rss.shrm.org | Dana Wilkie
Middle managers have long spoken out about the difficulties they have in trying to communicate and enforce directives from company leaders without having a say in or knowing the full reasoning behind those executive decisions.
“They are often the voice of the top layer toward the lower levels, so they must convince people at the bottom to do things decided at the top, often without full information,” says Zahira Jaser, associate professor of organizational behavior and director of the MBA program at the University of Sussex Business School in Brighton, U.K.
The pervasive, unflattering image of the middle manager prevalent in today’s corporate—and popular—culture doesn’t help matters. A prime example is the fictional character Michael Scott, a middle manager at a paper company on the popular sitcom “The Office.” Scott’s bumbling leadership is most often the source of the comic dysfunction that plagues his Pennsylvania-based team. The negative attributes of middle managers embodied by Scott, played by Steve Carell, have been reinforced recently by some notable company leaders when their revenues sank.
For instance, after Meta and Twitter (now called X) made headlines by laying off large numbers of workers this year, their respective CEOs, Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, took to social media to characterize middle managers as drags on their companies and to boast about thinning their ranks.
While Musk commented that Twitter “seems to have 10 managers for every…
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