Tips to Ease the Office Life of a Frustrated Middle Manager
A Frustrated Mid Level Manager? You Need to Overcome Your Fears
As an onlooker you may have a view that the people down the hierarchy should be the ones most frustrated in an organization.
But believe me it's layman thinking.
In 2015 an experimental study by a Columbia University student Seth J. Prins it was revealed that in comparison to lower managers and proletariat class middle managers are more frustrated. The study formed four classes of workers,namely, the owners, the managers, the supervisors and the labours. The results construed that those most affected by anxiety and depression were the people in the middle, i.e. supervisors and managers.
But If you are one belonging to this class, don't panic. Have a heart.
Imagine why a term ‘middle manager’ emerged in the field of human resources.Definitely, where there is requirement there are posts and designations. No post can be created or emerges of it's own without a need. Now, if there was need at some point, surely in this ever growing world, there will be more need for it.
But yes, the world is ever changing too. In essence, the business roles in the organization may change, the designations may change.
But can an organisation thrive without a link manager? The answer is a big 'NO'.
So, be confident. Rise above the fear of delayering and pink slips. Feel proud to be a middle manager. If your organisation loses your services, it's a shock to the organisation, not to you.
Who is a mid level manager?
- Generally speaking, a mid rank manager is a manager whose position lies somewhere in the middle of the hierarchy.
- The definition of middle manager is not a perfect one. It changes with respect to the structure and policy of organizations. However, there is perhaps some kind of technicality associated with it. In a pyramidal hierarchy of management, the mid-level manager belongs to that class of managers which lies below the top level and leads and controls at least the level of subordinates below itself as well as the next lower one.
- Designations may vary from organization to organization. They may be known as regional manager, zonal manager, general manager, plant manager, branch manager, section officers etc.
- Besides, they may be in charge of particular departments such as production, accounts, marketing,stores
- Middle managers are more connected with executing operations in an organization, maintaining proper control and work-flow and less with decision making and the least with policy making. They work in accordance with pre-decided targets and existing policy guidelines.
- However, this article analyses the life of a middle manager with a slightly tilted view that such a manager belongs to a managerial cadre which is neither high up enough in the hierarchy to effectively or solely take a major decision nor enough low down to escape from being held responsible for a decision by an organization.
Roles and Duties of a Mid Level Manager
Such a manager provides the necessary bonding in an organization. They absorb instructions from the topmost level and employ them with the help of lower level management and operational staff. This class has to deal with implementation as well as be alert to watch out that the mission and vision of the company is protected at every step.
The duties assigned to a middle manager may be consolidated as below:
TAKING FROM THE TOP:
This involves understanding the strategy from the top management. Top managers have the steering authority. They know what is happening with the organization and what should be done in future so that the organization can reach the desired goals. So they pass the strategy to the next lower rung, that is, middle management. A middle manager has to clearly understand the same. A strategy well delivered and clearly understood is at least 15-20% work done. The middle manager is also supposed to develop her/ his own view on policies set by the senior executive and discuss the same with it to ensure that her/ his thoughts and visualization of the end result are in conformity with the thoughts and ideas of the highest level management. What is meant is, such a manager has to assimilate the formulated plans in such a depth as will position her to authoritatively break the strategy into further smaller, workable fragments and assign to the subordinates.
A suggestion from the middle to the top for a change in the strategy should ideally be welcome for a healthy discussion. But in practice it’s not always so.
PASSING IT DOWN
Middle managers chart their own route to reach the desired results. In process, they think, allot, make others think, make others work, take feedback, take corrective action, achieve targets and then report back to the higher management. So passing the buck down in an actionable format is one of the main functions of the mid-level manager. They are the creators of team. They have the purpose of motivating, squeezing out the work and get the job executed. Alongside they can’t afford to make their line workers unhappy because the front line which directly deals with the customers must retain it’s zeal and cheerfulness.
Ideally, the lower management and the blue collar workers should respect the views of their immediate superiors and follow them with all sincerity and seriousness . But in reality it's not often so.
Though the entire activity falls under the previous two heads it is important to mention that middle managers also work horizontally, that is, with their own or equivalent ranks. As already said the mid rank managers are section or department heads. They may belong to and interact with departments like HR, R&D, Accounts, Manufacturing, Services and Marketing to solve day-to-day problems coming in the way of the work. Their job is to remove the hindrances and smoothen the work environment. Removing the bottlenecks ensures that the work progresses at a good pace and without inter-departmental conflicts.
Practically the sections of an organization have their own agenda at the top of priority list. So working horizontally is no easy job for a middle manager.
Do middle managers cost dearly to a company?
Problems Faced by a Mid rank Manager
A mid rank manager is guided by the principles and policies laid down by the C-suite managers (C-suite rank comprises of all top most managers and the letter ‘C’ has been derived from the word ‘Chief’, i.e. it includes ranks like CEO, Chief project Manager, COO etc.) to attain the goals pre-decided by them.
The broad policy guide lines are broken into practically achievable pieces of work which are then allotted to the mid rank managers. These part-targets have to be achieved by the end of a quarter year or half or a full year. Mid level managers are supposed to distribute the works to the actual performing class which generally does not have to look beyond the set of duties allotted to it. But mid level cannot be so. It has to constantly keep track of the final goals of the company or organization. In this sense this class has to look in a straight line. But poor managing at the top sometimes inappropriately holds middle management in question for a debacle and blames it for not being aware of the related works.
