What is Middle Management?

Patrick Roland

Middle management consists of any layer of supervisors at an organization that acts as a buffer between the senior management and non-management workers. These managers encompass a variety of titles and roles but share many common duties. A middle manager is found in nearly every sector of business, including white-collar jobs, factories, government and the service industry. Many times, the middle management's job involves handling the flow of information both from upper management to the workers and from the workers up to the members of the senior management staff.

Middle management consists of any layer of supervisors at an organization that acts as a buffer between the senior management and non-management workers.
Middle management consists of any layer of supervisors at an organization that acts as a buffer between the senior management and non-management workers.

Middle management can hold a very specific niche within an organization, for example, an accounting manager that oversees a group of lower accountants and reports to an owner. It can also be more broad, such as a manager who oversees all departments and reports to a boss. In larger organizations, there also can be several layers of middle management, meaning that one middle manager is in a chain of command that requires him or her to report to a middle manager at a higher level.

Communication is often the largest responsibility of members of the middle management.
Communication is often the largest responsibility of members of the middle management.

The primary responsibility of middle managers is to keep the organization moving forward and making a profit so that members of the senior management can focus on larger decisions about budgets, goals and vision. Maintaining worker productivity is a large responsibility for middle managers and, often, the productivity standards are set by senior management. Maintaining employee satisfaction is another duty of middle management, meaning that middle managers must work with disgruntled workers to solve problems and reward hard work and success to keep members of the workforce happy. A middle manager also must help new employees and managers understand their job responsibilities. A manager must understand all of the jobs below them, what is expected of those jobs and how to appropriately report to upper management.

Communication often is the largest responsibility of members of the middle management. Most often, when new goals, initiatives or rules are created by upper management, they are passed to the middle manager for distribution to the workers. A middle manager must interpret these changes and effectively communicate them to the workers and answer questions that might arise.

A less common, but still important, role of a middle manager is communicating information in to the upper management. When workers are unhappy or have suggestions that cannot be solved by middle management, it is that manager's responsibility to speak with the organization's leaders. The middle manager must know the appropriate way to approach members of the upper management to express this concern.

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Discussion Comments


@jcraig - I think you will find if you look at a lot of successful companies is that they do follow the things you have suggested. On the other hand, companies that do just go by seniority usually end up with less effective production.

I don't know if I would necessarily say, though, that middle management training doesn't work. I was able to take a few classes in management organization while I was in college, and I learned a lot about being a better leader.

I would agree that some people are naturally better than others, but even they might not be able to pick up on everything without formal training. One of the hardest parts of being a manager is communication like the article says. The classes that people take spend a lot of time demonstrating different methods of communication. They also teach a lot of the different personality types and give examples of how those people can be deal with.


I would assume most people that work in middle management have business degrees, but is that really necessary nowadays? I have worked at a lot of jobs with a wide range of individuals, and I don't think that business degrees really necessarily teach you anything that you couldn't pick up on your own with a little experience.

I think that you are either born being a good leader or you aren't. Of course, like everything, it is possible to improve to a certain extent, but I don't think you can turn just anyone into a good manager no matter if they've taken a management course or not.

I think the key for people who are promoting people to management is to not necessarily pick the people who are the longest tenured with a company but to pick people who have demonstrated that they work well under pressure, can make wise decisions, and can effectively interact with other employees.


@jmc88 - That is right. I also have heard the term middle management meant to mean that someone wasn't good enough to be in the upper management. I don't know if it is fair to say that these people are any less qualified, though. Everyone has to start somewhere.

What I do think is true, though, is that a lot of middle management jobs aren't really necessary a lot of the time. Given the economy right now, I know that a lot of companies have chosen to release a lot of the people who were formerly in middle management. While their jobs are important, a lot of companies are finding that managers are able to take on a lot more responsibility and still be successful in their roles.

I know that some companies are even going without any people in middle management. They have the whole company basically run by upper management who send orders to people like crew leaders who are responsible for making sure things get done.


I always hear a lot of talk about people in middle management not really doing a lot for the company. It almost seems like middle management is a bad term to be associated with for some reason. I don't work in business, so I don't know if that is exactly true, or if maybe I have just misunderstood someone.

From reading this article, it seems like most people in middle management would have pretty important jobs. I know in the places I have worked, if it weren't for good communication with the managers, the job could have become very miserable.

I have had jobs with bad managers before, and it slows down the whole process of the job. If the managers aren't good at communicating with other people then people start to get annoyed and stop wanting to work hard.

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