Stuck in the Middle: Middle Manager Despair

Middle managers are stuck, stressed, and pressed for time. The Predictive Index released their 2023 Middle Managers Report derived from a survey of 346 leaders made up of 22% executives and 78% middle managers. The survey revealed that 70% of middle managers would love to return to being independent contributors (ICs) if they could keep the same pay and one in four of them feel stuck in their role.

So, what can you do with this information? Build resiliency and get clear in your business. Developing resiliency is not easy but also not as hard as you may think. Getting clarity in your business starts with your most valuable asset – your people. Before we jump ahead though, let’s look further into the data behind middle managers being stuck.

Middle Manager Despair

Between lack of resources and support, the report identifies four red flags from middle managers that are making them feel unfulfilled in their current roles:

  • Support from the Top: 58% of middle managers claim they are not very confident that their concerns are heard when they approach senior leadership about an important issue. 
  • Workplace Stress & Morale: Data shows 99% of people leaders say middle managers are stressed.
  • Professional Development: 58% of middle managers say a lack of time is the main factor that stops them from taking advantage of training and development opportunities.
  • Team Resources: 31% of middle managers say needing a bigger team is the main hurdle keeping them from being productive.

Having worked in middle management for years, I can attest to each one of these pain points. I often described the feeling as being sandwiched between my team of employees and leadership team. It seemed as if the two groups were worlds away from each other at times and it was my job to ensure plans were executed and goals achieved while inspiring the team and keeping myself inspired as well. There were days I stretched from working in the minutiae with my team to strategic management meetings, feeling the full spread of the spectrum. I am thankful to have had an awesome leader during most of those years who inspired me. Even with that support, there were still times the squeeze of being in the middle got me stuck and stressed.

Managers need support and to be given the tools and training to become leaders people want to follow. CLG provides the coaching, training, and tools to help people grow personally and professionally. Our blog from October 2021 offers simple strategies for managing managers to inspire and support them. For this October’s blog, we are going to dig a little deeper and talk about developing resilient managers and getting clarity with people.

Developing Resilient Managers

For the most part, work is easy. Working with people is hard. Gallup has found that the role of the manager is a dominant factor in the employee experience accounting for 70% of the variance in team engagement. Managers manage getting the work done and the people doing the work. All of their efforts substantially impact the bottom line. That is quite a load to carry. Imagine doing all of this with little to no leadership training or support. If you are in this position or know someone who is, here are some helpful steps for developing resiliency in your role and for yourself.

Building resiliency for anything requires four steps:

  • Accepting. Not everything goes as planned. Accepting failures, changes, and things out of your control helps you move forward and get unstuck. Your frustration level will decrease because your focus will change from glaring at the problem to either moving around it or moving on from it. Accept that not every plan is a good plan or every situation is a good one and figure out how to move forward by adapting.
  • Adapting. “What doesn’t bend breaks.” Learn to adapt quickly to changes and find solutions. Think outside of your normal processes and be creative. Lean into your team(s) and do not be afraid of failure with the first (or second) solution…it could lead you to the solution.
  • Asking. Look outside of yourself and organization for solutions or advice. Build a strong network of personal and professional support. Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance. Sometimes an unbiased view can lead you to better results. Even better, you may get to return the favor or pay it forward one day.
  • Aligning. As you are adapting and listening to advice, ensure your changes are aligning with your strategies and goals. Doing so will keep you on course. Remember to keep the bigger picture in mind.
Getting Clarity

CLG helps companies get clear about their vision, mission, goals, strategy, structure, and people. We help organizations understand their employees’ behavioral drives and needs so they can treat them the way they need to be treated. Managing people this way leads to happy, engaged employees which leads to results in your business.

We train and help develop leaders who inspire the people they lead and help others get unstuck. We can help any leader grow into a leader worth following. All leaders need support. All leaders need development and training opportunities. CLG can help. Contact us today.

-Melissa Spangler

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