Middle management is a broad term for professionals who operate under the executives in a company, but over associate or junior level management. These professionals are often tasked with carrying out strategies and direction from upper-level management but aren’t involved in the creation of those initiatives from the company. If the direction handed down to them is misunderstood, the middle manager may be less effective at carrying out the goals of the executives leading to something called the frozen middle.
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The frozen middle is the term used to describe the role that middle management plays in company progress when initiatives are handed down and they slow in the middle. Many companies see this as a problem with their middle managers, but it is often due to poor communication and exclusion from the executives in a company. When upper-level management decides to carry out the strategy, they will either comprise a memo or report to hand down to their middle management. In this direction, the goals may be miscommunicated or the strategies may be implausible. If the middle manager doesn’t understand the purpose or execution of the idea, they will not carry out the plan as effectively as the executives planned and no change occurs.This situation can impact company growth and cause tremendous frustration for middle management. So what can a middle manager do if they find themselves in the frozen middle?
Are You in the Frozen Middle?
- Do I feel like my voice is being heard?
- When was the last time I contributed to the long term success of my company?
- Do you feel that you have support when enacting a directive?
- Do you receive feedback that you are under performing?
How to Thaw the Frozen Middle
1. Identify Communication Gaps
2. Align With Your Company
3. Give Goal Specific Feedback
4. Ask For Upward Feedback
5. Carry Change With You
As you work your way up the ladder in your career, use your experience to defrost the frozen middle from the top-down. The skills that you develop from improving as a middle manager will only make you a better executive, ensuring that the frozen middle stays thawed wherever you go.Between the criticism from upper management and the lack of direction from those under you, the frozen middle can be a tough spot to be in. To thaw this icy problem, stay informed about what the frozen middle is, spot communication gaps, and keep your manager and direct reports up to speed.