When many people talk about careers, there can be a hint of negativity to the way people who work in middle management long term are described. Obviously to those at the bottom of the career ladder, a middle management job looks several big achievements away and offers a vast difference in salary, but most ambitious entry level or graduate employees like to hope that this management layer won’t be where their career will end. Middle management is spoken of as if it shows that you were competent enough to do pretty well, but not perhaps ambitious or interesting enough to be elevated beyond that.
In actual fact, this is pure TV land nonsense. In many companies, the middle management layer is absolutely vital, and is where some of the best people end up and are happy to stay. Here we look at why:
All Management Levels Require Different Abilities
Certainly, in a normal career, one can assume it is possible, as experience and skills are gathered, to go through just about every level in the company. This is normal. However most seasoned managers know that there are some elements of management they have more of a natural gift for than others. Some of these pop up more at supervisory levels and hardly at all at very senior levels (such as coaching and mentoring employees closely), whereas others you don’t really get to exercise until you get pretty high up (business strategy skills, for example). What you are best at and what you enjoy will affect the level you excel best at, and it may not be the most senior one in the company, regardless of whether you could eventually get that job.
Middle Managers Use the Most Skills at Once
While your team leaders, project managers, supervisors and other people who sit in a management role beneath the middle manager of a department need very detailed hands on knowledge of what is going on in their areas, who the people involved are and what the status of everything is, senior managers do not and need only overviews of the statuses of the major projects going on, and very little information about how things are going in support departments unless there is an issue to address. As the person who essentially reports up to the board, the middle manager responsible for a department actually does need to know a lot about what is going on, and be familiar with all the people, while still being able to make decisions based on the big picture. This means they are using more ‘management skills’ every day in their role than those above or below them, particularly if you also consider the client facing and people aspects of management as discussed in the article you can find here.
Using more skills means you need to keep those skills honed, and makes your job more diverse. It also means you don’t lose the personal touch you get from working within your team as well as above it, which senior executives often say they miss after rising up the ranks. It is clear then, that there is more to middle management, and more appealing reasons to stay there, than stereotypes suggest!