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The Middle Manager; Business Management's Most Endangered Specie

Updated on December 1, 2016

The Secret to Middle Management? Don't make your home there.


The middle manager's position is likely the first to go when the going gets tough in corporate downsizing. It's too easy a target when managers look at their workforce and begin pruning for efficiency.

The deciding logic may be that the frontline is always needed as the foot-soldiers in any army, and most of the managers are safe - save for any of them that was already on their way out. Ah, but the middle manager, it's tied to neither the front line or the managers.

They meet protocol for making the biggest impact to efficiency with a minimal lost of productivity. The position is then smoothed over by the most effective front end leader, and a low end manager.... and, viola! Position eliminated.

So how do we protect the middle manager? In this article, we'll take a look at some of the things middle managers can do to avoid getting clipped when it comes to company layoffs. Here are a few of the topics that we will discuss:

  • The Role of the Middle Manager
  • The Risks that Every Middle Manager Should Know About
  • What You Should do to Avoid Termination
  • Three Things You Need as a Middle Manager


The Role of the Middle Manager

In companies today, middle management has several different titles that basically form the middle manager. The more common titled positions are supervisors, shift managers, or managers of departments that report to a store manager, or an operations manager.

The interesting thing about middle management, is that your performance during this phase can either make, or break your career. For most people, middle management is not a camping ground, but should be your stepping stone to elevate your position in your company. Being a middle manager should allow you to shine in your position, causing your superiors to pull you further up along your career.

Sadly, if you have been in a middle manager's position for too long, you may get passed for promotion and deemed as not being ready. If this trend continues, and you don't start doing spectacular work, you may be rut-holed in this position for a very long time. The length of time depends on your business - but to find an average, ask around. People love to talk about themselves, take advantage of this as long as your questions are pertinent and not too personal.

If you've been in a middle management position for more than two years, and have been passed up once or more for the next promotion, it may be time to step-up your work quality, and quantity. The secret to success in this case, is always being consistent. Be consistently turning in high quality and quantity work - believe me, you will get noticed.

When Companies Down-Size

Have you ever been employed at a company that was 'down-sized'?

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The Risks that Every Middle Manager Should Know About

The middle manager is usually a supervisor who will be the last to run the show while all managers are out of the building. He or she has the keys to the building, and will be able to do most of the tasks of the managers while they are gone. The middle manager knows enough about the business to keep the business going well while the managers are away.

Because of his or her position, and limited duties as far as executing any formal reprimanding or terminating employees, he is looked on by others as almost an equal. The middle manager has the luxury of knowing a little more about his co-workers than the managers actually do because the employees are more at ease with the middle manager. A smart and insightful manager can swing this opportunity to his/her advantage. But always remember, subtle nudges in any direction keeps your head below the radar - heads that stick out usually gets lopped off.

The employees attitude and behavior can quickly turn against the middle manager if they manage employees too harshly or micro-manage their every task. Whatever it is that you do, that the employees feel is not fair, or unjust, your superiors will hear about it. This is the thing that a lot of middle managers fail at - they fail to realize that their superiors don't want to be bothered by employees coming up to them with complaints about you. If you are right and applying company set rules and policies that's okay, but if they are always complaining about the way you handle them or situations, this is not helping your career.

It makes a difference when clients and employees are giving your superiors a positive report rather than your superiors always hearing how poorly your management skills are. At times, even if you are right, but fail to keep everyone satisfied, it will appear as if you don't know how to handle people.

While you are at the middle manager position, you have to have a positive effect on everyone. If your employees feel that you can't lead from your position, they will not have any problem going to your superior and telling them that you don't know how to manage. Always try to settle any differences you may have with employees and clients before they go higher up the chain.

Pick Your Battles


What Every Middle Manager Should do to Avoid Termination

Unfortunately, when companies fall under hard times - which can happen to any company, making the fewest cuts with the largest impacts always seem financially sound. It becomes an opportune moment when the manager can almost start over without any of the problematic workers.

Depending on how deep of a cut the manager has to go will depend on how quickly he can trim the workforce without affecting production. If a manager needs to make deeper cuts, he will look at his management staff and see where he can cut and still have enough manpower to cover the loss.

When deeper cuts are needed, a closer look at the management staff is in order. It's rare that executives too high up the ladder are ever cut, but looking towards middle managers - well a lot of opportunity can be found there.

