In a recent Harvard Business Review column by Lynda Gratton, she writes “like the Industrial Revolution before it, the Technology Revolution is creating seismic shifts in how people work. The classic job of the middle manager will soon disappear.” The controversial statement in the HBR article points to Gratton’s view that younger workers are looking for more advanced leadership roles instead of middle management employment.
I’d have to slightly disagree and say that there is a larger influencing factor leading to the decline of middle management positions. Firstly, given The Great Recession, many businesses have begun to cut costs. Middle management positions are generally supervisorial and is mostly composed of tracking and managing the progress of employees. Many companies are starting to realize the lack of need to manage progress in this traditional sense which is why the US has seen a rapid increase in telecommuting jobs. I do believe the Gratton is correct and the Technology Revolution is definitely influencing this trend as well.
Our country’s promotion methods has also lead to poor performing middle managers, which probably caused many industry leaders to think that the roles had become obsolete. In the past, when an employee performed well at his/her job they were rewarded with a promotion that moved them into middle management. This had nothing to do with their leadership ability but with their performance or ability to “DO” things. Once moved into management, unless they were given specific mentoring on becoming a leader, they most likely failed.
We see this type of thing happen often in the sales departments of many companies as top sales people move on to become sales managers, many of them failing. Why? Because the skill set that is needed to drive sales, is not the same as the one needed to motivate and lead a team.
I’m really interested in your thoughts and hope you will take the time to post some of your answers to the below questions related to this topic.
- Have you seen this in your organization or past organizations that you’ve worked for?
- Should we get rid of middle managers?
- Should we find better leaders in middle management for our organizations?
- If we remove middle managers from the business, who will our successors be?
- Will we always have to hire from the outside when someone at the top leaves if we have removed middle managers from the business?
- What will the costs be to our businesses if we remove middle management?