Middle management plays a very important role in the success of a company. Managers relay information to employees and carry out goals from upper executives. With information passed down, the risk of misinterpretation is high. As a result, executive orders and goals may not reach their greatest potential. This misunderstanding is what leads us down the path of the frozen middle.
What is the Frozen Middle?
The frozen middle is a period when progress and growth slow down within a company. The slowdown occurs because of an issue in the middle manager’s relaying of information to the rest of the team. People tend to blame middle managers for a company falling into the frozen middle. However, this usually occurs as a result of poor communication from their executives.
Most decisions made by executives reach managers in some form of a report. This leaves things up to the discretion of the manager. Sometimes their interpretation is spot on, and sometimes it’s steered away. Managers must thoroughly understand the purpose of an executive’s orders for effectiveness.
How to Identify the Frozen Middle
Many people who fall in the frozen middle don’t realize it right away. As a manager, you may begin to feel incompetent and unsupported in this situation. Before you can work to thaw the frozen middle, you’ll need to identify and acknowledge that you may be stuck. You can do this by assessing the situation. Ask yourself if your voice is acknowledged by others in the workplace. Reflect on whether your contributions make a meaningful impact on the company’s success.
You may also receive feedback from your colleagues. Take their thoughts into account and evaluate where you can improve. A good indicator of the frozen middle is whether or not you feel support from your colleagues. If you answered no to a few of these questions, there is a good chance you’re stuck in the frozen middle.
Rest assured there are many strategies you can adopt to break the stagnant growth period. Escaping the frozen middle is not always easy, but it’s possible to accomplish. While most change needs to occur in upper management, there are still ways middle managers can promote this change. The following techniques are ways in which you can thaw the frozen middle:
Establish Good Communication Practices
Almost every organization deals with communication gaps. Avoiding communication gaps completely is difficult, but there are still ways to improve. When accepting orders from executives, make sure to have questions ready for them. This can minimize any uncertainties you find with their instructions. Also, make sure to be very clear with them in how you are interpreting their orders. This can help identify discrepancies before the orders go into effect.
Good things don’t come easy! You may feel defeated when in the frozen middle, but don’t let that stop you from moving forward. Progress can only occur when you stay driven and focused. Research shows that only 34 percent of U.S workers today are actively engaged in their work. Not only does staying engaged help in growing the company, but it can also reflect greatly on you. Staying engaged will show your executives that you care about the company and its future.
Keep Your Executives in the Loop
Stay connected with upper management when implementing their goals across the company. Keep them informed on what’s happening and the direction you take their orders in. Full transparency lets upper management identify problem areas before things continue to advance. This way, executives can put out the fire and provide solutions to the issues before it’s too late.
Ask Your Employees for Feedback
Feedback from your employees is just as important as feedback from upper management. Your employees may have concerns about new changes but aren’t sure where to go. Let your team know that you are open to them voicing their concerns. Opening this door can make you more approachable and effective as a leader.
Learn From Your Experience
The feeling of defeat is important when it comes to progressing forward. We as humans learn from our mistakes. As we work our way through difficulties, we also become better-skilled managers. Take the information you learned with you forward. This can help decrease the chance of falling into the frozen middle again.
If you find yourself in the frozen middle, remember it’s normal to feel defeated. Since the frozen middle typically results from miscommunication and misinterpretation of executive orders, it’s important to establish good communication between the two parties. The lessons learned now will only help you become a better leader in the future. Check out Jobhero’s post on defrosting the frozen middle for more information — or check out the visual guide below.
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Author Bio: Corey Doane is a Content Marketing Specialist at Siege Media and has a B.S. in Public Relations. She has a passion for writing and loves creating content that covers business and lifestyle topics. When she isn’t working, you can find her sipping on an iced coffee and spending time with her family.