize the importance of the middle manager role and know that they make a huge impact in companies and on their employees, but they aren’t always getting the investments they need. If this sounds like you, I encourage you to prioritize the following three items:
1. Be the Leader you Wish you Had
Since many middle managers don’t get the support they need and deserve, some naturally won’t provide the required coaching, development, and feedback their team needs.
Don’t fall into this cycle and instead, from the words of Simon Sineck, “be the leader you wish you had.”
2. Ask for the Resources and Investment You Need/Want
According to a Gallup study in early 2022, “managers saw the steepest declines in feeling that they have clear expectations and someone who encourages their development.” 4
Ask if you don’t have clear expectations about your role as a whole, or your role on a project.
Ask for the development you want and need to perform your role and grow into the next phase of your career.
Request coaching conversations with your manager and/or access to a third-party coach.
Clarify with your manager if a strategic goal/plan is confusing or if you don’t understand the why behind something. This information and understanding are what you need to alleviate stress as you communicate it to your employees/teams.
3. Be Clear on What you Want
Do you want to advance? Stay at the level you currently are? Transition into a non-manager role?
Whichever your career desires, be sure to be clear on what you want.
First, there are too many people who are forced to become a manager with supervisor responsibilities. Some may not want that. Instead of just accepting the promotion knowing your area of expertise is NOT employee development, explore other manager and expert positions that don’t require being a direct people supervisor. Also, even if you are already in a direct people supervisor position and have realized it’s not your calling, that’s ok. Things change – you, life, circumstances, opportunities, preferences, career paths, etc. The important thing hear is speak up.
Second, some middle managers are expected to keep climbing the corporate ladder. Some employers even think if you don’t want to continue advancing that you aren’t a high performer and/or shouldn’t get opportunities for growth and development; I strongly disagree with this concept. If you are happy in your role and you are still evolving and learning, then let your manager know that this is your career desire.
I’ll also note that some think there are no additional compensation benefits if you “stop at a certain level within an organization.” Often this is not the case; you deserve to be rewarded for the value you bring to the organization. This is a crucial conversation to have with your manager, so you are clear on the pay grade base salary and other opportunities and related expectations for movement between them.
I challenge you to Own Your Own Career and prioritize the three action steps above to improve and drive your career and experience. This work is about Employee Engagement and Leadership, and it takes time.
If you are interested in learning more about Organizational Employee Engagement, I encourage you to download my “Culture Pulse: Employee Engagement Questionnaire” here to assess where you and your organization are in your employee engagement culture journey.
I look forward to providing monthly pulse points to help you stay up to date with how the workplace culture scene is evolving.
About Jaclyn T. Badeau, CPA, CGMA, MBA, EQ Certified
Jaclyn Badeau is the Founder and President of Badeau Consulting. She specializes in employee engagement initiatives that help companies inspire confidence back into their team for innovation and growth. Jaclyn’s background in cultivating high performing teams, delivering coaching and mentoring, serving as a global business risk advisor, and facilitating internal and external leadership training to a global workforce gives her the unique perspective of what employees need and what works. She is also a multi award recipient and passionate about sharing her expertise and knowledge in volunteer advisory and leadership positions roles for many associations and not-for-profits.
About Pulse Point
Pulse Point is a monthly blog to stay up to date with how the workplace culture scene is evolving.
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