Barry Oshry has spent many years theorising, analysing, describing and helping those who find themselves “managing from the middle”. He says that the same scenarios exist in every organisation in all contexts; that those at the top of the office are at odds with those who do the work; and those in the middle are torn in two because of this and suffer stress as they perpetually spiral downwards trying to please everyone, taking ownership of everyone else’s problems.
This is a scenario I have observed in every organisation I’ve ever worked for, and in some, I’ve been that “Middling” person sinking under the weight of being Mrs Fix-It for all and sundry. It’s not a great place to be, physically, mentally or emotionally.
So what is this middling thing? At it’s worst, it can be crippling to the individual concerned. I know because I’ve been there – thinking I was completely losing my mind and drowning under the never-ending receipt of actions which always came my way. Some of the warning signals are as follows:
- I’m a mess, weak, and nothing I do is ever good enough!
- I’m letting everyone down
- I can’t cope anymore
- I’ll see what I can do (in response on the phone more than 3 times a day)
- I’m running from one to the other all the time
- I seem to have to make more and more excuses for everyone around me
- I fee burnt out
- I can’t work any harder, but it’s not enough
- I never have the time to switch off
- I’ve lost my voice, my independence – I used to have a mind of my own
Would you recognise what Oshry calls “the middle slide” if you saw it? Do you even know you are doing it yourself? Did you know that “middles” are absolutely critical in assuring that the goals of the organisation are realised. So they are worth looking after and allowing them to rediscover their own independent judgement and voice again.
Watch Barry Oshry himself explain his theory and analysis here:
The way of addressing this involves all levels of management, not just the Middling. It’s everyone’s responsibility to create a more healthy leadership environment. It’s an interesting theory and one that should be aired and tackled more overtly than I currently see it being.
If you believe you are a Middling – you are not alone – and ITS NOT YOUR FAULT!