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Why you need to keep middle managers happy

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If you want to increase retention levels of junior staff, make sure you have a good working relationship with your middle managers.

Middle managers are prone to mirroring their rapport with senior bosses when they interact with their subordinates, says a new study from Vanderbilt University.

“If an organisation wishes to address issues related to line employees’ work attitudes, it should address behaviour and work attitudes from the top down.” Ray Friedman, Brownlee O. Currey professor of management at Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management, said.

“The focus should not just be on employees and their managers, but also on the signals being sent by senior managers every day as they interact with their middle-level manager subordinates.”

Friedman and his team polled 1,527 full-time employees at 94 hotels in the United States and Canada, and found that “middle managers’ satisfaction with their senior managers was related positively to line employees’ satisfaction with middle managers.”

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The research concluded when middle managers don’t have good working relationships with their bosses, the effects trickle down to the employees the middle managers oversee. This can lead to some lower-level employees quitting.

“Despite the lack of direct contact between senior managers and line employees, senior managers can have a significant influence on those line employees,” Friedman said.

The effect was even stronger for female managers, the study suggested.

“While the trickle-down effect is general, there may be subgroups especially influenced by the trickle-down dynamic and we have identified women middle managers as a group that is especially affected by the trickle-down effect,” Friedman said.

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