The plight of the middle manager

Ah the Middle Manager … the one in the middle. Not one of the valuable front line workers who actually do stuff … nor one of the high flyers that lead the company … middle manager … sounds … sort of average.

They seem much maligned too. Whenever a company issues a press release about restructuring or job losses, you can bet your bottom dollar that middle managers will get it. Consultants love to talk about creating flatter structures to bypass the blockages caused by middle managers.

But it is really tough to be a middle manager:

New Experiences

As a middle manager, you are likely to be at the start of your management career. You are learning the ropes. You will make mistakes. So it can seem tough being a middle manager.

It can feel lonely too. You can end up feeling that you are the only one facing the problems you are facing. That is not true. All managers go through similar experiences.

Managing Upwards

One of the concerns I hear from new managers is how they deal with their managers. Sometimes they are brilliant and inspiring … sometimes they are not. Whichever it is, a middle manager spends a lot of time managing upwards.

This means setting clear parameters of how you want to be managed; making it clear what you expect from them; .and explaining when you will deliver and when you need support.

Competing priorities

As in any organisation, you have limited resources and competing priorities, so you will not only be managing your team and managing your manager, you may be fighting for budget or resource.

So you may find yourself negotiating with other managers or bidding against them for resources.


As a middle manager, you will often find that you can only achieve your goals if you work with other teams. You will have to share resources and priorities to achieve a shared objective. So you not only have to manage your team’s objectives but you also have to manage other objectives.

So, a middle manager spends part of their time managing their team, part managing their manager, part working with other managers. You will feel your time being pulled and stretched in lots of different directions and you can start to wonder if you are making a difference.

However, good middle managers are crucial in employee engagement, employment retention. They are the ones who drive real change in their teams and can hugely influence productivity. A great middle manager inspires their team, they become role models for new members of staff, they will be remembered for a very long time.

So be proud to be a middle manager, recognise that it can be difficult and remember the influence and impact you make as a leader of your team and a role model to other middle managers.