Let us share some highlights of the commentary below by NUS Business School’s Yan Liuxin and Sam Yam Kai Chi.
Our key take-away is that the transformation of work and the global Pandemic has highlighted the major challenges faced by middle managers resulting in an increasing feeling of burnt out. Companies and their leaders should be aware and look into a strategic response to this acute problem as part of their employee health and engagement strategies.
Middle managers in Singapore and the Philippines are facing an uphill battle to effectively engage, motivate, and communicate with thier team and staff. The tools and skills they are using does not seem adequate. Managers feel overwheled as they are expected to know what is needed and how to execute all the time even with the rapid transformation of their workforce and the challenges of the Pandemic.
Middle managers have borne the brunt of work during the pandemic.
They attended more virtual meetings to hear top management’s decisions and then to communicate these to subordinates. They ensured ground operations continued smoothly in compliance with changing regulations.
They motivated their employees, at a time when they themselves may feel overwhelmed.
While there have not been studies focused on the mental health of middle managers in Singapore, a survey by Slack with over 9,000 knowledge workers globally last October showed that middle managers felt the most amount of stress with remote working, compared to senior management and individual contributors.
This group also had the lowest scores inproductivity and overall satisfaction.
ORGANISATIONS MUST PAY ATTENTION TO HOW MIDDLE MANAGERS ARE DOING
Do their organisations appreciate their hardships? We would urge more to take a harder look at how their middle managers are faring.
Much is at stake when such supervisors are the ones who keep the massive business operations going and keep people together.
Doing so requires that they not only continue to engage and proactively guide direct reports, but also act as true partners to company leadership – all in a time of great uncertainty and potentially conflicting demands from various stakeholders.
BURNOUT CAN TRICKLE DOWN
The pandemic has transformed the modern workplace from the traditional physical office to a virtual setting, with work-from-home (WFH) presenting tremendous challenges to middle managers, who struggled in adjusting their supervising style to this new reality.
How well middle managers do can trickle down. A study in the United States published in the Journal of Applied Psychology in August suggests that when subordinates perceive their leaders to be trustworthy and effective in handling the pandemic, their own emotions and well-being tend to be better too.
HOW WORKERS CAN DEAL WITH A DEMORALISED SUPERVISOR
What if this sounds like your boss? Fret not.
Employees can fight back the gloom simply by being more proactive in seeking feedback from their manager.
Such exchanges allow both employees and managers to better understand each other’s goals, capabilities and motivations.
This two-way street of working has shown to build trust, respect, and mutual respect effectively.
Employees who proactively seek feedback reassure managers that they are attentive and motivated, tackling a common primary concern that a lack of active monitoring would lead workers to slack off.
Use effective but simple engagement tools to align expectations and have visibility on outcomes of goals. Knowing the progress and results of employees helps both managers and employees stay on top of things while minimizing the issues with not seeing each other often or lack of trust.
Furthermore, seeking feedback can be clarifying and empowering for workers too by helping them crystalise expectations and take timely corrective actions. The pandemic has introduced frequent changes at work, fueling mental burnout and lower jobsatisfaction and this is one simple way to wrestle back control.