Middle managers' responsibilities

February 22, 2020

From Henri Fayol’s Principles of Management theory, we can learn the six functions of management (Emerald Works Limited, 2018)

  • Forecasting
  • Planning
  • Organising
  • Commanding
  • Coordinating
  • Controlling

In Umbrella middle managers have these responsibilities within the sub-areas they are responsible for. One level above them, senior managers, carry out the same activities but with a bigger scope that is per area (e.g. Technology, Commercial, Operational, etc). The leadership style and more in general the managerial style used by middle managers is highly influenced by company’s values that strongly impacts how individuals inside the company come together to build a complex network of passionate and talented individuals that together work towards the goal set by the executive team. Having shared values across the whole organisation, among all levels and positions, positively helps managers to be consistent across different departments and teams. If a manager interprets values differently than others it generates an anomaly that could create confusion and misunderstanding. When this happens, the group reporting to this manager is disoriented, less productive and might create conflicts with other teams. An experienced senior manager should recognise this kind of situation, step in and help middle managers to share and apply a cohesive approach that keeps away scepticism and misinterpretation. This is something that can be avoided with a consistent and long-lasting training program for managers.

For middle managers, it is key not only to deeply understand the company’s business strategy but also to have a clear way to communicate and share it with their peers. In other words, they are responsible to translate key objectives into a detailed plan for reporting working groups. As said by Fayol’s 14 in his principles of management (Emerald Works Limited, 2018) for these managers is key to demonstrate unity of command and unity of direction. Misunderstanding and misinterpretation cause delays and costs increase because the work done is not what the business needs. Their position in between senior managers and operational roles requires them to be facilitators and negotiators for the teams they are accountable for. Setting a team’s goal and objective is important because it allows teams to organise their activities. In a reality like Umbrella, where most of the jobs require creativity and innovation, a middle manager has to avoid, as much as possible, to push and tell peers what to do. Over-monitoring and over-management suffocate creativity and growth. If this happens productivity suffers as well. Team members are unhappy at first, but they may end up leaving the organisation, reducing productivity and increasing cost to hire and train new employees. Managers have to delegate and capitalise on their employees’ unique strengths. The aim is to create self-organised teams where individuals can express their best talent and overcome weaknesses.

Self-organised working groups are a world in miniature where a good balance is necessary. Middle managers are responsible for the selection of the right people when a new team has to be set up or an existing one requires new additions. Gaming industry is a competitive market, and it is very unlikely that middle managers, on their own only, can succeed in attracting the right talents and keeping them in the company as much as they can. When human resources (HR) department and middle managers do not work together recruiters do not contact the best candidates, the selection process is a long and partially successful process. The result is that the best talents on the market do not join the organisation, most likely the competition. HR here plays a key role by implementing a long-term company’s HR planning, that through a consistent recruitment process, fulfils the company’s expansion programs needed and addresses the growing manpower need.

At the same time, managers have to recognise that stress is essential for every human being outside and inside the work environment. Umbrella strategic goals are very ambitious, and this is the source of a lot of stress inside company. Stress is not always bad. It has to be considered also a boost that takes an employee to the highest ladder in the organisation. Managers are responsible to recognise psychological, physiological and behavioural symptoms of stress. When the stress level is too high, countermeasures have to be put in place to reduce it to a sustainable level. When stress level inside a working group is too high members are likely to make mistakes while performing assigned tasks. If the situation persists, it could lead to employees’ burn out, sparkle dissatisfaction, increase sick leave and end up in resignations. Beside stress there are conflicts. Conflict can be defined as a perceived divergence of interest, a believe that parties’ current aspirations are incompatible (Rahim, 2010). While Umbrella’s values help to create a friendly office atmosphere that helps to share difference of opinions sometimes clashes are inevitable. Manager has to master the conflict management process: avoid conflict where possible and react to resolve conflict where it does happen, as rapidly and smoothly as possible. When conflict is not properly managed interpersonal issues reach a warning level, reduce clients’ satisfaction and harm business outcomes. Recurring one on one meetings, team retrospective, quick daily stand-up meetings are the main tools middle managers have in Umbrella to monitor stress and recognise conflicts. Team building events, milestone celebrative events work best to appraise personal and group achievements, release tensions, consolidate squads and take a break before starting the next challenge.

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Written by Claudio Maccari . Passionate developer and former windsurfer. You can read more about me here