The Extinction of the Middle Manager
In a world where customer service is automated, algorithms seek out the best candidates for a job, and project management has become digital, many organizations are beginning to question the importance of middle management. Trends begun by start-ups to create more independent, self-managed workers have perhaps created a reality where middle managers are going the way of the dinosaur. The extinction of middle managers is fueled by large corporations latching onto this trend, reducing costs and increasing profit through the idea that you can do more with fewer employees.
This may be a dangerous trend and extinction of middle management would do to the economy what the extinction of the honey bee would do to the environment. Middle-managers provide a vital service to companies, acting as the go-between for lower-level employees and higher-level managers and executives. Without this middle-man, decision-makers would have no clear idea of life on the “front lines” of their organization and employees would feel less connected to their organizations, making their work feel less meaningful and their career path obsolete.
Those who argue in favor of eliminating middle-management say that they are expensive and obsolete. The ability to use software to automate e-mails, scheduling and instruction allows much of the work previously done by middle management to be divvied up between office assistants other employees. This effectively eliminates the need for a middle manager, as executives can take on direct supervision. In addition, they argue that having middle management slows down decision making, creating multiple levels rather than allowing executives to dictate actions. They argue that this can create confusion in the organization and create a disheartening environment for low-level employees who are unable to apply skills because middle-management is too closely guiding their work.
While there is some reality to these arguments, most of these statements are given by experts that work in large corporations as a way to justify cost-cutting measures without decreasing profit margins or executives salaries. Those in opposition to cutting middle managers argue that they are an investment. Investing in a good middle-manager can create a positive work environment, empowering employees to feel connected and included, and fueling their productivity and satisfaction. An effective middle manager can provide a necessary connection to lower-level employees, creating “checks and balances” for executives who may not be adequately informed on what goes on day-to-day in the business. In fact, middle management is the key to a successful company, providing guidance for both executives and employees, allowing organizations to increase productivity in a way that is not detrimental to their employees.
Good managers are crucial to retaining good people. While the current trend may be to cut middle-management, not all employers are following this trend, and experts are beginning to advise against it. Research shows that those who have chosen to retain middle-management have higher rates of retention, employee satisfaction, and productivity across the board. The long-term effects of cutting middle management are undebatable. When given the right tools, middle managers can be your company’s key to success.