How to Avoid Middle Manager Burnout

6 Strategies to Realign Mid-Level Operations

In the drive to maximize returns, private equity (PE) and venture capital (VC) firms often overlook the well-being of their middle managers as they quickly integrate an acquisition. Despite being the linchpin of their portfolio companies, executives leave middle managers to toil with expanding workloads and diminishing resources. Under these circumstances, it’s only a matter of time until enough is enough.

Cultivating a thriving portfolio company requires a sincere and dedicated investment in the talent that drives it forward. To keep your companies moving forward, our Growth Pros have identified six strategies to help you recognize signs of burnout and prioritize the well-being of your middle managers. We also discuss how professional HR consulting services can play a pivotal role in preventing burnout.

The Critical Role of Middle Management

Middle managers are the backbone of any company. They are the bridge between your executive vision and the daily operations that make it a reality. More than just task managers, they are the custodians of your company's culture and the carriers of its operational knowledge. They translate high-level strategies into actionable plans and motivate teams into action while always looking for ways to improve.

The "Do More with Less" Trap

Mergers, acquisitions, and the corporate ethos of "doing more with less” often lead to increased workloads for all employees, particularly middle managers. It's no surprise that this continuous juggling act leads to burnout, chronic workplace stress, and exhaustion.

An article from The Harvard Business Review states that over 50% of managers feel burned out and suggests that HR departments need to do a better job of identifying and managing the problem. Middle management burnout is such a global health issue that WebMD has an entire page addressing its dangers. If you lack the HR resources to address this issue head-on, it may be time to call in outside help.

The Signs and Consequences of Burnout

Frazzled, disengaged middle managers can have a ripple effect throughout an entire organization. These are some of the signs to watch for:

  • Decreased productivity and morale: When middle managers are burned out, it’s reflected in a team with low motivation and poor performance.
  • Missed deadlines and strategic misalignment: A disengaged middle management team struggles to implement strategies effectively and on time.
  • High turnover: Losing valuable middle managers is a sure sign of a greater issue. Plus, turnover disrupts company continuity and puts stress on recruitment resources.

The Symptoms of Middle Manager Burnout

To better understand what burnout feels like, the Harvard Business Review compiled a list of the symptoms managers describe during burnout and placed them into six categories. These can be summarized as:

  1. Having an unsustainable workload
  2. A perceived lack of control
  3. Insufficient rewards for effort
  4. A lack of a supportive community
  5. A lack of fairness
  6. Mismatched values and skills

These symptoms result in an inability to manage teams or complete goals, ultimately setting employees and companies back.

6 Ways HR Consulting Can Help

To prevent burnout in your companies, you need to identify its sources and implement changes that will foster greater job satisfaction. The clearest and quickest means of achieving this is through a professional HR consulting service. Experienced, third-party HR consultants can work alongside your upper management team to identify potential burnout hotspots and implement proactive strategies to mitigate these risks. Here are six strategies to combat burnout in your companies:

1. Pinpoint Burnout Triggers

Our HR experts work with your executive team to trace problems back to their source and pinpoint specific areas within the organization that cause stress to middle managers. Then, we work with you to remove triggers and create a path to better productivity. See how we did it for our non-profit client.

2. Align Expectations

We can facilitate open communication and difficult conversations between executives and middle managers so that everyone is working towards the same goals and objectives.

3. Streamline Workloads

An outside perspective is valuable for discovering inefficiencies in job responsibilities. By closely examining manager roles and responsibilities, our HR consultants can recommend the necessary adjustments to make workloads manageable. This might involve redistributing tasks, introducing new efficiencies, or suggesting additional support.

4. Build Skills

Investing in the development of your middle managers not only helps with talent retention but also enhances their capabilities. Our HR consultants can identify the key areas for development and recommend tailored training programs to better equip your managers for their job.

5. Foster a Positive Culture

New research from Gallup finds that recognition and wellbeing, together, can pave the way for improved business outcomes and positive culture.

But there’s a catch: The research finds the business benefits of high wellbeing are greatly enhanced by optimum recognition and greatly damaged by poor recognition--making it even more important to prioritize both.

If the company culture inadvertently promotes unsustainable work practices, especially after a merger or acquisition, Growth Pro HR consultants can highlight these issues to the executive team and partner within the organization to recommend strategies for creating a more supportive environment. This could include initiatives to promote work-life balance, recognize and reward contributions, and encourage regular feedback.

6. Become a Voice of Reason

Perhaps most importantly, the right HR consultant serves as a neutral, objective peacemaker who can bridge gaps between different levels of management. They can facilitate communication, explain new initiatives and oversee a smooth and effective implementation of changes.

Mid-Level Realignment That Fuels Growth

PE and VC firms need to prioritize the well-being of middle managers to retain top talent in a competitive labor market. Don't let middle manager burnout become a silent threat to your portfolio companies' success. Contact Growth Operators today to discuss how Growth Operators HR consulting services and next LEVEL® assessment and CHRO focus areas can help identify gaps, then provide detailed recommendations on where to implement sustainable practices to create a thriving environment for all your talent.