Article (October-2021)


Leadership should give an ear to middle managers

Panchakshari Math

Designation : -   Vice President - Human Resources

Organization : -  Innoviti Payment Solutions


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How do you decode the Middle Riddle? What are the most relevant issues involved with middle managers in the organisations?

PM Middle Managers are the backbone of the organisations. They bridge the senior leadership team on the one hand with the ground personnel Team on the other. Though they are the ones who drive the organisation strategy, they have several relevant challenges to address. Middle managers are facing increasing responsibilities & mounting pressure at work. With organisations going lean and fewer resources available, managers are being sandwiched between top management pressure and lack of support from their subordinates. Employee attrition further contributes to the non-delivery of the results. Despite the challenges, they let the workflow remain undisturbed; however, they don't seem to get the full credit they deserve. They are left out of the strategic discussions; their importance is overlooked. Most of the time, they are under-utilized than their potential, their feedback is ignored, taken for granted, and therefore Middle managers cannot see the bigger picture of the organisation and align themselves accordingly.

Middle managers may feel neglected by the company if they are never really appreciated for all their work for the business. Moreover, they have more minor roles with large amounts of responsibility, and sometimes, they don't seem to get the full credit they deserve. As a result, middle managers often find themselves stuck between various stakeholder groups, producing "relentless and conflicting demands". On the emotional side, conflicting roles lead to increased feelings of stress and anxiety, reflecting the tension between incompatible social expectations.

Few middle managers also struggle with the soft skills, giving feedback, setting expectations, developing their team, managing conflict, tracking team productivity, managing communication between teams, recruiting and onboarding the right employees, time management, the wellbeing of employees & shaping the company culture. Organisations should develop and actively engage and inspire middle managers to meet business needs.

Leaders should keep the middle managers updated about the happenings and keep them in the loop, empower them, trust them, and allow them to try, test, and correct. Reward for good things and support the transition of middle managers to their new role and provide new opportunities.

Does the Corp Inc. recognize the existence and value middle managers? If yes, why it is not visible and appreciated enough? If not, what reasons you can count upon?

PM Middle managers are valued as they are the engine of the business, the cogs that make things work, the lubricant that keeps companies together. They play a critical role in the organisation, especially as implementers of change. They are closer to day-to-day operations, customers and front-line employees. They are the one who knows the facts and the ground issues, and they do have most of the solutions for the same.

Middle managers are more critical than ever, especially as remote and hybrid work takes over, increasing the distance between employees. The most effective one's own humane, sophisticated communications skills and the knack to mediate. Middle managers, in turn, make valuable contributions to the realization of radical change at a company. But their contributions go largely unrecognized by most senior executives.

Poor leadership, overpowering leaders, lack of policies and processes are a few reasons why middle managers are left unrecognized. Middle managers often have value-adding entrepreneurial ideas that they are able and willing to realize if only they can get a hearing. They're far better than most senior executives in the organisation. They stay attuned to employees moods and emotional needs, thereby ensuring that the change initiative's momentum is maintained. Finally, they manage the tension between continuity and change-they keep the organisation from falling into extreme inertia. Hence they should be recognized, rewarded, supported and allowed to grow.

Do you think that the middle managers are self-responsible for their misery or failure in the organisation? What can be the strategies to make them more competent?

PM Yes & No. For middle managers, the primary role is developing people from within, which I believe is the right approach, too, as it helps to make the company culture stronger. However, the transition a person must make, from being a first-line manager to manager of the manager, does not just happen. The skills are entirely different. Also, the organisation does not focus on building the skills of middle management. Some strategies which can help them be more competent could be: Clear development plan from First line manager to Middle manager - they need to be given formal training, role clarity at Middle managers to avoid overlaps of jobs, lean organisation & focus on skills required on the past performance.

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