Pick a Dilbert, any Dilbert, and you’ll probably find a crack at middle management. In one strip from March 1995, Dilbert asks the new owner of the company what his plans are; the owner says he’s going to trim middle management, which he defines as anyone who writes “FYI” on a work document. In the next panel, you see Dilbert encouraging his direct manager to deliver a bunch of documents to the new boss labeled “FYI.”
Because of the influence of pop culture touchstones like Dilbert (and The Office and Office Space), middle management doesn’t get a lot of mainstream respect. But in our area of expertise — employee engagement — we know that middle managers (a broad term we use to describe anyone from team leaders to department heads) are leaders when it comes to making employees happy.
We know that because over the past few years, we’ve noticed an interesting trend among middle management: they are becoming the leaders in introducing employee engagement strategies in the workplace.
Using TINYpulse as a barometer, we calculated how frequently managers were empowered to implement employee engagement strategies without the help of HR or C-level executives
We interviewed middle leaders to gauge their feelings about employee engagement and whether they think it’s appropriate to enact their own engagement strategies at work
By looking at responses from employees on TINYpulse questions, we were able to find substantial benefits to direct managers driving employee engagement
We conducted an independent poll of 500 workers to figure out if their direct manager was handling engagement and if they would want them to
So FYI, despite what Dilbert cartoons say, our research shows that middle-level leaders are extremely important players in making employees happier and more engaged — in fact, they are leaders in making workplaces better.