đŸ”„ Recently Launched : AON, SHRM and Vantage Circle Partnered Annual Rewards and Recognition Report 2024-25

The Meat Of The Corporate Sandwich: Middle Management

6 min read   |  
Last Updated on

On the face of it, middle management looks like the ideal position to be in.

You are free from responsibilities unlike that of the upper management, nor do you lack the flexibility of the entry-level employees.

But the truth is far from it.

Middle management frustration is the new trend in town!

Managers are the most stressed among the hierarchies incorporates.

It is stressful because the new role that the person assumes is a transitional one. The role expands from being an entry-level employee to leading a group of subordinates—only a few attribution share-alike between the shifts.

Middle Management Frustration Stats!

The stats are as depressing as the actual scenario.

Middle managers have depression rates higher than both their subordinates and superiors.

  • 18% of middle managers get subjected to chronic depressions.

  • Almost 50% of middle managers take their work home or work overtime.

  • Less than 10% of managers believe they can change their employees' overtime.

  • 75% of managers feel that their subordinates cannot increase their productivity.

  • A 2014 study showed that mid-level managers fell in the bottom 5% when it came to job satisfaction.

You will encounter countless articles on why middle management sucks (yes, this was used as a title for an article by Medium!) and why mid-level management is exhausting.

But that's not what we are going to do here. We want to focus on how to manage this position efficiently and come out with flying colors.

Can It Be Any Scarier?

The scariest part is that mid-level manager gets pulled in every direction. The possibility of increment in responsibility and role is possible only once every few years.

And the dreaded consequences of automation don’t seem to avoid the middle managers.

Middle managers account for $3 trillion per year due to a loss in productivity. With platforms like Dropbox and CRMs with powerful mobile applications, it is no surprise that middle managers get canned.

So, is it a dead-end sector that is becoming obsolete by the rise in automation?

The answer is a big no.

The problem occurs due to a change in roles. They go from a shift in position from relatively low power to a high power one.

These micro-changes in the power structure are one of the main reasons for conflict in the workplace.

It is even evident in pop culture.

Remember when Chandler Bing, in the hit '90s sitcom "F.R.I.E.N.D.S." got promoted to data processing supervisor.

Suddenly all his colleagues became his subordinates! They started hating Chandler for it, even though there was no fault of his own! Chandler Bing fell into the classic trap of middle manager hatred.

Before you say “ No, thank you!” to the job, a pointer- it's a very high rewarding job and the most crucial part. Do you think you can climb the ranks to the top management without being a middle manager? Well, the answer is no!

So how do the great middle managers do it?

The Company’s Mission Redefines Your Passion

Although you have authority over your subordinates, there is little to no scope for modifying the company’s mission.

According to Collin’s dictionary, " Middle Management refers to managers who are below the top level of management, and who are responsible for controlling and running an organizational chart rather than making decisions about how it operates.”

Nevertheless, the middle manager has to deliver results and extract the best out of his subordinates.

You might not be 100% inclined towards the mission and vision of your organizational chart. The best way to overcome this is to understand your values and the company’s values and find a way to bridge the gap between the two.

Create a long list of things that makes you passionate.

It can be anything, ideas or values or product, anything! Now create the same thing for your company. Connect the opinions or values every day and voila! The bridge gets built.

The only thing that remains is outsourcing your passion for the company. And suppose you are already passionate about your company's ideas. In that case, you will save a lot of time and effort in channeling your passion.

Only one thing remains. Identification.

What if there is no overlap of these interests between you and the organization? Maybe you’ll be the best judge of that. If you think those interests will develop over time, then it's time to buckle up and take things by the scruff of its neck.

The Change Of Day To Day Activities: Team Member to Team Leader

Remember the day when you perfectly ticked off all the checklists in your to-do list in your work?

Be it creating the perfect presentation slide or getting that elite client on board, and everybody was praising you. Yes, those days are long gone.

