Is there any other company role more universally ridiculed than the middle manager? These poor souls work tireless to climb the corporate ladder but, halfway through, realize that it can be a thankless job.
I should know. I spent a good chunk of my career as a middle manager in some form. I had an office, but not the big one. I got a parking spot, but it was the furthest from the door. Sometimes I got a free lunch, but it was usually leftovers from the C-suite meetings.
A cynic would consider middle managers as being in career purgatory, but there’s research to support middle management as the (often) undervalued hero of most companies.
- They are communicators and translators.
A manager’s job is to absorb information from senior management, translate that information into meaningful guidance, and then communicate that to a wide range of stakeholders. By definition, it may seem like a valueless role, however, there are no other effective ways to ensure the vision is communicated to front-line workers. It’s the middle manager who ensures that vision is put in action and, reversely, that performance is communicated to senior management.
- They are both thinkers and doers.
There’s no other role that is so multi-faceted. Middle managers must be strategically minded in order to understand the direction of the company. However, they also need to be action-oriented to ensure stuff gets done. A good manager is the Swiss army knife of a company – ready to get their hands dirty to advance the mission of the organization.
- They are facilitators.
In times of change, managers are usually the ones to facilitate, but also adapt to, the change themselves. They must move gracefully between various power dynamics in order to effectively serve two very different stakeholder groups. It’s exhausting even for the most experienced managers.
- They are influential.
Recent research highlights middle management’s leading role in affecting employee culture and engagement. The study found that employees with strong middle leaders are 20% less likely to quit a job if offered more money from another employer. Additionally, employees whose managers lead with employee engagement solutions have better work-life balance and see more potential for professional growth. This is key in employee retention and makes the middle manager the most influential in ensuring workers stick around.
- They are leaders
Most importantly, managers do more than manage; they lead. Whether it’s small projects or large teams, managers must lead by example to reflect corporate vision in action. They ask the tough questions, initiate change, evaluate impact, and support both their teams and senior leadership.
So, if they give you consent and it’s permitted by HR, hug your middle managers today. They could use it.
About the author
Kindha Gorman is Raven’s Director of Communications. She has 20 years of experience in communications and teaches customer experience management at Algonquin College.