The Joy of Middle Management

John Krautzel
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Middle managers face many hurdles at the office, ranging from unhappy bosses to unruly employees — and everything in between. When a project fails, middle management may be the first to go, and this type of pressure can lead to too many hours at work, burnout and career failure.

Jon Rennie, engineering director at Schneider Electric, explains that middle managers should embrace the time they spend in the double-wide cubicle near the elevators. Instead of feeling like a baby gazelle about to be eaten by a pack of lions, fight the unhappiness by doing the best possible job you can. In a recent Harvard survey of 320,000 business professionals, the bottom 5 percent of employees typically had been stuck in a middle management position for five to 10 years. These employees also have college degrees and received good, but not outstanding, marks on their job performance reviews.

Rennie points out several ways to break out of suchs ruts illuminated by the survey. It starts by realizing that you were placed in middle management in the first place because you're a leader. Earlier in your career, someone noticed you and gave you a chance to excel. Your time in this position means you can shine above and beyond what you thought possible, and better yourself and those around you.

Middle management can be frustrating. You have to simultaneously please your boss and those you supervise — a balance that probably gets out of whack several times a year. Instead of fighting it, relish the opportunity to overcome the obstacle. Master your job to let your boss know you can be counted on in a pinch.

If the lack of an advanced degree prevents your next promotion, go back to school. Earn the MBA, programming certification or continuing education degree that will help. Read books to educate yourself on how upper managers think, and then start to act like an executive.

Find your calling and commit to it. Take the time to discover what you love most about your job and then learn to correct some weaknesses. Do you like taking on new projects? Do you enjoy delegating? Are you a hands-on type of leader or a stand-offish kind of person?

Remember that middle management serves a very important role in your organization. Managers lead by example, provide answers when employees have questions, implement strategies, solve problems and raise morale. If you get stuck in a no-man's land filled with disappointment, despair and dead ends, your underlings will see that, and the whole team gets dragged down with you. Inspire others with your attitude instead of sinking the ship.

All of this improvement shows your boss that you have what it takes to be the best middle management person on the planet. Show your commitment by never settling for what you have. Always keep moving forward, learn from your mistakes and strive to do things better each time.


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