Reclaiming manager

Sometime in the last 20 years, the word “manager” has turned into the 4-letter-word of the business world. Everyone is now a “leader,” a “head of,” a “supervisor,” or a “team lead.” Even “boss” has made a comeback. People will do just about anything to not use the word “manager.”

However, we all know (or have felt) the Gallup Study finding – that 50% of people leave a job to get away from their manager. We also know that retaining top talent is paramount to a successful business. So why do we avoid the title of some of the most critical people in our companies? We think it’s high time to respect the title and reclaim “manager.”

Why the bad rap?

Office space meme

If managers are so important, why do we avoid the title? Somewhere between Office Space and The Office, middle managers got a bad reputation. Managers were painted as ineffective and over-compensated middle tiers who often stood in the way of their best employees. They bumbled through performance reviews, took the credit of their top workers and generally added layers where layers were not needed. They were more concerned about maintaining their position than about the success of their teams. To put it bluntly: middle managers became the poster child of mediocrity.

And yes, ineffective, middle managers do exist. But there are far more managers out there who are champions of their teams, strong employee advocates, and the reason why many people are inspired to do their best work. And we’re here to celebrate them. We’re here to reclaim their rightful title.

Why are managers so great?

Great managers are the beating hearts of organizations. They are the go-to for information, coaching, and motivation for employees. Managers provide structure and air cover. They amplify the talent of each employee and their team as a whole. Great management is a lifestyle for these folks. The role is exhausting, rewarding, and often thankless. Great managers could usually make more money in other roles, and they know it. But they keep at this work because of the impact they are able to have on others.

That impact defines their employees’ experience. In fact, a Gallup Study found that 70% of variance in employee engagement comes down to an employee’s manager. The choices a manager makes in terms of how they support their people, affects not only performance but also culture and morale. Great managers know how to leverage strengths to get the best from their people. That same Gallup Study found that employees are far more engaged when they strongly agree that their manager focuses on their strengths (67% engaged) vs those who strongly agree that their manager focuses on their weaknesses (71% actively disengaged). Great managers make other people more successful through their actions.

Why do managers matter more now than ever?

In the wake of the pandemic, social movements, layoffs, hyper growth, modern war, hybrid/remote environments and the great resignation, the role of manager is harder than ever. And for all those same reasons, we’ve observed that the role is also more important than ever. In the face of all this uncertainty, people are looking to their managers for understanding, structure, motivation, clarity and, often, a listening ear. In the last two years with many of us working from home, managers have often become the sole touch point between the company and employees. They have become the face of the company for team members. They are the glue that holds the team together (or doesn’t). Their role has never been more important.

So what does it mean to reclaim manager?

We’re here to sing from the rooftops that managers are amazing. We want to shine a rightful spotlight on the important role managers play. They manage people, workloads and expectations. They manage up, down and around. They manage to show up on the good days and the bad. And we think that’s pretty impressive. So we’re here to reclaim the title, reclaim “manager”, and finally give the title the respect it deserves.

Author

  • Melissa Miller is an experienced manager, executive and, most recently, co-founder of The Mintable. The Mintable focuses on supporting managers through training, tooling and a supportive manager community. Before founding The Mintable, Mel spent a decade in tech start ups and most recently led the health insurance operation teams at Gusto. Mel lives in Denver on a small hobby farm with her daughter and husband.