An opportunity for middle managers to create change

85% of bosses believe hybrid working is bad for productivity and 87% of employees believe the complete opposite.

Who’s wrong here? Who’s out of touch?

Arguably, both. On this issue, at least. Productivity is very hard to measure and we are notoriously bad assessing it, for other and for ourselves.

However, it shows a massive disconnect between bosses and employees, something we see on a range of issues. They are most definitely not on the same page.

Anyone who’s worked in a large organisation will recognise this disconnect. 

The strategies formed in the rarified atmosphere of the ‘executive floor’ get handed down to a non-plussed middle management layer who then have to translate them into something that actually connects with the reality they and their teams contend with on a daily basis. 

The high-flown ideals and lofty aims that sound great in the board room have to be translated and remodelled into something that won’t provoke hilarity or animosity amongst the people who do the work.

Then, the hard-won results and everyday actions that have impact have to be massaged into words and numbers that fit the narrative that the board wants to hear, even though that distorts or even hides the valuable work that has been done.

This is what a lot of middle management does, facing up and facing down and translating between the two so that they hear what they need or want to. It’s kind of heroic. If you lead a team, you’ll be familiar with how this works.

On the one hand, you maintain the illusion that the bosses have about how the organisation works and how their actions lead to the outcomes they want. On the other hand, you maintain the illusion to those who do the actual work, the teams that they lead, that the bosses have a grasp on what’s going on and an appreciation of the work they do and are on top of things (this is by far the trickier of the two).

You become adept at managing your team in the way that works for them and for you and is most likely to get stuff done, all the while making it look like you are doing things by the book.  You are the grease that keeps the wheels turning.

It seems unlikely you are going to be able to change the view of the guys at the top, and they wouldn’t welcome you trying anyway, so the logical and practical response is this two-way deception, this fudging and blurring of what’s going on.

However, instead of bending that reality to serve some il-defined and ethereal corporate goals, why not use those skills and that power to create a better working environment for you and your team?

If you’re going to create an illusion for the bosses, why not do it to serve a better reality than you’ve got now? After all, they won’t know, will they?

You have the power to make a real difference to the working environment of you and your team, to improve everyone’s quality of life. It’s an act of courage and generosity to do that.

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