Stressed Out Mid-Level Managers Impact Retention and Culture

August 22, 2019
Author: Tyran Saffold Jr

A well-oiled machine keeps everything moving along smoothly. All parts function to their capabilities and from there, the machine does what it was made to do — perform. Mid-level managers function in the same way for businesses.

Mid-level Management

Mid-level managers juggle employee and employer satisfaction, attempting to find the perfect balance between the two. Most times, it is a tight rope walk that can induce stress which can lead to poor management behavhior and in the most severe cases, higher employee turnover.

Based on the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 3.4 million people quit their job in the month of June. The obvious reasons for the high level of quits is the combination of historically high levels of job openings, 7.348 million as of June 2019, and a low unemployment rate, 3.7 percent as of July 2019. With the labor market this tight, employees have more job opportunities to find a better job with more responsibility, less stress and higher compensation.

However, according to the 2018 Retention Report by the Work Institute, the less obvious reasons behind the number of resignations vary from a lack of career development to work-life balance, but another big reason is — stressed out managers. Stressful work environments can create a negative company culture, adn therefore, revolving door.

What Can Cause the Stress?

Unreasonable requirements, pressing deadlines and failure to acknowledge achievements are a few ways upper management can increase stress levels for their employees. Sometimes, a few simple congratulatory words or a “job well done” can be exactly what your middle-manager needs to hear, especially when they have toiled tirelessly with seemingly no recognition. They should know that they matter.

It can be easy for executive-level employees to get lost in the day-to-day functions of the company and high-level corporate concerns. However, if middle-management needs are neglected, it can be a recipe for disaster and cause disruption between the manager and employee.

Micromanaging and a lack of emotional intelligence are a few identifying traits of bad management that increases stress, driving individual contributors and next-level team leaders to seek employment elsewhere.

The Next Step

After identifying the issue, the root cause should be sought out. If there are members of the executive management team making things difficult, they should be able to discuss those concerns without fear of reprimand. That is what would (and should) happen in healthy business cultures.

However, it won’t always end on a positive note.

An old business concept says that employers should, “hire slow and fire fast.” If there is an irreconcilable issue, then the separation should come quickly.

Keep the Machine Oiled

If a company's mid-level management is the oil that helps to keep the business running, then it should not be neglected and those relationships should be cultivated. So, how can executives improve their relationships with mid-level managers?

• Have weekly one-to-one sessions with direct reports to discuss needs/concerns
• Foster a culture that embraces conflict
• Get to really know your employees
• Make sure they know who their work impacts and how
• Agree upon key performance indicators (KPIs) so individuals can assess their own progress or success

Prioritizing employee needs in an environment of trust will help make sure your business machine operates at peak efficiency, while reducing stress and turnover.