Middle managers are dead center of being between the needed bottom, and the needed top. It doesn't take much to come to the conclusion that middle managers pop right out - with the least disturbance to production. The middle manager's responsibilities are smeared into duties shared by both the top managers and bottom front line. That's why businesses always lean towards a cut to the middle manager, because it can take the lion's share of the deficit, while still maintaining a desired level of production.

So, what can be done to avoid being the neck that gets whacked? Plenty.

1. Prove Yourself Worthy of Promotion
Understand that the middle manager's position is not meant to be a camping ground, but a temporary proving ground for your next promotion. This is not a time to screw around, or take a break from the climb. If you don't move out of this position to the next, it may be awhile.

2. Behave Professionally
Before you have the position, act as if you belong. Dress, act and look the part. Being and looking professional separates those that are lacking in experience.

3. Volunteer Your Services for Important Functions
If the function is important to your superiors, than making yourself available is important to your continuing career. Be sure that it 'is' important to your superiors, or you might be allotting time to the wrong resource.

4. Know Your Superiors, and Make Sure They Know You
Always offer your handshake and address them professionally. Always do this, but only if they visit your department once or twice a week at the most. If they work near you, you don't shake hands but a professional greeting is always welcome. "Good afternoon Mr. Bigman." A smile and keep walking past unless he wants to chat.

5, You Can Go Home Anytime After the Boss Goes Home
Come in before the boss comes in if he passes your desk or will recognize your car, if not, come in at the same time he comes in... of course only if your boss starts earlier than most. Leave after the boss leaves, or at the same time if it is after hours. This will only work out if your boss or superiors work earlier and leave later than the norm.

So, now that you've instilled some good working habits, this is what it's designed for; once you have started to introduce yourself to your superiors, they will take notice because you look very sharp. You'll keep running into them, and they will start noticing you. Before long, they will know who you are, and start saying hello to you first. Now that you have their attention, they will notice that you spear-headed the charity fundraiser, and with new ideas that almost tripled last year's dollar amount. Now that they see you when they come in, and when they go home, they will soon know that if you have an assignment, that it is as good as done. They will see you as a reliable, dedicated, and hard working individual. If you are given credit for a job well done, make sure they know that you have a great team that helps you - it doesn't matter if they do or don't, just don't hog all the credit.

Three Things you Need as a Middle Manager

Middle managers are the first to go when lay-offs are at hand, but there is so much more to the middle manager. The middle manager has so much opportunity to better position himself in any company - what makes this possible, is that he knows and understands both parties. He knows what the the higher ups want and expect, and he knows what the front line wants and what their limitations are.

He can easily work both sides to his advantage, because he is trusted by both sides - he's the perfect double agent. Since he is not looked upon as a threat, his subordinates are happy to help him in any way. If he maneuvers quietly, he can work seemingly without an agenda (thus avoiding the dreaded office politics and escape any threats of others in competition) and get things done faster than any manager could.

You already know most of the do's and don'ts, and you don't need a refresher course, but what you do need is some savvy, sound advice. There are many things that you need to be a successful middle manager, but I need to ensure that you make it to the next level. You already know the basics, but these three things you will be able to take with you onto bigger and greater things.

Here are the three things that you will need as a middle manager:

1. You Need a Sense of Humor and a Good Attitude
Well, so you know what a sense of humor is, but a good attitude is only what your superiors render a 'good' attitude. Always keep the company's best interest in mind. A sense of humor and a good attitude; one of them is good, but to have both is always better.

You must be approachable to both your subordinates and your superiors - nobody likes a sourpuss. Always be quick to smile, quick to praise, quick to coach and slow to anger. It's better to believe in your team first, giving them the benefit of doubt before accusing anyone of whatever the offense may be. Watch how you react when things go bad, because everyone is watching.

2. Whatever Your Superiors Ask of You, Make it Job One
Whenever your Superiors ask you to do something, be sure that it is a priority. If you delegate the task, make sure to check on it often, so that you know for a fact that the job is done to your expectations before the day is over. You never want to waste time cleaning up after the person you delegated it to. When you delegate, always make crystal clear what you expect to see.

3. Honesty and Integrity is a Must Have
If your superiors have a problem trusting you, you don't have much of a career either. Make sure when you say something is done, that it is done because you double checked it. Never get caught in a lie to your superiors, because if you've lied on the little things, what stops you from lying about the big things.

If you've noticed, these

Behave Professionally - at least at work.



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