Stephanie Armour in her USA Today article, “Who wants to be a middle manager?,” discusses the challenges facing today’s middle manager, and that a growing population of Generation X & Y employees do not view a move into middle management as a desirable career move. The Gen X or Y managers that she interviewed discussed their challenges with work-life balance, struggling with increasingly wide-spread employees, pressures of managing the output (and the interpersonal issues) of employees while counterbalancing that against the objectives of senior management. The article indicates that the role of the middle manager has dramatically changed over the years – becoming a less desirable role.
Some of the primary issues the article references are:
Lack of flexibility in work schedule – often there is a need to be available nearly 24×7
More demanding work and technology have forced managers to multi-task
Generational differences between the Baby boomer senior managers and the Gen X & Y middle managers and front line employees – who often have different views on company loyalty, career paths and job security
Work flexibility and security are perks that the middle managers do not get to take advantage
She finishes by pointing out that some organizations, like IBM, are attempting to offer executive-like perks to middle managers in the hopes of making the positions more attractive to employees. Some companies, she points out, are being more flexible with valued middle managers. One such company allowed a middle manager to retain her position, supervising a largely US-based team, when she relocated to Europe.
A few questions that occurred to me as I was reading this article: Has middle management changed more so than the work world? Haven’t there always been employees – regardless of generation – who understand the additional commitments that management requires and would rather not have the additional responsibilities? Are there a percentage of Gen X & Y managers who share similar views as Baby Boomers? If so, how large is that group? If Gen X & Y employees are wired differently than Baby Boomers, what ways will the business world need to change to accommodate this change once the Baby Boomers begin to retire from the workforce?
I believe that the work world has been and continues to change at an incredible pace. Today you have companies that are less than 25 years old – that are among the most successful entities in the world (i.e. Google, Cisco, Microsoft, eBay, Dell, Lenovo, Yahoo). My point is that there will be a company that starts in someone’s garage or basement tomorrow that may be a global brand within 5 – 7 years. Those types of successes place an enormous amount of pressure on established businesses in many industries. In addition, there is a greater amount of competition globally which has forced many organizations to face fierce new competitors. And if that was not enough, businesses have additional focus on financial reporting – due to the misdeeds of senior mangers from organizations like Enron, Adelphia, WorldCom, etc.
All levels of management are facing enormous amounts of pressure. Can you remember a time in which new CEOs were given such short amounts of rope before they were replaced? So with senior managers facing a tremendous amount of pressure, it is understandable for middle managers – those who are tasked with implementing the organizations strategic plans – to feel incredible pressure as well.
I have known a number of Baby Boomer first-line employees who no desire of being in management. The belief that this is a phenomenon that is owned by Gen X or Y employees is a myth. You will always find that a fair number of employees do not want the additional responsibility that comes with being in management. Every generation produces individuals who are driven to be the best that they can be, not every generation takes the same path to success, but Gen X & Y is no different in their drive. If anything there is probably some truth in Gen X & Y wanting to move farther at a faster rate. Not wanting to wait and “pay dues” over an extended period of time. Some of this is due to the “peer pressure” of witnessing peers launch successful companies. As a result they will increasingly look for opportunities of upward mobility outside their present organizations. So while some Gen X & Y employees want to take charge of an organization, generally, they don’t want to wait 15 or 20 years to do it.