Middle Management is possibly the suckiest job in corporate life today. Why? Because middle managers get it from both sides; their bosses and their teams.
But About 8% of the labor force is middle management - 11 million people. What would happen if middle managers stopped perpetuating the dysfunction and instead took a stand and used their collective power to change the workplace?
Middle managers are both the imprisoned and the prison guards. They face internal conflict every day. Managers need to enroll their team in things they might disagree with.
To the people above:
I need to constantly prove my team’s value, and my own value.
I bring recommendations, but if they are rejected I do what I’m told.
When a mandate comes down that I disagree with, I need to support it anyway and get my team to follow it.
If my team falls behind plan, it is my job to do whatever it takes to “make it happen.”
And to my peers:
I am vying for position in the ranking order and the attention and approval of my boss.
I am vying for a promotion.
I am trying to make sure my team gets the recognition they deserve.
To the people below:
I am responsible for making sure my team doesn’t fail.
I need to protect them from the realities above and pass down messages softened and couched in ways that make it seem like it’s in their best interest.
I have to rank and rate my people constantly and fight for their worth in meetings with my peers and superiors.
I am grooming my people on what to say and how to speak to my bosses. If they say something off-script, it reflects badly on me.
I need to make sure I know what all my people are doing and explain anything that is off plan. If anything goes wrong I need to make sure my team and I are not blamed for it.
Middle Management is a slog. But it’s also an opportunity. Middle managers are in a unique position to change the world right now. If each manager takes one small action to reject the notion of “blind following”, the collective voice of the 11 million managers can make a difference.
What if middle managers collectively agreed to:
Stand together against mandates they disagree with.
Refuse to rank employees.
Refuse to execute on bad ideas from above.
What else would you collectively change?