The workload is increasing and almost half of employees feel stressed at work. One observed phenomenon is that the number of managers in companies is increasing and consequently the complexity and potential for conflict is growing. While the working population has grown by 8.3 per cent in the last ten years, managers have seen an increase of 38 per cent. Today, every 12th person in the labour force is a manager. Ten years ago, it was still one in 15. [1]

Is additional work being generated and is middle management only passing on instructions from upper management and blocking proposed changes due to employees’ own initiative and innovative strength? There clearly needs to be a rethink and a “rebranding” of middle management in order to avoid being pushed into the corner described by the American anthropologist David Graeber in his bestseller “Bullshit Jobs” and to meet the demands of flat and agile hierarchies and forms of organisation.

A recently published article in the specialist magazine “Harvard Business Review” entitled “Don’t Eliminate Your Middle Management” makes the case for this underestimated layer of management. The Economist (The potential and plight of the middle manager) and the Financial Times (What makes a good middle manager) have also made similar attempts to highlight the importance of this level. A stage that is important for the realisation of change, cultural development and transformation in companies. We know from research that strategies fail if they are not implemented correctly or are misunderstood and consequently many resources that could be used differently and more sustainably are wasted.

In addition to greater room for manoeuvre and decision-making, management skills need to be strengthened and included in the shaping of a company’s values in order to take sufficient account of the “New Work” dimensions.

Today, life is no longer so strongly divided into work and leisure, but is seen as the sum of all activities. The “sense economy” is a “game changer” of the “New Work” concept and influences the cultural concept and development of a company to an even greater extent than in the past. The question of meaning as a central motivation and driver for people in middle management is increasingly moving to the centre of their lives. During these transitions, mentoring will play an even stronger and more developed role for managers. If realities are “constructs”, mentoring relationships are a unique, dynamic and complementary form of support, as can also be found as an analogy with Dr Otto Scharmer [2] as a possibility of the “Design Thinking Process” in his U-Theory. The middle management should be strengthened with new competences. In today’s pressures and responsibilities, some of them have lost their inner compass and are slowly burning out inside, suffering or remaining anxiously stuck in old roles. It is about creating a basic constant for meaningful and successful leadership. As a leader, you need a good self-orientation that is derived from your own values and attitude. This knowledge supports the implementation competence and ultimately leads from knowledge to action. The middle management is the link within the company levels and this core should be strengthened in order to make the collective knowledge visible and utilise it productively for the company.

[1] Research in the November issue of KMU-Today

[2] German economist and author