Managers in an organization are responsible for managing day-to-day tasks and also managing the whole team. Your to-do list is now an open-ended checklist that reflects the performance of your team members.

Managers are responsible for extracting praiseworthy results from their team. Also, your role inclines slightly towards human resource management as you will be managing people under you.

The pat on the back is not direct, but you have to condition yourself to it. Any praise to any team member or any project undertaken by your team is a reflection of your good team management.

Simplification Of The Organizational Structure

A clear reporting structure can go a long way. The reporting of daily or weekly activities should be appropriately categorized. Usually, activities get reported in a team meeting, and unnecessary meetings befall.

According to Harvard Business Review executives spend a total of 23 hours a week on meetings, up from less than 10 hours in the 1960s.

Out of that, 63% of those meetings don’t have a plan. Meetings go across the boundary and force interaction(most of the time, these are unnecessary) among employees.

A clean and structured workflow that minimizes confusion is the key here.

Identities: Managers And Executives

Through effective onboarding and training, middle managers have to see their roles as integrated rather than segmented. Tying up the manager’s responsibilities with the overall organizational mission is the way to go.

The middle managers' role transitions from being a leader and a subordinate to being an integral part of the organization.

But not all managers and executives will be uncomfortable with the transition in the role of executives to subordinates.

Others will require a detailed view of the roles. The roles must get connected in the grand scheme of things of the organization.

Top Management Is A Long Way To Go

Most mid-level managers delve that this is just an ongoing phase towards the top management tier.

Yes, it is true, but the jump is a huge one, and the organizational structure will likely be rigid and test your mettle in this area for a long time.

On average, an employee is "stuck" in the middle management role for about seven years.

The people in the upper-level suite are not going anywhere. In most cases, the front-line shoes of the executive tier will be filled by outsiders. It increases frustration and demotivation in middle managers.

The acceptance will go a long way to increase your job satisfaction and overall productivity.

Strategic Planning Between Levels Of Management And Organizational Chart

There is a great model for understanding workplace stress. It states that a person in high demand but low decision-making liberties can take a toll on their happiness and increase stress.

Mid-level managers in an organization often fall prey to these kinds of organizational structures.

They lack the decision-making authority but are expected to drive home many results.

The key here is to understand how the upper management utilizes their decision-making capability.

Also, it would be best if you learned from your peers who have the gift of communication. Try to understand the way they converse with the top-level executives and other attribution share-alike.

The constant switching between various roles for a middle manager can take a toll on their productivity and satisfaction.

Lingering effects of the previous role can diminish efficiency and also creates confusion. When planning involving various parts occurs in the front line, the burden of role switching between levels of management minimizes.

With enough practice, you can master the art of transition between upper and lower-level roles without the residual effects of the previous role.

It’s Happening Now

Middle managers are being restablished as the pivot of an organizational chart.

But not the way how you think it is happening. With the advent of AI and big data, the roles are going through a transitional phase. But nonetheless, the basic idea of the role is definite.

You are the catalyst behind organizational success. Any change in the ideology of the organization structure should be undertaken by the mid level managers to make it a success.

You are the glue that keeps the your team memebers tied.

You are the front line warrior in the battle against inefficiency and low productivity.

Whatever the transition in roles or ideology or change in perspective, one thing is perennial. You are the meat in the sandwich.

This article is written by Iftekar Ahmed. He works as a Content Creator and Digital Marketer at Vantage Circle. When he is not playing guitar or solving puzzles, he is often seen fussing over foods he can't eat because he is on a perennial dieting spree. For any related queries, contact editor@vantagecircle.com

Book My 30-min Demo
Join us in driving a
Culture of Employee Appreciation Globally!
Vantage Rewards
Celebrating 2M+ Happy Corporate Employees
Elevating Company Culture Across

Know More
Not Interested

The Ultimate Guide to Employee Rewards and Recognition

The Ultimate Guide to Employee Rewards and Recognition