Did you know, that the highest rate of burnout occurs with middle-managers? In fact just last year, a record 43% of middle managers surveyed said they were burned out.
Here’s what causes middle manager burnout, and how you can avoid it -
Middle-management is a lot of give and take. You’re always giving or receiving direction, feedback and approval. And that’s because you're playing two different roles - you're a boss and a subordinate. So you're bouncing from role-to-role, back-and-forth, all day long. And it creates this psychological tension that can really wear you down!
It’s an uncomfortable situation, because you’re being asked to think like a leader, but act like a follower - or that’s how it can feel! It’s a mental disconnect that’s hard to reconcile.
When you’re asked to fix a problem, but you don't have the authority - there's psychological tension. It seems like a mixed message, and its uncomfortable.
The same thing happens when you have to share (and support) a decision that you don't agree with, and middle managers are always put in these situations.
The stress comes when your thoughts don’t (or can’t) align with your actions. Psychologists refer to this as “cognitive dissonance".
The constant role reversal can be confusing. One minute you’re the boss. Then you’re a subordinate. It’s an identity crisis that many middle managers share.
You want to keep your boss happy and your team to respect you. You get pressure from above and below. And this constant psychological tension creates chronic stress and that's how you burn out.
When you feel frustration, disappointment and confusion, you’re experiencing this cognitive dissonance. So what can you do about it?
To survive and thrive as a middle-manager, you have to develop a different mental architecture. Your values, beliefs, attitudes and goals have to align with the reality of middle-management.
If you believe that you should agree with every decision, you're going to experience a lot of psychological tension. But once you accept that you're going to be asked to do things that you don't like (or don't agree with), there's going to be a lot less tension.
There are certain things you have to accept, and they become your belief system.
Thoughts like -
- “I won’t always have a say in important decisions”.
- “There will be a lot of decisions that I don’t agree with”.
- “I’ll be asked to deliver bad news”. And..
- “I don’t have all the authority I want (and neither does my boss!)
This isn't a defeatist attitude, you’re just accepting reality. And once you embrace it, you can build a healthy value system around it.
You should place a greater importance on problem solving, teamwork, facilitation and communication, because that’s how you bring value to both your boss and your employees. If you place a higher value on having authority and control, you’re focusing on the wrong things!
The right attitude is open, curious and supportive. Good middle managers set their egos aside, and focus on the greater good. Your goal is simple - help your boss succeed, and help your team succeed! That’s how effective middle managers think.
When you feel frustrated, disappointed or confused, you need to take a step back. You’re having a mental disconnect, but you don’t have to live with it. Remind yourself that a good middle-manager is always compromising, advocating, solving and supporting both their boss and their team.
There will be many times when you’re asked to make the best out of imperfect situations. You may not have all the answers - and that’s okay. You may not agree - and that’s okay, too. It takes a certain mindset, but once you've got it - life gets a whole lot easier.