Reimagining the role of middle managers
“The conventional definition of management is getting work done through people, but real management is developing people through work,” Agha Hasan Abedi
Leadership is a role to which many individuals aspire. But many times individuals need to be made aware of the foundational responsibilities required to inspire, coach, mentor, support, and direct their followers to become a part of a dynamic team to achieve organisational goals.
Too often middle managers only focus on salaries and forget about the human element that drives productivity and job satisfaction. Sometimes, organisations make super profits, but middle managers underrepresent their staff, who contributes effectively to such an achievement.
On the other hand, top management has a clear scope of its objectives to achieve its goals. But sometimes decisions are impacted by politics (internal or external) and external environmental pressures that may derail their strategic plans and impact the company’s profitability. Additionally, top management is more eager to share information with staff than middle managers.
Middle managers lack consistent communication because they are caught in the middle of the decision-making process and are unaware of how to comprehend the information. When communication stops in the middle, it limits the impact of the decision-making to move organisations forward. Some middle managers perform cowardly as they want to keep their jobs and sometimes hide information from their staff or top management. At the same time, some may need to become more competent, making it easier to empower their staff. Others are great at doing their jobs as they understand their portfolio and are fine articulating the needs of their team.
How can middle managers improve in their roles?
Training is critical; therefore, the human resource department (HRD) must play a more vital role in understanding the workforce’s needs. Gone are the days when managers also acted as human resource personnel as there was a fundamental need for a department dedicated to HR.
HRD was formed as many individuals, including middle managers, were unaware of or could not handle specific issues such as compensation, disputes, and other benefits. Therefore, HRD must take a more active role and become the organisation’s heartbeat to create a cohesive environment. Middle managers should become knowledgeable about emotional intelligence and practise the elements to identify which staff needs more direction or support to become effective in their roles.
How do you transform difficult staff?
The workplace consists of varying dynamics. People bring their values, beliefs, and culture, but expectations should be clearly outlined through orientation, and the organisational culture must take ownership using the top-down approach.
Communication becomes critical to ensure that clarity is provided to reduce distractions. Some staff may believe that years of service gives them superiority above the rules and negatively impacts the processes. It is time for us to throw that notion through the window. Transforming difficult staff takes time, as managers should spend time understanding them and develop activities that includes them.
Organisations are expected to grow. Therefore, middle managers should be honest and trustworthy, display confidentiality, and be accountable for their actions to move the organisation forward. Realistic targets should be considered with adequate resources to be productive.
Culturally, many Jamaicans are aggressive individuals; therefore, our communication skills are oftentimes flawed, but through consistent training, middle managers should be able to become more assertive in their approaches. Middle managers should also observe non-verbal communication to create a healthy environment. Healthy environments will stimulate innovation. Innovativeness retools or rebrands organisations, impacting the bottom line.
Respect is a two-way street between managers and staff. Some level of decency must be maintained between both parties. Some middle managers may be loud. Is it because they are abusing of power or lack competence? Either way, self-control becomes important.
Middle managers should reward their staff who have been outstanding in their roles as this can impact staff retention. There should also be equitable distribution of tasks. Some companies lose very talented individuals because these workers never felt appreciated, and the organisation ends up spending millions of dollars to employ more than one person to complete a task that one individual had been working on. Resources will always be scarce, but how it is controlled and managed can reap great rewards.
The workplace is attracting a new generation, and middle managers can no longer be comfortable managing their portfolios and people. Middle managers will need to become competent in their technical, human, and conceptual skills to better understand the tolerance level of their staff. Reports have shown that employees have become less tolerant of toxic environments. Therefore, I urge the management team to know how to influence a cohesive environment positively.
Once middle managers clearly understand their roles and responsibilities, they should be better able to serve their team. Mental health is of utmost importance when leading teams. Organisations should start investing in mental health care for their staff to ensure that the right people are in the right jobs.
Let us reimagine middle managers as becoming an active, positive force that drives productivity and job satisfaction while maintaining a cohesive environment.
Althea Newell Morrison is strategic planning manager at Caribbean Maritime Institute. Send comments to email@example.com.