On one of my visits to a client company, I found the members of a team quite rattled. The normally cheerful faces looked downcast and there was visible tension on the floor. I learnt that their manager had called the team together and scolded them – for many things which, they felt,were not their fault.

When I later met the manager concerned, he too seemed to be in a bad mood. It transpired that he himself had got a dressing down from his boss some time ago. Yes, you have guessed what happened next. He passed on the entire pressure on to his team.

Later that day, I discussed with him the challenges faced by middle managers, like him. By design, as the central band of the organizational pyramid, the middle managers’ role demands a fair amount of balancing skills! They have to keep in mind the interests of both the people they work for as also those they lead.

Often there are conflicting demands. Management wants higher productivity and less time off. Employees want greater flexibility and less monitoring of work hours. Simply stated, it’s top management’s job to determine what is to be achieved. They should leave it to the middle manager to decide how it the tasks should be achieved. Sometimes, middle managers face the brunt of criticism from their supervisors. The most tempting thing to do, and perhaps the most instinctive reaction is to pass the pressure on to their team members-as our manager friend just did, often with interest!

Team members really appreciate managers who can hold the pressures to themselves. They don’t mind being given additional work to make good shortfalls but they do mind being blamed for issues which are really in the hands of the manager himself.

However tempting it is to pass the blame on to somebody else, effective managers learn to keep the pressure to themselves.







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This is the 91 st of the “A Step A Day” series : To provide perspective and provoke thought to facilitate self-development across a wide spectrum of issues- big and small- crucial for executive success.