- Managers are more likely to be burned out and disengaged than their teams
- Budget cuts, added responsibilities and restructured teams add complexity
- To reduce the squeeze, follow four pieces of advice
Being a manager has always been challenging, but being the boss usually comes with its perks. Unfortunately, today it’s mostly just a tough job.
Currently, managers are more likely than non-managers to be:
- disengaged at work
- burned out
- looking for a new job
- feeling like their organization does not care about their wellbeing
While the workplace overall has generally struggled with these issues since 2021, the decline has been particularly pronounced for managers.
Clearly, we’ve entered a new era. Organizations are trying to find their way in a post-pandemic world. From new business strategies to changes in the marketplace to remote work, both what businesses are trying to achieve and how they’re operating are considerably different than before.
Managers form the bridge between leadership and the rest of the organization, which means they are often caught between employees’ and leaders’ expectations. During times of change, that’s a recipe for burnout.
The Squeeze Is Real: What’s Causing It?
Changing Business Needs
When Gallup asked managers what changes their organization made in 2023, 64% said “employees were given additional job responsibilities,” 51% cited the “restructuring of teams” and 42% reported “budget cuts.”
In short, managers now have more work to do on a tighter budget with new teams.
Economic uncertainty has led to layoff fears in some industries. While only 12% of leaders and managers report that their company is reducing their workforce in 2023, specific industries like technology and finance have been disproportionately affected by layoffs at rates higher than the national average.
In short, most managers now have more work to do on a tighter budget with new teams.
To make matters worse, Gallup’s most recent survey of Fortune 500 CHROs found that “middle managers” are at the greatest risk of losing their jobs, within companies undergoing layoffs in 2023. This means the remaining managers will likely be leading larger teams.
Employees’ Unmet Needs
Employees’ needs remain largely unmet in the workplace. Employee engagement has been in a slump since 2021 and only recently started making a slow crawl back. The biggest causes of this trend are fundamental failures in performance development: 1) unclear expectations at work, 2) feeling disconnected from the mission of purpose of the organization, and 3) lack of opportunities for development.
What’s more, organizations are not meeting employees’ wellbeing needs. Amid rampant work-related stress and mental health concerns, employees are demanding a better work-life balance. Yet, they do not believe their employer cares about their wellbeing.
It’s no surprise then that exceptional talent is looking elsewhere in a strong job market and managers continue to battle significant staffing problems. While keeping quality workers is part of a manager’s job, they themselves are feeling this same lack of development and wellbeing support as those they are trying to retain.
Remote and Hybrid Work
Remote work has done a lot of good things for organizations, from reducing costs to expanding talent pools. However, remote work requires more effort in coordination, teamwork and culture. And managers bear much of the responsibility of overcoming these challenges.
Managers are not only responsible for upholding the organization’s remote and hybrid work policies but also for tailoring these guidelines to each team member’s unique needs. Naturally, managers are often caught between enforcing rules that support the team’s success and addressing the unbridled autonomy employees frequently desire. In a worst-case scenario, managers are enforcing an unpopular organizational policy among employees.
These challenges often intensify as the amount of remote work time increases. Gallup’s research shows that most leaders and managers are more confident at managing hybrid workers than fully remote employees.
Loosening the Squeeze
What can leaders do to loosen the manager squeeze? Based on Gallup’s analysis, we recommend focusing on:
1) Better Leadership Communication
To effectively implement leadership decisions, managers need consistent and clear communication. Unfortunately, only three in 10 managers strongly agree their supervisor keeps them informed about what is going on within their organization.
By providing straightforward, regular communication about organizational priorities and policies, managers can reinforce and communicate priorities more effectively to their teams. In addition, involving managers in these decisions fosters a stronger sense of ownership.
By providing straightforward, regular communication about organizational priorities and policies, managers can reinforce and communicate priorities more effectively to their teams.
2) More Training and Development
Only 48% of managers strongly agree that they currently have the skills needed to be exceptional at their job.
Organizations are not teaching managers to have meaningful conversations at the right frequency with their teams. They receive little training on best practices in employee engagement and performance development. And they are often on their own when it comes to identifying their team’s strengths and coaching them with those strengths in mind.
What’s even more concerning is that the future of the office is a hybrid work environment, and only three in 10 hybrid managers have received any formal training on leading hybrid teams. The manager makes all the difference for hybrid employees: Having a great manager is nearly four times more important than an individual’s work location when it comes to their engagement and wellbeing.
3) Coaching Support to Prevent Burnout
Gallup’s recommendation of having a meaningful weekly conversation with each team member applies to coaching managers too. If you want to truly support your managers, spend more time with them. Managers need to feel their leaders care and that they’re receiving continuous development in their careers while balancing their personal wellbeing.
It can be difficult for managers to ask for help. But taking the time to connect with them, checking on their wellbeing and showing genuine concern will foster trust and encourage them to share their experiences. This coaching strategy can help you spot early signs of burnout before they escalate to resignation.
4) A Community of Shared Accountability
While managers’ jobs are to create a productive community within their team, they are also part of their own community of managers. Frequent interactions among peers enhance collaboration, coordination, best practice sharing, leadership advice and emotional support.
The most rewarding parts of being a manager often come from strong partnerships and friendships. But busy schedules and remote work can hinder these kinds of supportive, informal interactions. Leaders must intentionally build a community of managers that nurtures peer relationships and mentorship.
Frequent interactions among peers enhance collaboration, coordination, best practice sharing, leadership advice and emotional support.
Moreover, managers need to feel that their own team supports them. When a team truly takes shared accountability for their success and culture, managers can shift their focus to empowering their team to succeed rather than constantly putting out fires or doing the work themselves.
Managers at Their Best
Managers enjoy many benefits: Their opinions matter more, they’re closely involved in the organization’s strategic decisions and they experience greater autonomy in their role. Managers are usually more self-directed, and leaders expect managers to speak up and take initiative. They are part of a leadership team that provides camaraderie and emotional support.
Being a manager should be deeply rewarding. The best managers build positive relationships with their team members and enjoy watching them develop and grow in their careers. They get to see a team come together and achieve something special. A manager’s work is largely social, and it’s this interpersonal part of the job that many managers like most.
Despite these advantages, changing business demands and hybrid work have complicated how we collaborate, leaving managers feeling more isolated and disconnected than in the past. But these new challenges are not permanent or inevitable. Through the right coaching and support, managers can find their way out of the squeeze.
Support your managers as they navigate the new workplace:
- Teach managers how to develop employees’ strengths, improve engagement and coach performance.
- Stay up to date on trends concerning managers and their teams.
- Learn more about the benefits and challenges of being a manager by reading Gallup’s perspective paper.