Middle managers are the unsung heroes of any organization. They act as links between top management and the front-line. They are also translators - responsible for understanding the strategy envisioned at the top, translating it into meaningful action plans and then despite their mission-critical role, they are often neglected or even ridiculed as barriers or “glorified postmen”. Let us examine the issue of remuneration, for instance.
In tandem with India’s growth story, the ratio of CEO pay to the average worker’s pay has widened significantly in the past few years. Hay Group’s Top Executives’ Compensation Report 2012 stated that CEO compensation in India has gone up by close to 30 per cent in the last year, pegging CEOs of large organizations at Rs. 7 crores per annum. Further, the amount that CEOs’ take-home pay is approximately 2.7 times greater than what their executives one-level down are receiving.
At the other end of the spectrum, fresh graduates from this year’s XLRI cohort have been reported to be promised an average of Rs. 16.48 lakhs. A back-of-the-envelope calculation shows the inequity of the situation: Consider a middle manager with five years of experience and has loyally worked his/her way up the hierarchy. This middle manager would have started in the post-India Shining era, at the meagre base pay offered to a trainee, and had earned a pay raise of 12 to 16 per cent a year. Contrast this against today’s fresh graduate starting with a base pay almost equivalent to that of the above-mentioned middle manager. It doesn’t make sense, does it?
If we expect that our next generation of leaders to come from middle management, then this state of affairs cannot continue. However I am not advocating that we simply elevate their pay levels, though I am sure the middle managers among us won’t say no to more money! Indeed there is a whole host of other ways in which they can be recognized and
Today, we are facing an acute shortage of leadership talent, and this is one of the reasons why CEO salaries gone through the roof. Given that the top level is enormously cost-heavy, it the onus lies on the shoulders of our middle managers, to rise to the challenge of constituting the bench strength as tomorrow’s leaders.
We’ve all sat in townhall meetings where the CEO makes the annual strategy presentation to the middle managers. Ever wondered what is going on in the minds of your colleagues?
According to a Hay Group FTSE350 research:
Your company’s credibility is its history of keeping promises. While the CEO makes the promises to customers, shareholders and employees, it’s really not in his/her power to keep them. In fact, it is the middle managers who fulfil them or break them.
If middle managers are supportive of senior executives, they can foster high levels of confidence in the organization’s leadership and direction. If, on the other hand, middle managers signal to employees through their words or worse, actions that they lack faith in organizational leaders, employees’ trust can be expected to decline rapidly. Performance will also quickly follow the downhill slide.
It is time to look at our middle layers. Indeed, unless treated properly, they can become the enemy within. As Napoleon Bonaparte had once said, ‘There are no bad soldiers, only bad officers’.