Headknocking, Brick Walls?and What's a Manager to Do?

Headknocking, Brick Walls? and What's a Manager to Do? May 2004 It's great to see many companies are now acknowledging that the old, traditional methods of management are not effective and they are modernizing their strategies and taking...

Headknocking, Brick Walls? and What's a Manager to Do?

May 2004

It's great to see many companies are now acknowledging that the old, traditional methods of management are not effective and they are modernizing their strategies and taking steps to improve employee morale, and therefore productivity. CEOs are taking an active interest because they have to and senior managements all over the world are issuing new guidelines and goals to their middle management to initiate.

CEOs and senior management accept that low morale among their workforce means low productivity, which in turn, means low profits. Smart companies are hiring Coaches and Consultants to turn this around - everyone wants a happy workforce with improved productivity and profits. Some companies are trying other methods. But whatever method is being used, it still falls on Middle Management's shoulders to implement. They are in a unique position to see what isn't working, what won't work, why it isn't or won't work, and what adjustments could and should be made that would make it work.

Sadly, for some of them, their senior management, CEOs and Boards of Directors don't listen. Sometimes, when a middle manager tries to express his view about a new strategy or goal, senior management can sometimes close their ears. After all, what would this middle manager know? If he was so smart, he'd be "one of us". They may listen just to humor him, but they have their plan of action, and really, they just want him to carry out orders and tow the line.

From Top To Bottom
If the bottom line employee is the one getting his or her hands dirty, it's middle management who has the task of instructing and overseeing the way in which their hands are dirtied. They receive their instructions from those at the top, which is not always the best place to be if you want a clear understanding of what is happening at ground level. Middle Managers who attempt to enlighten them often find themselves doing the equivalent of banging their head against a brick wall.

Too often they are told they are not in a position to "know", and to just do as they are told, which is a shame, really, because they ARE in a position to know. They may not know what plans are discussed in the boardroom, but they do know whether the plan is working or has a hope to work in real life, or at the very least, be able to identify trouble spots where some tweaking of plans would be ideal.

It is frustrating for middle managers when their senior management, the CEO, and the Board members, expect them to carry out reforms and oversee changes that are designed to make improvements, but may be misguided and miss their mark.

So, does the middle manager assertively argue with his senior management and risk his or her position and possibly jeopardize his own career goals within the organization? Nobody wants to rock the boat if it means their job is on the line, or they'll be ostracized, even if they know they could save the company thousands in mis-spent dollars on initiatives which are poorly designed. And there are those in senior management who simply don't want to be "shown up" by a lower level manager who may just know 'better' than they do? so reports and advice are not passed on. Middle Managers are humored and sent on their way.

What can a middle Manager do in this situation? When he has an idea he knows will work better, but his own senior management won't even do him the honor of hearing it? He knows the instructions he's been given are going to be a waste of time, mostly his time, and there isn't anything he can do about it because those who make the decisions higher up, simply don't want to listen.

This brick wall is familiar to many Managers. They're too scared to speak up too loudly because their family's welfare and the family home (mortgage) are often riding on his/her permanent paycheck arriving each month. He can't afford to rock any boats. Meanwhile, his own boat is sinking and the Captain has left the ship to play golf.

To Rock Or Not To Rock that Boat
So off they go to try and achieve their set goals and unable to achieve them successfully, yet powerless to do anything about it. The system or the senior level of management has let them down. And when this happens time and time again, it is a very demoralizing experience for the Manager involved.

So, what can a Manager do? There are courses of action one can take, some of which involve jumping off the deep end with their eyes closed - a leap of faith, and some which are just plain old common sense approaches.

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