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Why you should be supporting middle managers

By Jack Campbell | |5 minute read

Middle managers copped it hard through the pandemic, with many of those in the “vital but vanishing role” choosing to give up their posts.

This isn’t purely attributed to COVID-19. McKinsey said the rise of automation, increased stress, and the overall evolution of business have also impacted the position over the past 25 to 30 years.

Understanding the value of the middle manager and easing the stress they may be feeling is important because, without them, the business can suffer.


“Middle managers – or what BoldHR calls the B-suite – are the essential glue that holds a business together. Often overlooked and underestimated, they are the essential connectors, translators and traffic directors of corporate performance and culture. They are the shock absorber of the corporate world,” said BoldHR founder Rebecca Houghton.

“Without them, staff lose momentum and motivation … executives lose essential insight into and influence over their workforce, dangerously disconnecting them from reality. The naturally opposing forces of executive and workforce agendas provide a healthy organisational tension that only the B-suite can balance.”

There are ways that leaders can foster a healthy relationship with the middle management of their company. This starts with including them in the decision-making processes, said Ms Houghton.

“As organisations operate at an increasingly fast pace, expectations are higher, and problems more complex, it is inevitable that the C-suite devolve some of their traditional responsibilities of decision-making and strategising to the next level down,” explained Ms Houghton.

“Organisations that do this well operate in a nimbler manner, move faster, are more innovative and have higher engagement levels. Organisations that do this poorly complain that their middle managers are order-takers who lack accountability and initiative. They experience lower engagement and higher burnout rates as a result of under-investing in their B-suite leaders.”

Empowering your B-suite can be beneficial as it not only builds the manager’s confidence but also creates a more cohesive work environment.

“They need empowerment, or you risk them undermining your efforts to move forwards. This starts with setting a clear frame for your empowerment – what decisions require them to get on with it, give them permission negotiate, to delegate cross-functionally and finally to escalate to you,” said Ms Houghton.

“This clarity will give them the confidence that so many are lacking right now. The more confident they are to lead in the new frame you have set, the faster and further your business will go. High-impact leaders drive more profit than their mediocre counterparts.”

There is only so much work that can be thrust upon the middle managers, however. Minimise the risk of burnout by being realistic with expectations.

Ms Houghton added: “Recently recognised as the primary driver of burnout, workload levels are currently unprecedented … Mid-level leaders are more likely to experience burnout … so this is an essential area for executive and HR teams to focus on if they need to re-energise your workforce.”



Employees experience burnout when their physical or emotional reserves are depleted. Usually, persistent tension or dissatisfaction causes this to happen. The workplace atmosphere might occasionally be the reason. Workplace stress, a lack of resources and support, and aggressive deadlines can all cause burnout.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.