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Simple Ways Millennials Can Break The Middle Management Glass Ceiling (And Get that Raise)

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middle management

 

“We appreciate the work you’ve been doing so far, but the fact is, you aren’t qualified”.

“Your eagerness is exemplary, but we think you may have trouble acclimating yourself to managing people who are your senior.”

“We’re looking for people that have a gravitas for management. This is a core position.”

Familiar with these HR Zingers at a promotion meeting? Well, you’re not alone. As deflating as they sound, they’re usually telltale signs of a middle management glass ceiling. As millennials, we tend to take an active approach to career progression. Yet It’s hardly surprising that their feedback has more to do with you being a millennial, than perceived merit.

millennial, than perceived merit.

We’re the generation everyone loves to hate. Whether be it our tech-savvy nature, our commitment to the environment, or our decaf soy lattes, we are constantly lambasted by baby boomers for destroying the fabric of society.

Naturally, this stereotype can often factor into employability decisions. The sacredness of HR objectivity is now being brazenly substituted for anti snowflake policies. Some companies are going as far as developing test questions that assess the “snow-flake” tendencies and “millennial sense of toxic entitlement”, in the hopes of sending a strong corporate-wide message: conform or exit. With rampant hostility, millennials find themselves systematically disenfranchised when scaling the corporate ladder. Here’s how some bright and upcoming millennials navigate that great divide and carve a middle management career whilst maintaining their individuality.

1. Understand Your Opponent

Upper management is under a lot of pressure to effectively translate overarching corporate strategy. (Translation: They have lots of plans and they need someone to execute without messing up) They need middle managers to create and implement actionable and allocate resources to accomplish the goals they set.

1.1 What makes them tick?

understand your opponent

Upper management is stratified too, and they are charged with turning the CEO’s visions into a coherent corporate direction. Worst case scenario: your CEO is a radical visionary who puts forward whimsical ideas with unrealistic timelines. They need to take that, turn into a corporate direction, implement said direction and assess the results of successes and failures so the CEO can make a judgment call on further usage.

That’s where middle management comes in and takes the reigns. Upper management needs reliable middle managers that take the direction handed to them, and create strategies and actionable. What they really want is data: What did we do? What did we avoid? What worked and what didn’t?

Seeing their side of the equation, you can understand the dread of hiring some who is a non-conformist. Risk management is their biggest concern.

2. Middle Management Competencies

Here’s is the complete skill set required to get the job done:

2.1 Information Gathering

gather info

You need to practice open lines of communication with front line managers and senior management while relaying information that helps prioritize projects. You need emotional intelligence to navigate between the two frontiers and learn to manage expectations.

2.2 Planning and Adaptability

You need planning skills that facilitate new or alternative strategies. This means learning to seamlessly incorporate new direction into operations without delays or compromising productivity. Additionally, you need to defend current strategy from senior reticence.

2.3 The Leader VS the Manager

You will often find yourself having to switch between the two. This balancing act will have you go from performance monitor to people motivator at the drop of a hat. Creating buy-in for new policies amongst frontliners is no walk in the park, so practice public speaking, team building and motivation tactics to support your frontliners.

2.4 Non-Toxic Performance Management

performance management

This is the trickiest part of it all. As a middle manager, you need to keep your eye on the ball and monitor output quality. Upon locating an underperformer, passing the buck to HR is ill-advised. Having a frank conversation with them, getting to the root cause and finding workable solutions, puts you ahead of the pack. Diffusing tension comes with the territory.

3. Hack the System

You can place yourself above the rest with a few simple tactics for playing the field.

“Notice me Senpai”

This is an Asian anime pop culture retort, where you engage in the wild and reckless to compete for the attention and affections of a crush. Yup, I know it sounds silly but the same parallels can be drawn.

Start with taking credit for the work you put in. Ownership over your output is a great sign of professional competence. Play to your strengths and be the “big ideas” kinda team player. When showcasing your creativity, consider looking both inside and outside the box. Not every problem needs you to reinvent the wheel, so save your creative juices for problems that need lateral thinking.

3.1 Mentorship

mentorship guide

This is by far, the fastest way to get ahead. Recognizing your personal need for improvement, and approaching a senior for mentorship does two things: Firstly, it gives you a much-needed guide, mirror, and all that gives you real-time feedback on your learning deficits. Secondly, it sends a senior management wide signal that you are serious about your career and are willing to submit to critique.

3.2 Sustainability Oriented Problem Solving

It’s not enough to be the “big ideas” kinda person. Learning to be a “fixer” and a “builder” is an integral part of your training. A fixer is a reactive solution provider that solves problems that arise from unforeseen circumstances or a lack of foresight. A “builder” is a proactive solution provider that navigates the foreseeable future for logistical “landmines”. Developing sustainable best practices places you instantly on senior management radar.

3.3 Data Analysis is Your Lightsaber

data analysis

Having a gut feeling that points you in the right direction is a great ability. Yet intuition is no substitute for evidence. Learning to use data analysis and have it cement your intuition is the one-two punch combo that lands you a seat at the table. Decisions are typically based on fiscal assessments, and senior management loves data interpretations that paint a bright and pretty picture for the “powers that be”. As a millennial, using this revolutionary tool is a simple feat that adds value to your outlook and opinions.  

Conclusion

With these simple steps, you place yourself ahead of the pack. But be warned: in times of economic slump, middle management becomes a soft target, and is targeted for retrenchment. So get into the grind and show them you are a force to be reckoned with.

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Malcam Prateel Prasad
Malcam is your atypical and hilariously cynical millennial. He questions everything, including the eccentric wardrobe choices of hipsters. He believes in a world of peace and love... Oh sorry... This isn't Ms America. He believes in capturing the millennial voices that shape our world, telling stories that empower them to fight the good fight. He believes in having a valuable opinion, and not merely contributing to the white noise of media.
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