Middle management can be a trap

Middle Manager: Trapped in the sandwich position

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Finally a manager! Many a climber dreams of being promoted to high hierarchies and management levels. But the ascent has its pitfalls. Afterwards, many find themselves in the position of middle manager - above their own employees, but below numerous other managers. It's a typical sandwich position in which numerous talents wear themselves out or work on them and ultimately get stuck. Well, who knows what he or she is getting into in the situation as a middle manager. These strategies are especially important now ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Middle manager: caught between employees and bosses

Middle managers are exactly where it is particularly uncomfortable in the company. They often form a buffer between the hierarchical levels and have to absorb all sorts of discrepancies and communicate in one direction or the other. On the one hand, this sandwich position makes it extremely important for companies - but it is also anything but comfortable. It is not for nothing that this situation is also known as the “stuck-in-the-middle phenomenon”.

It is the task and responsibility of the middle managerto implement the conceptual and strategic specifications and plans in concrete work and processes. It is they who, together with the team leaders or their direct employees, are largely responsible for day-to-day work and productivity in the company. Specifically, middle managers influence numerous factors through their leadership style. For example:

  • Daily work processes and workflows
  • Working atmosphere and satisfaction of the employees
  • Management credibility
  • Corporate culture

In short: middle managers are mediators between all sides and are stuck in a dilemma. You don't have to support all of the requirements that you implement in terms of content - but shouldn't show that. Conversely, you cannot ventilate every displeasure in the department upwards unfiltered. Otherwise it quickly looks as if you don't have your store under control. And whoever wants to climb the career ladder should above all be able to communicate successes, not the frustration of the workforce.

Advantages as a middle manager

In addition to the stresses and demands, such positions also offer the opportunity to gain numerous experiences, to prove yourself and to make a name for yourself. As an example, three pro-arguments are mentioned at this point:

  • Proximity to employees

    In no other management position do you have so much contact with employees as in that of the middle manager. This closeness allows you to build sustainable relationships, develop and improve leadership skills and fundamentally help shape the working atmosphere.

  • Concretely visible results

    These design options also mean that you perceive the results and effects of your work immediately - very differently than in top management. You can see directly which changes are beneficial to employees and the company and which are not. And you usually get direct feedback from customers.

  • Look for the bigger picture

    Although as a middle manager you are relatively close to the day-to-day business and operational work of the company, you can still keep an eye on the bigger picture - more so than ordinary employees. This gives you the chance to assess the impact of your work on the entire company. In this way you can keep reminding yourself of the meaning of your tasks.

However, the advantages mentioned do not diminish the challenges that lie specifically in this sandwich position. Especially if you do and master your job particularly well ...

Labor law: executive or suffering employee?

The preliminary climax of the career is often rewarded with the title “executive”. Managers feel honored. At first. The joy only lasts for a short time, however, when the person concerned realizes that they are legally in a much worse position than the normal employee they were before. Who is really a manager does not depend on the designation in the contract, but on the actual conditions in the job.

Executives have a prominent position vis-à-vis other employees - but are seen as less in need of protection. For example, the restrictions of the Working Hours Act (ArbZG) do not apply, nor do collective agreements regularly apply to them.

There are also important special features of the Works Constitution Act (BetrVG) and in particular of protection against dismissal:

  • Executive employees are excluded from the scope of the BetrVG,
  • the works council is not responsible for them,
  • social plans do not apply to them either.

An important special position for dismissals: As a manager you can terminate others and be terminated yourself, but not without reason. However, due to the highlighted trust relationship, different standards apply to the reasons. Note: Note: Those who are higher up have to think more carefully about how they behave.

Where an employee still receives a warning, a middle manager may already be dismissed. His behavior is assessed more strictly - he also owes the company greater loyalty, especially when it comes to communication. Because of this role model function, a breach of duty, which normally only entitles to ordinary termination, quickly ends in termination without notice.

Medium-lean trap: those who are good are stuck

Unfortunately, it can be observed in many companies: Those who are good or too good at their job are rarely promoted, but are instead trapped in a trap they created themselves. A simple example: Lars, an extremely accomplished, well-organized middle manager and has long been known in the group as a reliable and thorough problem solver. Absolute top performer. In the past, he has already received numerous projects and teams, which he completed and built with flying colors and in some cases even exceeded the requirements. He does his job like no other. And that's exactly what his managers know - unfortunately.

What is happening? It is regularly overlooked for promotions. There is always a raise in salary. But no real progress. His executives patronize him, publicly praise him, but nobody really promotes him.

The explanation: Each of his managers would be powdered with a hammer to praise such a top talent. That has nothing to do with the Peter Principle, but with pure self-interest. Such employees make life more carefree and easier for any manager. Who would want to do without it and move the employee into a different position?

The bane of good middle managers

To be good at one's job is not just something worth striving for - it can also be a curse. Especially in middle management. You become a victim of your own competence, accuracy and meticulousness. Of course, it is short-sighted to block such service providers in this way and solely in your own interest. But it is precisely this glass ceiling that many middle managers experience in everyday life.

There are hardly any ways out - other than a job change or the hope of a real mentor.

Promotions get frustrating after three years

Those who climb the career ladder usually see the higher salary and more responsibility, but not the possible consequences. When Australian researchers from the University of Melbourne followed the careers of almost 2,700 employees between the ages of 18 and 64 for eight years and evaluated their psychological and physical development, they came to a surprising result:

Promotions didn't make you healthier or happierOn the contrary: If the employees were initially still satisfied with the higher status and the increased salary, they soon complained about higher stress and less free time. It took an average of three years, then the initial euphoria about the ascent completely fizzled out. Mental health: on the same level as before the promotion; Happiness and health - unchanged. In return, however, the perceived pressure (due to the greater responsibility) was significantly higher.

Success strategies for middle managers

So what to do Anyone who takes on the position of middle manager usually sees this as an intermediate station on the way up in the hierarchy. That is legitimate, but not automatic - despite various mentoring and support programs in many companies. In the end, people decide - and their decisions are often anything but neutral or objective.

Instead, make it clear to yourself that you have two main functions in this sandwich position:

  • You coordinate and
  • They communicate - on both levels.

You play different roles at the same time: from organizer to motivator; from contact person to diplomat; from managers to employees. In order to be able to cope with this bandwidth, you can hardly avoid good feedback (see video).

If you are lucky, you will already find a good advisor and supporter in your boss. But this is rare, for the reasons mentioned above. Instead of hoping for it, these strategies can help:

  • Search for mentors
    Look for mentors internally (also in other departments) or externally. Find a higher-ranking manager who really wants to promote and move you forward. Maybe you can find several mentors for different tasks and challenges.
  • network
    In addition to such sponsors, it is important that you network in a targeted and systematic manner within the company - at all levels of the hierarchy. Good contacts with your employees as well as with superiors and managers from other departments are essential. Vitamin B only harms those who don't have one.
  • offensive
    Don't passively wait for the promotion to come to you on its own, go on the offensive. Bring the topic up and make it clear that you are planning the next step in your career. Be confident and show that you know and pursue your goals.

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