Someone pointed out what I think is generally a fair observation. Middle managers tend to be obnoxious and out of touch. Why is that?
They weren’t really asking me my thoughts but I think I surprised them that I could answer. It’s actually pretty spot on and from my perspective it’s pretty easy to see why.
Middle Management is not a “destination” position. People who do middle management long term tend to be stuck in their career. This is often the level where the Peter/Dilbert principle tops out for most people and so you have individuals at their maximum incompetence.
Now, combine this with the other side of the dynamic. The ambitious career driven individuals who have their eyes on executive leadership. Middle management to them is just another stepping stone and since most middle managers report directly to an executive and often deal with executives they tend to start taking on an executive perspective even though they themselves are really just senior managers.
In all cases, middle managers are often the level of “real” authority. They have decision making authority that is non-trivial and can have severe impacts.
What often gets overlooked by individuals in these positions is that middle managers are really, well, in the middle. In other words, while you may be one level removed from executives you are still close enough to “boots on the ground” to be informed of day-to-day activities. In other words, the middle managers should be able to be both tactical and strategic. They can see what’s happening in the trenches but have to be able to inform those that are nowhere near the trenches what is going on.
Unfortunately, when you have middle managers who begin to adopt that executive perspective they devalue their role in the organization and often frustrate the leadership team they are responsible for.
Tomorrow I will talk more about how middle managers can fix this and what their employees can do to mitigate this kind of behavior.