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重塑中层管理岗位,摆脱夹缝生存窘境

Gary M. Stern 2011年09月23日

中层管理者处境尴尬,这一点可谓名符其实。不过,越来越多的公司希望通过给与中层管理者更多时间,来指导下属,从而更好地发挥他们的价值。

    我们可以想象一下中层管理者所处的窘境:既要取悦老板,保证上令下达,完成财务指标;还要为员工做绩效评估,而员工业绩评价往往是最棘手的工作;最后还要想方设法迎合千变万化的工作目标。现在就来讨论一下中层管理者如何在夹缝中生存。

    虽然中层管理者的工作量激增,但职位数量却正在缩减。上个世纪90年代中期,许多公司决定削减中层管理者人数。《重新定义管理者》(Manager Redefined )一书的作者、韬睿惠悦咨询公司(Towers Watson)的顾问汤姆•达文波特和史蒂文•哈丁说,在1994年,经理级员工只占员工总数的8%,但被裁掉的管理职位却占裁员总数的18%。

    在许多公司,职责过重和时间匮乏导致很多中层管理者面临着“不可能完成的工作任务”。与此同时,许多企业经常将最佳员工提拔至管理岗位,却无法保证这些“管理者”具有胜任该职位所必备的技能。

    根据2010年韬睿惠悦咨询公司针对2万名全球大型公司员工进行的研究报告,48%的受访者称,他们的顶头上司在履行职责中面临时间短缺问题,或者不具备应有的管理技能,改进落后员工的工作表现。

    针对这一情况,达文波特和哈丁为中层管理者提出了几项改良措施。达文波特说,最有效的管理方式是“后台管理”。后台管理着重“治理总体环境,而非具体的人员”。传统的中层管理者在员工之间苦苦周旋,难免落入“微观管理”的桎梏,且大多依靠独裁和权威式的管理方法。

    后台管理者更像是一位戏剧导演。“导演创造一个良好的环境,而自身却退居幕后,让每个人在其中自由地发挥,”达文波特说。

    哈佛商学院(Harvard Business School)教授、《进步定律》(The Progress Principle)的合著者特丽莎•阿玛贝尔说,中层管理者好比“夹心饼干”,他们处于高层管理与普通员工利益博弈的夹缝。

    阿玛贝尔还说,最有效的中层管理者能够制定清晰的目标,阐明每位员工的工作价值,为共同的目标服务;同时赋予员工自主权,提供必要的协助,帮助他们完成工作。

    过去,中层管理的主要作用是将高层管理人员的决策下达至下级员工,而过去二十年间发生的通信革命已极大地改变了中层管理者的这部分职能。

    与传统的独裁式管理者相比,“后台管理者们”或许有更多的机会和员工进行交流,但这种交流是为了“创造更好的工作环境,培养员工的独立工作能力”,达文波特说。

    Imagine the plight of the middle manager. She's trying to please her bosses, interpret their messages and convey them to her staff, meet financial targets, give consistently tricky performance reviews, and grapple with ever-changing goals. Talk about being caught in the middle.

    As middle managers' workloads have intensified, their ranks have dwindled. In the mid-1990s, many companies decided to lay off their middle managers. According to Manager Redefined by Towers Watson consultants Tom Davenport and Stephen D. Harding, cuts in supervisory positions in 1994 accounted for 18% of layoffs even though managers made up just 8% of the workforce.

    Overwhelmed by responsibilities, never having enough time to do the work, the middle manager's job at many companies became too complex for anyone to handle. At the same time, companies often promote their best performers to managerial roles, and there's no guarantee that these workers possessed the right skills to succeed.

    In a 2010 Towers Watson study of 20,000 global employees of large firms, 48% of the respondents said their immediate manager didn't have enough time to handle their responsibilities or possess the right skills to improve poor performers.

    In response, Davenport and Harding have proposed several changes in how middle managers should operate. Davenport describes the most effective style of leading as "offstage management." Offstage managers focus on "managing the environment, not the people." The old-fashioned manager hovered over the employee, often lapsed into micromanaging, operated autocratically and ruled by fear.

    The offstage manager operates more like a theatrical director. "The director creates an environment for everyone to succeed and then steps out of the way,"Davenport says.

    Teresa Amabile, a professor at Harvard Business School and co-author of The Progress Principle, says middle managers are in a "sandwich situation." They're squeezed between the interests of upper managers and employees.

    Amabile says the most effective middle managers provide clear goals and explain how individual efforts contribute to a purpose. They also give their staffers the autonomy and support to do their jobs.

    In the past, middle managers mainly served as tools for senior executives to pass along information to subordinates. The communications revolution at work over the past two decades has vastly changed that part of a manager's job.

    These offstage managers may have more contact with employees than the old-fashioned autocratic managers, but the communication "creates the circumstances for individuals to work with high independence," says Davenport.

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