The Middle Managers Aren’t OK

Things Aren’t Going So Well With the Middle Managers. As employees come back to work, mid-level bosses are put under pressure from both sides. This puts them at the highest risk of burnout of any job level.

Give your boss a drink. Middle managers report the most stress and anxiety and the worst balance between work and life of all office workers.

According to new research by Slack Technologies Inc.’s Future Forum, a record 43% of managers say they’re tired, which is the most of any job level. Slack asked more than 10,000 people who work at a desk in the US, Australia, France, Germany, Japan, and the UK about their jobs.

Sheela Subramanian, who helped start Future Forum, said, “What we’ve seen quarter after quarter is that middle managers are having a hard time.” In a time of economic uncertainty and worries about falling productivity, their bosses are putting more and more pressure on them to deliver. At the same time, their employees are telling them that their pay isn’t keeping up with inflation. And from the start of the pandemic, they’ve had to figure out how to lead teams that are both in the same place and in different places.

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Caroline Walsh, a vice president in the human resources practise at consulting firm Gartner, said, “The answer to so many initiatives, like pay, performance management, and now return-to-office, always seems to be, ‘Well, the managers can do it.'” “But the managers don’t often get that extra training to help them.”

Return-to-office rules make many managers angry, and they don’t want to be the ones to enforce them. “Their team is asking why they have to do this. Why am I taking the bus all day to do Zoom calls? ” Subramanian said. “That’s hard to translate for middle managers.”

In the middle of all these pressures, Subramanian said, middle managers often don’t have the connections that executives do or the community of rank-and-file workers.

Walsh recently talked to a regional manager at a financial services company who said she felt stuck in the middle because of different rules about when retail and office workers have to be back at work. This has led to a growing feeling of unfairness within the organisation.

Some people have given up and thrown in the towel. Kyle Elliott is a career coach who works with managers and executives in Silicon Valley. He said that some of his clients have decided to go back to jobs where they don’t have to supervise other people. “One client said that it was hard for them to enforce changes, like “return-to-office” rules, that they didn’t agree with.”

Subramanian gave some advice to companies that want to help their middle managers: first and foremost, put money into coaching and building a sense of community among managers; second, give supervisors more freedom to decide with their teams what’s best for the transition back to the office. She said that in the long run, it’s important to ask high-performers who want to move up if they really want to be a manager. If they don’t, there should be other ways for them to move up.


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