The Plight of the Misunderstood and Underappreciated Middle Manager

Don Doman

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And you thought you had it bad. A recent survey (Accenture: 2004 study) indicates that middle managers have major worries.

Some Middle Manager Concerns:

  • Overworked
  • Underpaid
  • Underappreciated
  • Discouraged about bringing bad news and problems to superiors
  • Little hope or assistance in promotions

    “Aspects of the job middle managers found most frustrating were inadequate pay and compensation, trouble balancing work and personal time, a sense that they do most of the work without receiving proper credit for their contributions and lacking a clear career path. What's more, many weren't optimistic about their prospects for advancement, with only 28% saying their companies were good or excellent at helping them move up. Less than a third said their firms were effective in helping them communicate bad news to their workers. Communications between supervisors and subordinates also rated low on the satisfaction scale. "
    - Ready to Bail? Job Satisfaction Plunges Among Middle Managers By Kristen Gerencher (The Wall Street Journal Executive Career Site -

    For the most part the concerns of middled managerfs are universal complaints for virtually every level of employment and for volunteer organizations as well. When I was a state chairman for the Washington State Jaycees, I sent out a monthly newsletter. In one issue there was a cartoon illustrating the problems of the overworked and underappreciated volunteer, since the newsletter was sent to three separate categories of volunteers (local chapter officers, regional officers, and state officers), it was easy to change the heading of the cartoon to reflect the category of the recipients. I received an overwhelming response. Everyone had accolades for my ability to see their “unique" problems.

    It's nice to recognize the fact that middle management is trying to do the best they can with what they have. Middle managers are under pressure from upper management to produce financial gains at the same time they are being squeezed by lower level employees who are looking for more input and growth. That middle managers face the same worries and misgivings as regular employees and frontline supervisors and managers shouldn't be a shock . . . except . . . I have a feeling that these are the people who can actually do something about the general work environment.

    In a perfect world, you would hope that front line managers are selected from excited and knowledable employees and that middle managers are selected from front lines and so on up the ladder. Dedication, desire, and education should be considered part of the mix, as well.

    But, even in an imperfect world, I would hope that occasionally upper management positions are filled from the ranks of qualified middle managers and the lessons learned from middle management become priorities of new leaders in the upper ranks. In the mean time, we should all recognize the efforts made at every level . . . and understand that we all face the same problems, concerns . . . and never enough appreciation.

    Author Don Doman: Don is a published author of books for small business, corporate video producer, and owner of Ideas and Training ( ), which provides business training products. Don also owns Human Resources Radio ( ), which provides business training programs and previews 24-hours a day.

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