Manal Haddad

Squeezed by Competing Leader and Employee Expectations: Why Managers Need Support

The post-pandemic corporate world is facing a considerable challenge. Managers often find themselves caught in a predicament – the high expectations of their leaders and the diverse needs of their team members. Balancing these two requires finesse, adaptability, and a keen understanding of the company’s dynamics.

Competing Expectations: The Managerial Tightrope

Managers are the linchpin between the company’s leadership and front-line employees, who translate high-level strategic goals into actionable plans for their teams.

On one side, they are expected to align their efforts with the vision set by top leadership, ensuring that the company stays on track to meet its objectives. Conversely, they must cater to their team members’ needs, motivations, and aspirations to foster a positive and productive work environment.

Leadership Expectations

Leaders often demand results, efficiency, and seamless execution of strategic initiatives. Managers must be agile decision-makers, strategic thinkers, and effective communicators. The pressure to meet targets, uphold company values, and demonstrate leadership qualities can be overwhelming, especially when faced with changing business goals.

Employee Expectations

Conversely, employees look to their managers for guidance, support, and recognition. Each team member brings unique skills, ambitions, and challenges. Managers must understand and accommodate these differences, providing mentorship, professional development opportunities, and a conducive work environment. Meeting the diverse needs of a team while adhering to the company goals can be akin to walking a tightrope.

According to research by Gartner, mid and low-level managers now directly interact with employees. This is why 60% of the latter see managers as the individuals who set the company culture.

The Manager’s Dilemma

Caught between these two realms, managers may find themselves torn and stressed. The risk of burnout increases when trying to simultaneously meet the expectations of both leadership and team members. The result is a “squeeze” that adversely impacts a manager’s well-being, job satisfaction, and overall effectiveness.

Addressing the Dilemma

Cultivating Leadership Skills

Leadership is at the core of effective management. Fresh support and training programs should focus on cultivating leadership skills, emphasizing the importance of vision, strategic thinking, and decision-making. Mentorship programs can provide invaluable insights, allowing managers to learn from experienced leaders within the organization.

Remote Leadership Development

With remote work becoming the norm, it’s essential to equip managers with the skills to lead virtual teams effectively. The approaches that were once successful in 2019 (pre-pandemic) are not suited for the 2023 workforce.

Training programs should cover virtual communication strategies, team collaboration tools, and methods for maintaining employee engagement in a remote setting. Workshops and simulations can simulate real-world remote work challenges, allowing managers to hone their skills in a supportive environment.

Use of Prioritization Frameworks

Implementing prioritization frameworks, such as the Eisenhower Matrix or the MoSCoW Method, can provide managers with structured approaches to categorize tasks based on urgency and importance. These tools assist in making informed decisions about where to direct time and resources.

Recognizing managers’ challenges and providing support is essential for a company’s success. By fostering a culture of open communication and investing in professional development, companies can empower their managers to navigate the squeeze with resilience and effectiveness.

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