The disappearing manager. Reasons your management team are defecting. 

Managers are leaving and your best team members are unlikely to want to step into their shoes. How are they feeling and what can you do? 

I’ve commented before on the current middle management shift, and an article I read recently in Fortune highlighted in detail the pressures and problem managers are facing. The brutal reality is that lots of people no longer want to be managers – many citing that a 20% pay rise is simply not worth the headache or the additional layers of management on top of them. 

Managers have spent much of the past two years like everyone else, struggling to keep up with their workloads while living through a pandemic — with some additional stressors. The C-suite puts the onus on managers to improve company culture, retention, and employee performance, while employees expect their manager to support, motivate, and value them. The pressure coming from both directions has made managers much more likely to burn out and look for a different role — often time eschewing future management roles altogether.  

Whilst painting an undeniably devastating picture for businesses – who are watching an entire generation of leadership, leave – the article itself is worth a read – if only to give you further insight and heightened empathy for managers. I’ve summarised some of the main themes and considerations below: 

Note: Unless otherwise stated, the figures in this article are pulled from a new report from Humu,who surveyed 200 managers, 200 HR leaders, and analysed data from 90,000 employees for its State of the Manager Report’

There’s a person in there…

Being a manager is incredibly difficult in a fast-paced company, and it’s gotten so much harder post pandemic. Managers are the fulcrum on which the entire organisation pivots. And nobody’s really focused on what that human being needs to be successful; there’s not enough attention given to what a good manager can do.

It’s hard to overstate the impact a proactive, insightful manager can have on a business — and its employees. At a time of unprecedented turnover, feeling connected to, respected by, and engaged with one’s manager is vital. Not to mention, recent research from analytics company Visier shows that highly effective managers drive 48% greater profits for their organisations than average managers.

The trouble with hybrid working

Post pandemic, hybrid working is seen not only as a positive, but also a given for many employees. For managers though, there’s the additional pressure to go the extra mile to keep teams connected and aligned — and to combat biases including doling out opportunities to those they see face-too-face.

The fun has gone

Being the boss is more challenging and less rewarding now than it’s ever been. It requires appealing to the mounting needs and demands of workers as well as satisfying the higher-ups, leaving folks in middle management with minimal time for their own advancement.

Support and training is lacking

In 2020, a survey by Visier found that 71% of employees said they experienced burnout. A year later, that figure jumped to almost 90%. Few managers feel equipped to sufficiently support their employees. In Humu’s survey, almost half (44%) of managers said combating team burnout and balancing workloads was one of their three biggest priorities. And they’re also exhausted: Gallup research showed that burn out among managers jumped 25% last year.

Heading into performance-review season, employee expectations remain sky high. Employees who don’t see growth opportunities at their companies are eight times more eager to leave, even if they’re otherwise happy at work. This may not come as a surprise to managers, about half of whom (47%) said that they struggle with giving adequate feedback, coaching, and providing enough career development opportunities.

Managers can be an organisation’s superpower, but there’s no quick fix for transforming how they feel or reversing burn out that has been a long time coming. 

There are a number of things you could/should be putting in place to limit disengaged and burnt out managers:

  • Offer opportunities to advance in their own careers
  • Provide managers with numerous direct reports for more support
  • Spend time understanding their challenges
  • Provide management training including support on dealing with team burn out

A reminder that workers will aspire to take on management positions only if those roles are exciting, rewarding, and well-supported. It’s down to the leadership team to make sure that’s the role they’ll be stepping into. 



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