The one situation in past decades which has either not changed at all or changed little is about the challenges middle managers grapple with in the organisations. This is a reality. They are in fact caught in between two grinding wheels, where their maximum energy, efforts and time goes in finding and managing a breathing space between these two wheels. The one represents the leadership (senior managers) and other one is of people reporting to them. In many organisations they are undervalued, not listened and not involved in decision making process leading to a situation where middle managers feel that their hopes are stagnated and road to career progress is blocked. They find themselves trapped between the realities of employees' expectations and senior management aspirations. Over and above, these managers are blamed by both-the upper team and lower team as ineffective. The conflicting demands of both the pressure groups are because of their structural positions.
In the changed working environment where organisations are shifting towards hybrid work model with more distributed workforce, it is also apprehended that the traditional role of middle managers may also become irrelevant. The 9 to 5 working model is no more relevant in present technology driven business environment where digitalisation is fastly replacing physical workplace.
The challenges are manifold. First of all it will be wrong to believe that middle managers role will disappear in future. It will not. But yes, skill set of middle managers will be changed. Role just needs to evolve. Hybrid work model is not feasible in all sectors. Manufacturing sector is going to work at a fixed place with physical presence of maximum possible people. Middle managers will still have a key role to pay in this sector.
Leaving them to fend themselves will land them to failure. If you want to see the organisation excellence, don't look at bosses, go to middle managers. You will get the correct picture. It is for organisations to ensure that this segment of management is consistently trained in respect of people management skills, developing talent, resolving conflicts and setting the expectations so that they are not only assessed on the effectiveness of getting the job done. Organisations should involve middle managers in decision making process and listen them before making any policy which directly impacts the workplace. Because it is they, who are expected to sell the management idea and implement the senior management decision.
October 2021 cover story of this edition is an attempt to decode this middle riddle and way forward to strengthen the middle managers by industry experts who all have passed through and felt the heat and real challenges of this segment.
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