What is Middle Management and Why is it Important?

February 5, 2024 | Diversity & Inclusion | 5 min read

There are many misconceptions surrounding the role of middle managers in companies around the world.

While the term “middle managers” refers to managers who are below the top level of management and are responsible for controlling and running an organization rather than making decisions about how it operates, they are crucial to a company’s ability to successfully operate.

Because of the word “middle,” people often assume that employees in these roles are aiming to move up in their companies, ideally into more senior roles, but this is a false representation of the role and all the responsibilities that it entails. Contrary to the title the role implies, middle managers are actually at the center of the action, and without their ability to connect and integrate people and tasks, organizations would struggle to operate effectively.

As companies are continuously looking to become more agile and responsive to change, the role of middle management is evolving, and the recent shift from traditional hierarchical structures in the workplace has left middle managers with more authority and responsibility than ever before.

Now, middle managers face increased pressure to fulfill a multitude of roles, prompting employers to look at how they can best support their employees in middle management.

Let’s take a look at the roles and responsibilities of mid-level managers in today’s professional landscape, and why they are extremely important to a company’s overall success.

Common Responsibilities of Middle Managers

Middle managers play a vital role in an organization’s day-to-day operations. They have a vast range of responsibilities and serve as important functions in a company’s organizational structure.

While top-level management oversees overall company strategy and long-term planning, middle management is focused on the everyday functioning of specific departments within the company and how individual workers are progressing in their roles.

Most importantly, employees in middle management are in charge of communicating the goals of upper management to lower-level employees and making sure that their team operates smoothly while fulfilling these goals.

Other common duties of middle managers include:

  • Monitoring employee performance
  • Assigning and supervising specific tasks
  • Encouraging employees to reach their full potential
  • Recruiting and retaining company employees
  • Reporting issues and successes to top-level management

Middle managers typically start their careers in specialist roles and might take on various jobs that enable them to establish a strong professional network, which can benefit their employers and the teams they lead.

These are a few of the positions generally considered to be middle management:

  • Branch managers
  • Store managers
  • Regional directors
  • Department managers

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Challenges of Middle Management:

Working in leadership has gotten a lot harder over the past couple of years. With the rise of remote work, and the increasing sentiments of isolation that come with it, it can be hard to find ways to engage team members and encourage stellar performance from all employees.

Middle managers are now struggling with how to balance their various responsibilities while also managing group demands and expectations.

Here are some of the top challenges that middle managers are facing in their roles today:

The messy middle

The first major challenge is in the role title: middle. Studies show that middle managers can often feel that they are caught at the in-between, suffering from being in contradictory roles. They are leading teams, while also reporting to others; they are directing work while also being expected to perform it. The dual nature of these roles can be challenging and it requires a high level of dedication and focus.

Additionally, middle managers might find themselves involved in the conflicts of those both above and below them in the organizational hierarchy. Finding ways to successfully act as an intermediary can be difficult, especially when expected to please people on both ends.

Stress and burnout

Feeling responsible for solving problems on either end of the hierarchy and overseeing coaching, organization, and communication across teams can be a source of stress for many middle managers.

Employees in these roles feel pressure to produce exceptional results, hit numbers, stay on schedule, and meet customer and leadership demands, while also ensuring that the people on their team are being productive and supported. All of these responsibilities can sometimes lead to burnout, so it’s important to implement strong support systems for middle managers in order for them to also have the tools to support all the people they work with on a daily basis.

Feeling undervalued

Studies show that employees in middle management positions have some of the lowest levels of job satisfaction at U.S. organizations. This should not be ignored.

A big reason for these high levels of dissatisfaction has to do with middle managers feeling undervalued at their companies. The idea that exists in the business landscape of middle managers being unexceptional, mediocre supervisors is a gross underrepresentation of the value that employees in this position offer their companies.

Rather, middle managers should be considered the glue that holds companies together. Think about all the times you may have gone to a team manager for guidance or support. Without them and their ability to organize and communicate, whole teams would likely lose their ability to run smoothly, greatly effective company success and productivity.

The communication, organizational, and leadership skills that middle managers possess are seen as some of the most valuable skills for employees across a multitude of industries, and the multifunctional work they do for their teams is extremely important to the everyday functioning of many organizations.

Tips for Helping Your Middle Managers Succeed

Middle managers are key parts of nearly every organization, but in order for them to succeed, they need to feel respected and valued by their companies.

Organizational leaders can be the driving force in making this happen by providing middle managers with the support they need to prosper in their careers.

The most important tip for helping your middle managers succeed is to offer learning and development opportunities.

As mentioned before, middle managers need solid decision-making and communication skills to work with and motivate employees on both sides of the organizational hierarchy. When you offer learning and development opportunities for employees in mid-level management positions, you are providing them with the chance to reskill and upskill in important areas that help strengthen their ability to work alongside, while simultaneously leading, their teams.

Be sure to check out Skillsoft’s courses on how to develop your management skills and become a leader in the workforce.

When you have strong and empowered middle managers, the whole company succeeds, so start learning today.