Middle managers have to shift between the roles of a leader and a subordinate regularly. In an article for Harvard Business Review, Eric M. Anicich and Jacob B. Hirsh say that middle managers naturally adopt a more deferential low-power behavioral style when interacting with their superiors, while using a more assertive high-power behavioral style to communicate with subordinates. The result is increased anxiety and sometimes even health issues.
Take Middle Managers Easy
Humans are inherently inefficient with task-switching, as it is psychologically challenging to clear our minds from one task to engage a completely new mindset for another task. Middle managers are often unhappy at work due to the complicated power they have that directly influences their interpersonal relationships. If they are not deferential and submissive in interacting with their superiors, they can come off as disrespectful and pushy. But if they are not assertive and proactive, they may give the vibe of being incapable and irresponsible.
Researchers from Columbia University and the University of Toronto conducted a large-scale study with 21,859 full-time employees across a wide range of industries. They observed that employees in mid-level organizational positions had higher rates of depression and anxiety than employees who occupied positions nearer either end of the hierarchy. This perfectly explains why middle managers are so unhappy. However, there are ways to ease the burden and have effective middle managers over the long haul:
- Simplify the reporting structure to reduce upward and downward interactions.
- Conduct a network audit to determine how employees across role boundaries connect to each other.
- Help middle managers see their various role-based identities as integrated, as opposed to segmented, through effective onboarding and training.
- Don’t micromanage your middle managers.
- Embrace more egalitarian organizational cultures and structures that minimize these challenges.
- Develop an effective role transition script, which is an established routine for moving from one role to another.
Ethan Mollick at Wharton conducted a large-scale analysis of the computer game industry and determined that middle managers accounted for 22.3 percent of the variance in revenue. To sum it up, middle managers matter at work, but they are always confronted by uniquely high amounts of psychological pressures, so there should be proper strategies to ease the burdens off their shoulders.
You can view the original article here: https://hbr.org/2017/03/why-being-a-middle-manager-is-so-exhausting