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Technology to the Rescue for Middle Managers

March 15th, 2018

stress middle managerIf you hire people, but only after you get permission. If you have to enforce policies you didn't make, and when you go to discipline those who ignore those policies you're told you can't. If you spend more time in meetings with other managers than in meetings with your staff, you are a middle manager and among the unhappiest of workers in the company.

Who says? Studies, research, and surveys over the years -- and especially since the Great Recession -- all agree. In One of the biggest by the leadership development consultancy Zenger Folkman scored mid-managers among the bottom 5% in job satisfaction. A 2015 Columbia University assessment of 22,000 workers found 18% of managers and supervisors had symptoms of depression. That was half again as much as that reported by blue collar workers and owners and executives.

How did things get this way?  Almost by definition, middle managers get it from both ends. The boss tells you there's no more comp time, something your white collar staff cherishes. At the same time, you're ordered to curtail overtime. And, by the way, be sure to meet all deadlines.

What can you do? An article from the Society of Human Resource Management has some suggestions. None of them will prevent those top-down, bottom-up collisions, but if you follow them, you'll free up enough time to think them through.

First is to use the technology you have to free up time. If you're tasked with scheduling, dump the paper and pencil in favor of scheduling applications. As for all new technology (or programs and apps you've had but don't fully use), there's a learning curve. Once you've invested the time, you'll discover the enormous ROI a scheduler provides. Many of them can even "learn" to predict staffing needs and will automatically make recommendations. But all of them empower staff to list their availability so you don't have to guess or spend time asking.

Other apps collect feedback from your reports, giving you insight into the progress they're making on projects, and also giving you guidance on what kind of training or coaching is needed. The article says there's even an app that evaluates strengths and weaknesses within the workforce, suggesting learning and development opportunities to help employees improve their performance.

Many of these technologies let you quickly package up the critical measures so they're available to your boss and to others you choose. The advantage here is they cut short the need for status meetings. Coupled with collaboration / communication tools like Slack, they may even cut down on those "Do you have a (never takes a) minute" meetings.

The SHRM article is only a starting place. But it's a good one to get you thinking about how to use the technology you already have, but haven't bothered to learn because YOU DON'T HAVE TIME. Think of it as an investment and you'll be surprised at just how big the ROI is.

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