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Time to Focus on Middle Manager Development

 -  9/18/13

Midlevel managers play a significant role in an organization, yet they are among a company’s least-satisfied employees. Here are some ways companies can show their mid-career workers they are valued.

Midlevel managers tend to have a litany of responsibilities. With companies facing tight budget constraints, midlevel managers are bearing the brunt of the work, and recent studies show they are becoming less satisfied with their work experience.

Large organizations rely on midlevel managers for much of their day-to-day operations, and with 10.8 million midlevel positions in the U.S. last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showing these employees their organizational value by developing them further remains paramount.

Only 44 percent of midlevel managers are satisfied with their work-life balance, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development's 2012 Employee Outlook Survey. What’s more, 70 percent of employees without managerial responsibility report being satisfied, signaling a significant drop once an employee is promoted to a midlevel manager role.

As midlevel managers feel an increased pressure from both above and below, some companies find these managers to be less energized and motivated because of poor work-life balance and little organizational power, said Jacob Spilman, owner of the consultancy Spilman & Associates LLC.

“Middle managers often feel unrealistically responsible for the systemic pressures of the organization,” Spilman said. “Middle managers are typically told that they have the job of implementing the strategy of the executive suite. However, all their power to implement the mission or objectives and their ability to obtain resources originate with the executive suite, too.

“So, all too often, if the middle manager doesn’t have sufficient power or resources to do their job, or if they don’t have a clear, realistic or effective organizational strategy, the middle manager will wind up caught between the competing incentives of the executive suite and their line workers.”

With just half of midlevel managers receiving formal leadership development in 2012, according to a study by consulting firm Bersin by Deloitte, it’s easy for midlevel managers to feel that there’s no clear path to professional growth, Spilman said.

To empower midlevel managers, companies need to develop their talents and evaluate their goals, Spilman said. In addition, he said midlevel managers will feel more valued if they are personally acknowledged, given workplace autonomy, developing meaningful projects and are addressed with respect from their colleagues.


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