For example, a mid level manager may be held responsible for the non achievement of ‘social obligation’ aspect of a company due to a decision of her which was purely taken to fulfil business goals of the company. To put it another way, she has to perform routine duties but may have to do important trade-offs in the interest of organization’s business goals. In course of taking such decisions she or he may have to tilt in favour of the optimized targets. But this may not go down well with the highest placed managers even though the route was undertaken precisely in conformity with the guidelines set by themselves. This is the main problem faced by the mid level managers. Such frustration assumes a high degree when a boss, low on calibre, having a feeble foresight, forces a decision on an intelligent, smart and highly productive middle manager.
Observe the following:
A lower rung worker rightly demands an improvement in the existing working conditions. The manager understands the demand is justified. The manger has no authority to provide the same. He asks permission of the senior executive. The senior executive says there is no point in it and denies it. What's at stake?Respect from the lower cadres.
A failure takes place. The operator says the instructions were not proper. “I did what I was supposed to.”
The senior most management says the strategy was fool proof and had potential but it was not well executed. Then who is at fault? Both the sides point at the middle manager. The top says the middle did not get the plan executed well though it had sufficient authority for everything. The bottom says it was immediate manager’s failure. What does the manager face? Blame from up and down.
Not only a failure but also success may frustrate a middle manager. In such cases the credit gets stolen away and only the top level and even the front line are given attention by the organization. Such Neglect of the role of the middle and improper rewarding leads to frustration. What can the manager do when credits get stolen?
When organizations tend to flatten the delayering phobia starts haunting the middle managers. Delayering is the process of weeding out one or more layers of the management to remove the redundancy from an organization. The middle managers are the prime victims of flattening and delayering. Since it is easy to blame them it is also easy to give them pink slips. That such a manager is the channel for smooth work flow is quickly forgotten. Aren't delayering and flattening the constant anxiety-food of the mid level manager?
What is the top priority in a mid rank manager’s wish list? No gainsaying, moving to the top management. While performing a half baked plan such a manager always has in mind this feeling:
What kind of people are sitting at the top? Had I been in his shoes I’d have done it exquisitely.
Dignity, prestige or status whatever you call the fact remains that a middle manager’s biggest ambition is making his way to the C-suite. In this respect he's ambition personified.
A middle manager is often misunderstood
Why such difficulties are uncommon to high level executives and low cadre employees?
High level managers take their decisions more independently in comparison to their lower cadres. Lowest level executives, on the other hand are not supposed to look beyond their shoulders in order to discharge their duties. Sandwiched between the two classes are the managers we are talking about. In poorly planned set-ups rewards from the top seldom trickle down and respect from below is scarcely available to the middle manager. But the blame for a failure comes aplenty from both the ends. It is easy to heap blames on her as her job is not perfectly defined and the power delegated to her is not well detailed.
Advice to Middle Managers
Tips to solve the difficulties of Middle Management
Receive the instructions very clearly so you will be able to clarify your position in case of a failure. The blame game begins very soon in such a scenario and it tends to encompass even those not responsible for it. Discussing the duties in detail with the bosses is a good exercise as the boundary lines are drawn clearly in connection with the roles that you are supposed to play. In other words, you have to keep your job cut out even though the bosses may bother little about it.
Help your subordinates with discharging their duties efficiently but don’t accept inefficiency from them. Identify the defective resources below your level, may be an employee or an unproductive or unsystematic process staying from a time prior to your incumbency. Don’t be hesitant to take corrective action in a such cases of ‘incompetency due to legacy’.
Good communication is a trait indispensable for such a manager. Communicate well with both sides, may be daily or many times a day. You stand informed of the situations and take precautions against the foreseeable problems that might creep in from any of the levels.
Check the achievement parameters on a very regular basis. For example, if the contribution to the sales from your wing has started to dwindle on day-to-day basis it’s high time you found the accurate reason and started tightening the controls. If the situation seems to be out of your control you must have time in your hands to communicate with the top level.
Higher level hates to be proved wrong. Attempt at developing such arguing and convincing skills as would make your boss speak what you want. Hence erase the need to contradict harshly. Rather ask questions which will be answered your way.
Though it is common for managers to pre-pone dead lines yet it must be repeated as an advice for middle level. Being proactive and being alert quite before the deadline is a good habit for such a manager. Rather than the situation controlling you, you must be able to control situations.
Before a meeting either with upper or higher level, keep data ready to support your view. Since it's difficulty to make a class high on academic qualification swallow a pill and convince another one deficient in knowledge, you have to be ready with the proofs.
A very important decision for a middle manager is whether Individual performance of a subordinate should be reported to the upper level. My suggestion is to deal on case to case basis based on certain standards. Here I'll go as far as to say that gut feeling may even be given a chance.
Data is not only required to steer the future methodology of working your way. It is also needed for your own safety.To be not blamed unnecessarily at a later date keep copies of records, reports, minutes of meetings etc. Hard copies duly signed are better off than soft copies in this respect.
Do not let your ambitions overrule your health. Stress levels beyond a certain level are definitely not good for you since the age of cares and precautions is perhaps under way.
Produce results and display them at the first opportunity. Decisions do not wait in a fast changing company. While the sun shines prove it regularly that you are indispensable for the organisation. Waiting for the right time to earn credits for the work you have carried out with utmost efficiency will give your competitors a scope to surge ahead. So show what you sow and show what you grow.
Start controlling papers as soon as you get opportunity. Many efficient officers are not much interested in papers. But remember, understanding clauses, reading between lines and knowledge of norms give you an edge against your peers.
Keep updating yourself in terms of technology. Again many efficient officers who are not in a habit of updating their technical knowledge, start lagging behind and are soon rendered obsolete by the management. Every morning remind yourself to remain relevant. Even trees shed their dry and rotten leaves.