Middle managers, middle management, and leadership : the accuracy of "Dilbert"

By William Seidman One of my colleagues used to insist that he didn’t know anyone who got up in the morning saying “My goal for today is to be completely mediocre.” Clearly he hadn’t been talking to some of the middle managers we’ve all known. What is it about middle management? Why is it so often seen as drags on productivity, creativity, and positive change? Cartoonist Scott Adams has made his career lampooning middle management with Dilbert. In my discussions with middle managers, I’ve learned some things. One manager told me that his goal was just to survive each day. Another asked me not to talk about our program to anyone – he didn’t want expectations raised! Middle managers have a difficult job; they are expected to both represent the organization to the workers and to lead the workers at the same time. I am currently working in a program in which the workers – under middle management – want to move forward and add value to the corporation. But the middle managers are so concerned about daily survival that they constantly and consistently subvert the workers and the program. (Again, think “Dilbert.”) Ironically, this retrogressive behavior puts more short-term survival pressure on the middle managers. It’s bad for the company and bad for the managers themselves. There is very little true leadership in middle management in almost any organization. Is the very idea of middle management structurally flawed, philosophically flawed, or … ?]]>

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