Mid-Management. Engagements Final Frontier
In a Harvard Business School study, mid-level managers emerged as the most disengaged of all workers. This is not a big surprise. Mid-managers are overworked, undervalued, and the most at-risk employees during layoffs. Academics and business authors routinely suggest that we get rid of them as a first step to becoming leaner and improving organizational performance. And yet, organizational America depends on managers to drive the very workers that interface with our customers. Mid-managers represent the single biggest reason that employee engagement must have a Democratic solution.
We frequently select many mid-managers because they get the job done quickly and accurately. We then promote them to manage others or to use that core strength to finish an important project. However, few receive management or leadership skills training. Instead, they are elevated because they were more productive than their peers. Quite often, they continue with their previous workload, sometimes even increasing until they break or leave. Ongoing restructuring, the elimination of career ladders to the executive ranks, and persistent insecurity have diluted the mid-managers loyalty.
In my book, The Workplace Engagement Solution (Career Press), disengagement is viewed as a trance, so persistent that many leaders view it as impenetrable. However, for CEOs, business owners, and organizations that set engagement as a standard, we can solve the problem through culture change and by showing everyone how to change and engage. Engagement is learnable. From my experience, mid-managers need the most help.
In 2012, Harvard Business Review indicated that almost half of the Gen-Xs, which represents the largest segment of mid-managers, planned to leave their jobs within two years. A year before, Bersin & Associates released the findings of their research and indicated that: “Middle managers have fewer resources, manage more people, and are less engaged than all other employee groups.” This is backward! If we think so little of them, why do we let mid-managers lead and motivate the organization’s largest number of workers, usually the ones that directly touch our customers?
Take a moment to consider all of the managers in customer service call centers, grocery stores, department stores, service centers, specialty retailers, schools, insurance agencies, healthcare, and government. As consumers, we complain about the poor customer service we experience and wonder, “How did it get so pervasive?” The problem has grown to the point that many companies routinely do nothing because the competition is exactly the same.
When a CEO or business owner commits to full employee engagement, mid-managers are no longer given the short shrift in development. Mid-managers simply must be given the kind of development that:
- Teaches them how to change, reflect, sell, network, influence, and actively learn
- Shows them how to elevate the use of their time from frenzied activity to value
- Holds them just as accountable for engagement as senior executives
- Moves them from taskmasters to strategic leaders, talent developers, and problem solvers
If there is any doubt about the value of this quest, start adding up the times you encounter a brand ambassador that you remember as a positive stand-out, a look you in the eye and do whatever it takes to make you a satisfied customer.
Why don’t we make that kind of engagement the new normal?
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