Middle management can be a thankless task; you are often given significant responsibility but might not always receive the necessary training, resources and structure to perform at your best. If you’re new to management, this burden can be even heavier because you may not have previous leadership experience and are learning as you go.
Middle managers comprise a significant proportion of the corporate workforce and are typically responsible for relaying the strategic vision of senior executives to employees on the ground. The skills and efficiency of middle managers therefore have a great bearing on how successfully change initiatives or brand objectives are delivered.
Middle managers are among the most disengaged workers in Australian workplaces.
However, 2015 research from Deakin University and SACS Consulting found middle managers are among the most disengaged workers in Australian workplaces. Specifically, the study revealed people earning between $70,000 and $150,000 were the most likely to feel they were stuck in a rut.
According to SACS Consulting, the nature of the role is one of the reasons why middle managers lack engagement. Frontline staff get to interact regularly with customers and be the face of the organisation, which can provide great meaning to their work, while senior executives have influence on the strategic direction of the company and enjoy autonomy.
Also, middle managers who aren’t receiving the right support and leadership training may feel they don’t have the skills to rise to the next level of the organisation. It is perhaps understandable, then, that Australia’s middle managers are feeling underappreciated and unable to progress their careers.
The value of middle management
Despite a lack of engagement, middle managers perform a crucial role in many businesses, and their performance can make or break key initiatives.
A 2013 Harvard Business Publishing (HBP) whitepaper claimed middle managers are becoming even more important in today’s increasingly globalised world, where organisations have flatter, leaner structures.
Professionals that take greater control over their own learning and development could reap the rewards.
Senior executives are asking middle managers to be more productive with fewer resources – and HBP said companies could risk losing their best people due to burnout and poor support.
“Too many organisations have invested heavily in training for senior executives and new managers, while paying relatively little attention to the midlevel managerial corps,” the study’s authors stated.
“This ‘barbell’ approach – heavy on the ends, light in the middle – has exacted a heavy price in terms of underperforming and demoralised middle managers who lack the networking, planning and team-building skills necessary to excel in the flat organisational structures that are so prevalent today.”
The whitepaper cited previous Harvard Business Review (HBR) research that showed only 15 per cent of North American and Asian firms felt they had enough people with the right qualifications and skills in their talent pipeline to fill the shoes of current senior leaders. Another HBR study found two-thirds of businesses feel their middle management development programs require a complete revamp.
These statistics may sound discouraging for those of you in middle management roles; however, professionals that take greater control over their own learning and development could reap the rewards.
Are you lost in the middle?
In 2014, HBR listed several attributes of people who are most disengaged in the workplace. Do any of these characteristics sound familiar to you?
- Five to ten years’ tenure
- Receive good (rather than great or terrible) performance ratings
- Feel overworked
- Don’t believe they are appreciated or valued
- See no career or promotion opportunities
- Lack a workplace advocate
Middle managers often find themselves fading into the background, but a more proactive attitude and approach to learning and development could give you the spark you need to kickstart your career.
You may feel that your current organisation isn’t providing the right environment in which to gain new skills and progress. This is a common complaint among Australian workers.
Figures from SEEK showed poor job opportunities were the primary reason why people switch to a different company, with one-third of respondents wanting greater potential to climb further up the career ladder.
More than one-fifth said negative experiences in their current workplace were the problem, such as having an unbearable workload, a bad boss or a lack of appreciation. As a middle manager, you may be nodding your head right now.
But what can you do if your workplace doesn’t offer the right middle management structures and development training to further your career? You may be finding it difficult to move up in your current job, but you don’t have the skills or experience that other organisations demand in order for you to make a change.
This is where the Line Management Institute of Training can help. We provide leadership and management diplomas, as well as a range of other business qualifications that can enable middle managers to take the next step on their career path.
To learn more about our online management courses please contact us today.
Published by: LMIT