Question:I am a middle manager and I was promoted from
direct line staff. Whenever there is a problem between what my boss
wants and what my workers want, I see things from my workers' point of
view. However, my boss says that I must express his views and opinions
to the workers or I make him out to be the “bad guy.” What is your
opinion of this?
Answer: The role of a middle manager is one of the most difficult in any company. In a lead managed system, the role of a middle manager is to advocate for what your workers need to the powers-that-be but it is also to express the wishes and concerns of management to the workers in a way that makes sense and is understandable to them. A middle manager should never be in the position of creating an us against them mentality.
Sometimes, making that transition from direct service to supervision can be very difficult. You tend to be supervising people who were, just a short time ago, your co-workers. Now you are their boss. This can potentially put you in an uncomfortable position. They may see you more as their friend and expect certain privileges because of that. It is possible to remain friendly but still hold your workers responsible for what is expected of them. As their leader, it is your job to explain the usefulness of what management is asking them to do. If you have been instructed to do something that doesn’t make sense to you, then it is your responsibility to seek clarification until you understand the usefulness so that you can explain things to your workers. Conversely, if your workers bring up issues they have of which you believe management is unaware, then it is also your responsibility to relay those concerns. Many times management makes decisions and hasn’t thought through the practicality based on what the job actually requires. Direct service workers have the best vantage point from which to recognize these potential pitfalls.
As I said, being a middle manager is not an easy job. You must find a way to keep the balance. And always remember, if you feel the need to vent, never do that with your employees. Vent with co-workers and supervisors or your significant other once you get home. Do not pass on your negative comments to your workers. This will always damage morale.
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