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I am middle management. The environment at work is very tense. For example:

  • People that were previously very friendly are increasingly becoming distant
  • People are complaining and frustrated about decisions not made by me but snr management, yet taking it out on me
  • Social events are awkward and uncomfortable to the point I no longer want to attend them
  • Gone from a position of being highly valued to constantly feeling like I need to prove my worth to management and people in general. It seems like no matter how hard I work, it is not the same value as other individuals doing equivalent work who get recognized.

I am increasingly starting to feel more and more alienated, now looking for a new job, but don't really want to leave.

Is there anyway I can mend this situation? I have had 1-1s, but they are not helping

  • 1
    Were you promoted to management? – Roland Feb 12 at 11:19
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    How was the situation before and what happened in order to get to the current situation? (Promotion, somebody being fired, increased workload, changed work procedures, ...) – Dominique Feb 12 at 11:21
  • Started off really well delivering projects with minimal politics and little Senior management interference. Negative team politics (griping and grumbling over every little thing) + Senior management interference damaged my reputation on a dysfunctional project I was put on and went the way of middle management who were put onto this project before me. Basically they all got thrown under the bus by the team. – bobo2000 Feb 12 at 11:32
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    This all sounds completely normal for management. (For better or worse.) The four challenges you describe are exactly what managers are hired to fix. – Fattie Feb 12 at 14:42
  • Disagree with closure as too broad. Sounds like a reasonable problem that is widely applicable and sufficiently specific – Magisch Feb 13 at 7:21
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Addressing the issues one by one:

People that were previously very friendly are increasingly becoming distant

If you were promoted and there are underlying issues with management, this happens. While you were "in the trenches" before, your colleagues might now see you as the very enemy you were fighting.

People are complaining and frustrated about decisions not made by me but senior management, yet taking it out on me

Well, this is your job as manager. Take the grievances passed to you by your direct reports and collate them for your own management. Failure to do this results in resentment from your staff.

Social events are awkward and uncomfortable to the point I no longer want to attend them

See first and second points. If your staff feel like you are not on their side, they will grow to resent you.

You don't have to be best friends, but you do need to represent their interests to your superiors.

Gone from a position of being highly valued to constantly feeling like I need to prove my worth to management and people in general. It seems like no matter how hard I work, it is not the same value as other individuals doing equivalent work who get recognised.

It's not always about performance, but about perception. You've said that your staff are becoming less amicable, and this kind of thing gets around. Your superiors might see fantastic results, but are probably hearing gripes and grumbles, which undermines all that you are achieving.

So, how to progress?

Get on a management course, either through your company or through a third party. This will help to highlight the areas of your management style that need improvement, and reinforce the parts that are already good.

Make sure you have regular meetings with your whole team where you can pass down management instructions and they can feed back openly. It doesn't have to be a long meeting, just 15 mins a week should be enough.

Stop trying to shoulder all the burden. Complaints from your staff might be completely valid, or entirely baseless. Sort the wheat from the chaff and pass along important issues to your superiors as soon as you become aware. Let your staff know when you do this, and chase your own bosses for answers if they fail to reply in a reasonable time frame.

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    To put it in context, yes, perception is everything, the project I am working on has very difficult negative personalities who as you put it gripe and grumble about every little thing constantly to the point they take things out of context when complaining about me. I have escalated to my line manager, but I feel really alienated. – bobo2000 Feb 12 at 11:35
  • @bobo2000 the takeaway should be that this is (now) your job and responsibility to solve problems of bad internal team politics. Instead of escalating to your line manager about "very difficult negative personalities", managing the situation to work with these people and getting good results despite these issues is a key competency required for your role. It's not easy, quite contrary, it's a very complicated set of skills (and very emotionally taxing on many types of personality) but it's a skill that you apparently need to work on to be good at this job - and not only in this company/team. – Peteris Feb 12 at 21:07
  • @bobo2000 so the issue isn't likely to be fixed (at least not for the long term carreer) by finding a new job, unless it's a very different carreer path, like individual contributor instead of middle management; rather the solution requires learning to solve such problems and/or prevent them from happening in the first place. It's also likely to require significant long-term effort. You might consider serious studies - various aspects of management are taught both in universities and online courses; instead of 1-on-1's with your manager, some coaching/management training might be useful; etc. – Peteris Feb 12 at 21:12
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A lot of these sound like the job description for middle management - particularly the idea that employees are holding you responsible for decisions taken at senior management or board level. To them, you are responsible - you're the face of the company to employees. While I understand it's unpleasant, it could be an indication you're doing things right - they're thinking of you as the person who's making stuff happen.

It may be about the specific decisions you're being expected to enforce. If you're in a period at work where the "light at the end of the tunnel" isn't obvious, there will be discontentment. It's not avoidable.

If you can identify a reason people are dissatisfied, it should become clearer when things will get better. If you are able (you'll certainly know things employees aren't expected to know), share what you consider appropriate with the people who report to you. If you're not able, honesty (even brutal honesty) will be respected.

It's nice to work in a friendly environment, but I'll throw in something that's said often enough to be a cliche : Managers are not paid to be anyone''s friend.

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    'Managers are not paid to be anyone''s friend.' Hard lesson - approach has usually been to be friends with people I am working with since I am a nice guy, but clearly, it is not working and being backstabbed. – bobo2000 Feb 12 at 11:43
  • Yeah let go of the nonsense about friendship etc. It is a workplace. Create a professional, achieving workplace. – Fattie Feb 12 at 14:43

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