Death by Middle Management

I have for a few years now thought about my work experiences, from my first job to my latest consultant gig. I have been quite intrigues as to what defines company culture; who is the leader “on paper” vs the true leader? What clothes do you wear to fit in or show authority? Who are the individuals creating value vs “face time” kind of people? Who is vying for who’s job/role and/or power? Is the culture a constructive one, or the “power of the fittest” kind?

I have learned a lot, been to many board meetings, client meetings, workshops. I have seen what power and money can do to the best of us, and the power of having the “right” kind of leaders in an organization. I have discovered that there can be micro-cultures in a bigger company culture, but that in the end the faith of the company culture (and maybe the entire company’s future itself?) lies quite a lot on the C-suite level and what kind of leaders and middle managers are appointed.

I have noted that when (both as an employee and consultant) a company culture is toxic, the main issue has almost entirely been due to middle managers; politics in terms of people vying for or clinging to power or inflated salaries, inflated egos or insecurities and zero risk of being faulted for bad behavior.

Figure 1: this is the image Canva generated for me with the prompt “Death by middle management as a concept, not literally”.

The owners of a company who control the appointment of the C-suit layer want to maximize the value of their stocks; a company culture that promotes the survival of the fittest is not optimized to reward efficiency and value creation, so they are (or should be) motivated to recruit the right individuals for the top level. The employees working on “the floor” are usually motivated by money, a positive and warm company culture or the feeling of making a difference. Middle managers on the other hand are harder to pin down, and their actions are not always transparent to the individuals 3 layers or more up. If a middle manager’s main goal is to maximize their salary at the detriment of the company and the colleagues they are set to lead, its not necessary the case this is seen or discovered in time – the repercussion of the damage they have done might not become apparent until 5-10 years after they have left the company.

I have quite a few thoughts on the subject, and its been a while sense I wrote a book. It is due time to write the book I have given the project name: “Death by Middle Management”. Next month’s blog post will be on the opposite subject, leaders who enable.

When will the book become available? We will see, I haven’t set a date – so do stay tuned.