Are you a member of “muddle” management?

Being in the middle is tough. Just ask Jan Brady… she was constantly trying to figure out if she identified more with Marcia or Cindy. I’m not sure she ever figured it out.

Do you ever feel like Jan?  Not sure if you identify more with your front line employees or your bosses?  If you answered yes, you are not alone.

It’s an all-too-common tale… especially as a new leader, our tendency is to want our employees like us and our bosses to respect us.  Because of this, we may impose “filters” in our communication that don’t need to be there.

  • We may tend to sugar-coat messages to the front line that we think they don’t want to hear, muddying the vision of top leadership
  • We may also represent things in the absolute most positive light back up to the top leaders because we don’t want to look bad.

What you are left with is a confused and demotivated front line and an uninformed leadership team. Congratulations! You are now a full-fledged member of muddle management!

The unfortunate part is that when we don’t communicate our true needs to the decision makers (because we don’t want to look bad) we can’t get the resources we really need. Top leaders are then frustrated when they see things not being taken care of.

I have also even seen this play out with experienced leaders in senior positions.  I once sat in a meeting with an Operations Director who told his management staff that while overtime was not ideal, if it was needed, use it, but just give him a heads-up.

Literally right after this meeting was another meeting (Joy!) where one of the Directors “middle” managers had a meeting with his staff.  He told his supervisors that there was to be NO OVERTIME AT ALL for the front line employees!  I was stunned.  Had we just sat in the same meeting 30 minutes before?

I came away from that experience feeling like the middle manager was afraid to tell his boss that he couldn’t operate with no overtime, or he didn’t want to have to explain why he needed it.  Either way, his staff suffers the consequences of his fear – they now have to operate short staffed or be overly concerned about hours – making it difficult to focus on the guests.

It’s easy for me to say the solution is to openly communicate with both groups.  Be honest with your employees about what is going on and be honest with your boss about what you need.  What’s so difficult about that?

I’ve been in that position, and there is plenty difficult with that. If you are a middle manager, how do you deal with balancing the communication to and from your front line employees and your bosses?  I would love to hear your thoughts, as I am sure your insight will help others!

Thanks for reading!


Don’t let your team (or yourself) fall into muddle management.  Communication is the key!  Let me help you unlock the lock!

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