5 Reasons Why Middle Children Make Great Employees

Last Updated Jul 18, 2011 7:04 AM EDT

If you've ever uttered the words "troubled middle child," you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of The Secret Power of Middle Children: How Middleborns Can Harness Their Unexpected and Remarkable Abilities by Catherine Salmon, PhD., and Katrin Schumann. The book is a fascinating look at how the characteristics and behaviors of "middleborns" can actually lead to extraordinary success. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Michael Dell were middle kids; so were Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Madonna, David Letterman, and the Dalai Lama "There's this image we have of middle child syndrome," says Salmon. "But the majority are extremely successful and have gone about their success very quietly." Middleborns also make stellar employees, she says. Here's why:
  • Flexibility. "Especially today, it's very important to be flexible," says Salmon. "When middleborns are growing up, they don't get their way because they're the biggest, and they don't get their way because they're the baby who was indulged." And so middleborns learn to roll with the punches, and to get what they need by negotiating. "They also tend to be very open to experience, and willing to try new things," says Salmon. "They tend to be moderate risk takers."
  • Empathy. "Middleborns generally have very good social and negotiating abilities," says Salmon. "This comes from not being in a position of physical power, like the oldest, or having manipulative powers, like the youngest. They tend not to be overbearing, and they're very cooperative in terms of management style and good at working in teams and groups. We find that when they become effective leaders, they do so because of this personal style."
  • Ability to self-manage. "Many people complain that when people are hired as new workers, they aren't self-starters," Salmon notes. "Because middleborns had less parental control and more freedom, they're used to working independently and tend to do so effectively in the workplace. They are not overly fastidious and organized like first can be, no do they fly by the seat of their pants, as lasts often do. Much of being successful in the workplace relies on avoiding extremes."
  • Perseverance. "One thing that middleborns learn when they're young is that it pays off to be patient," says Salmon. "Typically what happens in most families is that the needs of the firstborn are primary. And just when the middle child thinks he or she might get more parental attention, another baby comes along." They learn to "ride out the lean times, waiting for their opportunity to shine, and are able to find joy and meaning of the journey toward success, not simply because of the success itself," says Salmon.
  • Self-motivation. "Parents place different demands and expectations on their children depending on their positions the family," says Salmon. They may put more pressure on firstborns to achieve, leaving later born children more freedom to choose their own paths. "Sometimes it takes middle children a long time to decide what they want to do," she says. "When they do decide it's well thought out, and not as influenced by parents. A Career Builder study showed that middle children often made less money but were more personally satisfied. That trait tends to produce a good worker."
Have you noticed a connection between birth order and how your employees perform? Tell us about it.

You might also enjoy these posts:

Five Management Tips From the Real Horse Whisperer
The Only Interview Tip You'll Ever Need: Don't Pee in Your Soup
Are Your Competitors Targeting You? Three Ways to Get Out of the Bulls-Eye