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Middle Managers’ Guide to Balancing Performance and Compassion

Middle managers must carefully balance executive expectations while fostering a productive team. Follow these tips to keep both sides of the equation impressed by your performance.

The pandemic has been a challenging time for middle managers, with one recent study finding that 46% of remote workers were less satisfied with their jobs than senior executives. This frustration comes down to how their position pulls them in two, often conflicting, directions.

Middle management must take instructions from executive-level workers and ensure staffers put them into action. However, they also experience pressure from lower down the hierarchy, as they must avoid overworking employees or demanding unreasonable outcomes.

From their crucial position in the leadership structure, middle managers must thoughtfully balance performance demands and the need for compassion to foster the ideal workplace. To help you strike the right approach and satisfy each party, we’ve put together some helpful advice.

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1. Connect with your team

Forging a strong relationship with your employees is crucial to establishing yourself as an effective middle manager. But how can you navigate complex situations where your responsibilities conflict with your workers’ desires?

One of the greatest frustrations employees experience is the feeling that their concerns aren’t being heard. By generating an environment that supports open dialogue and feedback, you ensure workers have their say on matters that impact them. Even if you can’t meet their needs, having the conversation is still essential.

Another great way to connect is by implementing training and development opportunities. According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Workplace Learning Report, 74% of employees want to learn during their spare time at work. Work with your executive team to kickstart these strategies and foster high-performance workers.

2. Find employees their ideal role

Middle managers place a critical role in making internal changes. For example, a team member unhappy in their current duty may perform to a much higher standard if shifted into another position. Not only is this great for increasing business outcomes, but it also shows compassion for the worker’s needs.

However, this process has to be handled with great care. You must have an open conversation with all the relevant parties to ensure they’re satisfied with the move. Plus, you’ll most likely have to line up a replacement for the now vacant spot.

To handle this transfer effectively, Texas-based marketing automation consultant Nicole Munoz suggests setting a one-month transition period. “During that month, [the employee] will prepare all of their handover tasks, which allows you the opportunity to prepare the next position or find a replacement.”

3. Set clear goals

Clear goals are critical to employee performance and happiness, yet only around half of employees say they understand what their managers expect of them at work. So, how can you use your position as a middle manager to solve this widespread problem?

Managers must define clear objectives that give employees the target they need to kick themselves into gear. But your responsibilities go deeper. It’s also your job to hold workers accountable for meeting these goals while identifying when they need extra support to meet your demands.

Adopt a collaborative approach to goal setting that aims for a high yet realistic standard. This way, your team feels engaged in their success while delivering an incredible outcome that keeps your bosses happy. Diving into these during stay interviews is a good way to start.

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4. Develop a flexible work environment

The working environment has changed dramatically since the pandemic. While some businesses are pushing to get back to the office, some employees find themselves at odds with this decision. This is because many workers believe a flexible work environment provides greater productivity and satisfaction.

A recent study discovered that nearly 40% of global candidates say that a flexible workplace is a top-three factor when choosing an employer. Although this decision will be made alongside senior management, your influence could help them reach a solution that delights your department.

Considering the wealth of communication and collaboration software available to modern businesses, adopting a hybrid working environment could deliver unmatched performance with the right implementation.

5. Recognise top performers

Everyone wants validation for their hard work, so don’t skip the chance to give your team awards and commendations. This aspect of being a middle manager is crucial, with a Glassdoor survey finding that 53% of employees would stay longer at a company if they felt properly appreciated.

Numerous strategies ensure your team feels recognised. For instance, have the department vote for an employee of the month or hand out thoughtful vouchers to those who have gone above and beyond expectations. Plus, don’t forget to recognise an employee’s personal achievements outside work to showcase their positive impact.

The middle management offers significant potential to balance out the needs of employees against executive-level limitations. More often than not, the influence you hold can bring advantageous shifts to the working environment. Consider the tips above and let the process work for you!

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