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Don’t Monkey About: How to Beat the Stress of Middle Management

It may seem like an insult, likening middle managers to monkeys; however, that’s just what researchers at the UK’s Liverpool and Manchester Universities have done. A recent study has found the stresses encountered by middle managers at work are similar to those that monkeys in the middle of their social hierarchy face. Both have the constant challenge of pleasing those above while managing those below at the same time. Interestingly, our Mindjet colleagues in Holland did some research into middle management, discovering that 29% feel that they have too much work and not enough time to do it, more so than junior managers (25%) and even CEOs (18%). However, I’m sure that if you employ some cunning guerrilla tactics, you can stop monkeying around, avoid the stress and really get into the swing of things.

It’s All About Trust…

A lot of middle management revolves around trust. This can be tough, because similar to macaques, you’re in a unique position. You need to earn the trust of the employees you lead, but also make sure you’re meeting the expectations from above.

This can become problematic if there’s a disagreement between the senior leadership team and the staff, as you’re the one who needs to bridge the gap between them. Harvard University has found that employees want three things from their job:

1) to be treated with respect,

2) to take pride in a job well done and

3) to get on with their fellow employees.

As manager, you need to make sure the people you lead are getting these three things. If you can give them these three things, then trust will follow naturally.

Communicate – Cut Through the Chatter

Another key skill needed in middle management is good communication.  As mentioned, you are the bridge between the business leaders and their employees. You have to be able to feed information about your employees up the chain and flag any issues that are affecting the performance of the business.

Likewise, you must be able to communicate clearly to those below you. You have to ensure that your staff shares the vision of those above you so that everybody is pulling in the same direction. Being a good communicator will mean you can guide those who perhaps don’t agree with the senior strategy and, likewise, feed back to the senior team.

 Plan, Plan and Plan Some More

The final thing to remember is that nothing beats a good plan incorporating all of the above. The secret to being a good manager is looking ahead and anticipating problems before they arise, something that is made much easier if you can gain a holistic view of the operations going on around you. Mindjet’s software makes this easy, allowing you to map out your superiors expectations, what actions need to be taken to meet them and what problems have arisen from below. In the Netherlands, Mindjet discovered that 70% of middle managers feel their skills are integral to their company’s success. So once you’ve mastered all these skills, you really can focus on becoming one of the top bananas!