Promotion to Middle Management: Finding the Joy Between a Rock and a Hard Place

I was listening to a radio show the other day on which the moderator asked the question, “Would you want your boss’s job?” I was surprised at what many of the callers had to say. For the most part, they did NOT want their boss’s job because they would be in that “middle management” position; with too much responsibility and not enough impact on the big picture.


A number of callers view middle management as a place where their initial reasons for working at a particular job, and in a particular organization, slowly dissolve into something less inspiring, and more defeating. Is this what management has become; a place that deflates motivation and ambition, and turns it into a seething, stressed out monster?


Several callers mentioned they saw middle management as being stuck between a rock and a hard place. In that position, one hears complaining from the frontline worker about how things could be better, and takes flack from senior management about why things aren’t better. They feel powerless, overwhelmed and unsuited for such a thankless position. This was not on their list of workplace objectives and goals.

As someone who works with leaders to increase organizational performance, I was saddened by what I heard. There was no joy whatsoever expressed from these callers about management, UNLESS their boss was the owner or CEO. THEN, they felt that they would like their job. Surprise, surprise.

Well, I’m here to tell you that I totally disagree with the thought that middle management is a stark, barren battlefield devoid of humanity and joy. The systems in your organization might well foster that kind of environment, Lord knows many do, although unintentionally, but YOU have the ability to set an intention that creates an environment that YOU want to create; one that can be filled with joy and sustenance.

How you ask? As a middle manager, you are BLESSED with the opportunity to create greatness within the organization, by serving as a role model to the staff you manage, AND as a mirror for senior management. What a gift to be able to work so closely with those on the front line, in addition to having a step in the door to the heart of the organization.

Will it be easy? Probably not, because you will feel the urge to do what others expect and want you to do, rather than doing the “right thing.” This is a golden opportunity to really crystallize your values as a leader and model them for others. Here are 10 suggestions that may help you;

LISTEN to the complaints from front line staff AND the orders from senior management with compassion, and without judgement

SUPPORT the staff you manage, and the managers you work for. This does not mean you do everything they want you to do, but you support what the organization is trying to accomplish. If you don’t, I would suggest getting out.

OFFER solutions that might help systems, productivity, customer service, and increased sales, in a way that you are not seen as negating other people’s ideas, but contributing to the overall success of the organization

CHALLENGE senior management by honouring where they are coming from, while pointing out opportunities for improvement

SET boundaries. You still need to maintain a personal life, and you can only do so much as one individual.

STAND your ground

EXPRESS your genuine feelings

GIVE positive reinforcement to people as often as you can

CREATE an atmosphere that allows people to make mistakes and learn from them


Middle Management is not easy in many organizations because of the systems that are set up around it; systems that pay more attention to things as opposed to people. Don’t forget you’re working with people. People who need support, and joy, in their work lives. You can give it to them, even in the most stifling of organizational settings.

I encourage you to go for middle management if you have the opportunity, and then set your intention for making it work by doing some of the things I’ve suggested. Be the change you want to see in the world. Be the best middle manager you can be!