Does your company suffer from middle child syndrome?

Everyone knows that middle children can feel neglected. While the first born and the baby of the family are doted on, the middle child often vies for attention.

Does a similar dynamic happen at your company? Think about your middle managers. Are you doing everything possible to equip them for success? Sadly, this is a question that often goes unasked.

These people managers are the cornerstone of your operations, and the difficulty of their job can be overlooked. That’s because if you’ve chosen wisely, your managers make it look easy.

Sandwiched between company demands and worker needs, these ‘middle children’ play many different roles. One minute they are determining the best way to allocate work among the team. The next they are creating budgets. At every moment, they are brand ambassadors, representing your company with clients, vendors, and the public. This is even before their role as coach, cheerleader, mentor and at times, employee confidante and psychologist.

The relationship between supervisors and team members is the difference between employee happiness, productivity and retention—or quite the opposite. I’ve seen this as a constant throughout my career as an HR advisor.

Even in the best of times it can be difficult to be a middle manager. Right now, with staff shortages and the pressure to maintain workflow while also recruiting, managers are stretched thin and stressed out. I’m not surprised at the research showing that burnout in people managers increased from 27% in 2020 to 35% in 2021 (Source: Gallup)

Adding to the complexity are newer business imperatives like diversity, equity, and inclusion, and pandemic-driven changes—not to mention ongoing legal issues.

If you have a dedicated HR director or an outsourced HR advisor, are they preparing your people managers to handle delicate situations from both a legal and human perspective?

Here are four they should be prepared for:

Accommodation requests

Exceptions to the rule require deliberate consideration and communication. For example, we’ve coached middle managers about what to say when employees ask to work from home permanently or refuse to visit customers because of their masking requirements?

Middle managers must understand company policies as well as compliance issues. This is especially important if the employee requesting the exception is a member of a protected class. There are federal laws around accommodation requests, and if the situation is mishandled, your business can face legal challenges.

 The recruiting conversation

If you offer a hybrid or fully remote work environment, there are certain questions that cannot be asked during the interview process. One area that might cross the line is about the candidate’s ability to be productive at home. Asking about distractions or what the at-home workspace looks like can be a slippery slope. Unless your supervisors are trained specifically about this, they can unknowingly put the company at risk by asking the wrong thing.

Workplace harassment

 The word harassment is often misused at the worksite. Rude, unreasonable bosses, loud-mouthed coworkers, long and grueling hours may be agitating, but they do not live up to the legal standard of harassment. It’s important that managers understand what a hostile work environment looks like, and the actions they should take if they suspect or witness hostile activity.

Pay equity

Despite all the progress made on closing the gender wage gap, women are still paid just 83 cents on the dollar compared with men. As the issue gains more traction, your supervisors may very well be forced to have salary conversations with female employees that they are unprepared to have.

The right HR support is critical

Can your HR /payroll provider guide your middle managers on today’s complex employee relations issues? Do they offer the type of one-on-one guidance that will help these vital team members feel confident, and good about being a people manager?

At NEMR Total HR we are a true HR partner.  We don’t just provide information for you to figure out on your own.  Our team of industry experts advise, coach and implement… even in the most delicate situations.  For example, employee separations can be tough and downright scary if you aren’t equipped to properly handle the situation.  Our professionals provide coaching to management in those situations and on a variety of delicate situations or, we may even be there to support those managers in person, if you prefer.  We are an advisor, and our emphasis is on interacting with empathy and dignity.

If your middle managers aren’t getting the attention they desperately need and certainly deserve, chat with us or contact us here.