In my long form writing project I’m at a point where i’m on the corporate environment chapter. One of the books main thesis is that Professional Individual Contributors (PIC’s) exist in a world with little change for promotions, because the promotion chain doesn’t exist. Consequently in a survey of the current thoughts on the subject I came across this article. It had a couple of interesting points in it.
The first point, the obvious one is that that middle managers have gone away, that’s the whole point of the article. So if the middle managers have gone away, then how does one ascend to senior management? It reminds me of that old joke from South Park with the underpants Gnomes. “Step One: Steal Underpants, Step Three Profit!”. The ascension element isn’t really touched on in the article, but it’s a pretty big deal for anyone who would like a better life. We don’t live in an era of automatic raises or even longevity at any one firm. You either go up, or you figure out how to have a good life on less and less while being asked to do more and more.
The second element, the one that is a bit less obvious is the ability of a PIC to engage their manager. In the article it says:
an employee’s relationship with his line manager is the most important factor in determining whether he remains motivated and productive
Of course if we keep ‘driving efficiencies’ in our middle management layer, then it’s kind of hard for any individual contributor to have a good relationship with their manager, because their manager is only available for three seconds a month. In this scenario it’s easy to see where the dipstick engagement level can create a false impression of a professional’s contribution to the organization.
If you are a professional and you aspire to management, this article doesn’t give you any hints on how to get there, but it does explain why it seems to be getting tougher and tougher.
Original Post: http://www.economist.com/blogs/schumpeter/2011/08/middle-managers