One Quarter of All Middle Managers Are Job Hunting

Last Updated Jun 5, 2008 7:33 PM EDT

  • The Find: Nearly a quarter of middle managers are actively searching for a new job, but understanding what's driving them away can help organization nurture middle management and boost retention.
  • The Source: An article in Knowledge@Wharton and a 2007 survey of middle managers from Accenture.
The Takeaway: Accenture asked 1,400 middle managers in North America, Europe and Asia how happy they were at their current organization. Response: one big groan (or the statistical equivalent thereof). Only 40 percent are very satisfied and one in five describe themselves as dissatisfied. In a somewhat ironic twist, 30 percent described their organization as "mismanaged."

So what's behind the malaise in middle management? A primary reason is lack of advancement opportunity, says David Sirota, co-author of "The Enthusiastic Employee: How Companies Profit By Giving Employees What They Want" in Knowledge@Wharton.

"When companies downsize, they will often cut middle management ranks. But even if companies just stagnate, advancement opportunities are limited. This hits people very hard, particularly people in their late 30s and 40s."
Sirota's assertion is backed up by numbers from the Accenture survey. Of those actively looking for other work, 25 percent said their primary motivation is lack of advancement in their current jobs. Of course, money matters too. 44% said insufficient compensation was their primary frustration.
So what's to be done? Vice dean of Wharton Executive Education Thomas Colligan suggests executive education programs or coaching. According to Colligan:
"Employees may get group coaching, or they might do a 360-degree review and self assessments with Myers-Briggs types of tests to learn their leadership styles. Most middle managers who go on to top management positions certainly go through that, with more individual coaching coming in later as they move up."
Ideas abound but they all amount to the same thing: strategy may be the pressing, but don't neglect your middle managers. And more money might help too.

The Question: Is their dissatisfaction in the ranks of middle managers at your organization?

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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.