The X Factor That Drives Organizational Aptitude: Middle Management

The X Factor That Drives Organizational Aptitude: Middle Management

When objectively examining organizational dynamics and performance, a singular group can and does hold the most significant role.

I am talking about Middle Managers.

At this level, you are straddling, navigating senior leadership while overseeing those doing the job on the ground.

It’s no wonder many today are shying away from such positions and responsibilities.

Speaking from experience at this level, I can confidently say that organizations can and do break in the middle.

I have witnessed teams on the ground consistently suffering from high turnover and high employee dissatisfaction which then adversely impacts culture, especially if it goes unaddressed at the higher levels.

There is nothing more demoralizing, not to mention the cost to the bottom line!

Every employee carrying out the core tasks at any organization is looking for an experience they can walk away from each day they come to work that allows them to be themselves and to be at their best.

Such an experience starts with their direct manager.

Imagine carrying out the key tasks and being responsible for clients and their satisfaction, for example, and you are giving maybe half the effort you are capable of and to just get by?

We call this “quiet quitting” which has been in the headline’s ad nauseum.

Quiet quitting is not a novel concept. It’s been around for at least the 25 years I have been in the corporate world.

The “experience” with your direct manager often drives such behavior.


  • Are you being micromanaged?
  • Does your manager care about you and try to “connect” with you?
  • Is your manager investing time in your development and growth and do they care about your career aspirations?
  • Do they make you feel like your ideas and thoughts are valued and heard?
  • Are you being asked to do your work or TOLD to do it?


All these are true experiences shaped by your direct manager and how they lead.

My study and observations of middle managers are that many have been very good at their jobs as individual contributors, but now they have been thrust into a team lead position, often without the training required to succeed in this new, pivotal role.

Consider these questions when evaluating their qualifications for such a role:

Who taught them how to handle different personalities and how to get the most out of their team?

Who taught them how to handle conflict and deliver news that might not sit right with their team?

Who taught them how to navigate at the senior levels while appeasing those in their charge?

Who taught them to regulate their emotions during times of adversity and with their team?

The reality is, most likely, no one.

The issue plagues many organizations, breaking the middle level of organizations.

There is no way to say it other than mismanagement at the middle level ultimately leads to human capital inefficiencies, stifling productivity and performance.


Data and research from McKinsey studies support the same conclusion:

“In a new analysis, we found that strong middle managers aren’t just nice to have for all the reasons we note; they are a business imperative. Organizations with top-performing managers yield multiple times the total shareholder returns (TSR) of those with average or below-average managers over a period of five years (see sidebar, “Our Methodology”).”



Having been fortunate to have been a part of some prestigious investment banks, I can say that most of the more quality Leadership Development training programs at these institutions cater to the senior levels above the middle managers.

Especially in today’s world, I firmly believe middle managers need to have extremely high self-awareness and emotional intelligence to survive and thrive in such a capacity effectively.

Proposed Transformational Measures:

Here are 4 steps our senior leaders can implement that will transform not only the way we look at Middle Management but also strengthen the foundation that will sustain our organizations for years to come in an ever-evolving world:

  1. To exponentially increase investment in middle managers including providing access to leadership development programs centered on emotional intelligence development.
  2. To rebrand the middle manager role, they must be more of a player-coach at the middle levels to effectively guide teams through their career journey with diligence and sincerity and care about their well-being as people.
  3. To reform the interview and vetting process for middle managers whereby Emotional Intelligence tests are administered as an example and more team-related scenarios are discussed regarding leadership approach.
  4. To give middle managers a seat at the executive table where it makes sense and when certain decisions are made to be able to represent employees on the ground.

If we can implement these measures in the middle of organizations, employee satisfaction, and engagement will significantly increase, employee retention will be a non-issue, culture will grow strong, and productivity will thrive!

As the McKinsey study clearly shows, such a transformation in organizational dynamics would translate into a measurably enhanced bottom line.

It’s a win for all involved and that X factor of a strong middle management will pay dividends literally and figuratively!


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Leadership & Introspection Xen Culture Solutions

Leadership & Introspection

My name is Wais Achikzad, and I am and always will be a student of leadership. After 20 plus years in the corporate world, working

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