Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

When You Fix Problems With Mid-Level Managers You Fix Everything

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

There’s a bad relationship trickle-down effect happening between leaders in companies. A study by Vanderbilt University published in January 2015 found that when mid-level managers don’t have a good working relationship with their boss, the effects are felt down the line from senior leaders to front line employees. The effect of this bad relationship has significant impact to moral, which leads to high turnover.

JGI/Jamie Grill | Getty Images

When senior leaders have a poor relationship with mid-level managers, mid-level managers have poor relationships with the employees they lead. It’s a chain reaction of bad leadership. Although it seems pretty bleak, the trickle down effect can be fixed. It all starts with better relationships between senior and mid-level managers and better leadership development. Here’s how:

Create lines of communication.

Communication is the key to any relationship, but mid-level managers feel like they’re out of touch with senior leadership. In fact, just 25 percent of mid-level managers in Global 1000 companies, surveyed by Insigniam in 2014, said they have 13 or more interactions with executives in a year. What’s more, 70 percent said they are frustrated because their immediate supervisor doesn’t listen to them.

Related: The No. 1 Communication Problem for Managers

But when executive leaders take the time to communicate with mid-level managers regularly, performance and satisfaction improve, a 2016 survey of millennials conducted by Gallup suggests. Among those who said their manager holds regular meetings with them, 44 percent said they are engaged, compared with just 20 percent of those who don’t meet with managers regularly.

The solution is simple -- facilitate consistent communication between mid-level and senior managers to keep middle leadership in the loop, consider their ideas, and listen to any problems or concerns they have.

Develop your middle managers.

With a high volume of work, little communication and even less opportunities for development, mid-level managers can feel like they’re out on their own. They’re left to feel out situations and model what they see.

It won’t take long before managers feel hopeless. Without the right development, reaching the next level of their career feels out of reach. According to the Insigniam survey, only 15 percent of managers believe they will be promoted to the next level of management at their company. And when mid-level managers don’t feel like their career growth is supported, that can make things tense around the office. They may start to resent senior leadership and feel like they don’t have the resources to be truly successful in their position.

Related: 4 Ways to Make Middle Managers Better Leaders

Give every leader the tools needed for career advancement by extending leadership development programs. Offer development opportunities to all managers, not just those at the top. That way, mid-level managers will be better leaders, feel more engaged and optimistic about their future with the company and have better relationships with executives.

Identify the right mentors. 

Including mid-level managers in leadership development is the first step to building better leaders and relationships at all levels. Take it a step further and incorporate mentors and coaches into mid-level manager development. After all, 61 percent of millennials surveyed by Deloitte this year said that having somebody to turn to for advice -- and who helps develop their leadership skills -- is beneficial. What’s more, those who plan to stay with their employer for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor.

Use a leadership development model that includes coaching. Senior leadership can even get involved and serve as mentors for mid-level managers. That way, everyone gets more engaged in training, and mid-level managers feel closer to the executive team.

Give more control.

Mid-level managers want to do their jobs -- they want to lead employees. But senior leadership doesn’t always let them. In the Insigniam survey, 50 percent of mid-level managers said their primary frustration with their job is that decision-making is taken out of their hands. When senior leaders micromanage, mid-level managers feel like they have no power.

Related: Entrepreneurs Can Save Their Startups When They Stop Micromanaging

Senior leaders need to trust mid-level managers with decisions and more responsibility. They may feel uneasy about handing over some control to mid-level managers, but with more leadership development opportunities, executives will have more confidence in their abilities. Loosen the reigns, and let mid-level managers show what they’re made of.

How do you foster great relationships between managers of all levels? Share in the comments below!

Entrepreneur Editors' Picks