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Why the Job of "Manager" Needs to Change

The post-pandemic workplace requires reassessment

Jennifer stares at her upward-feedback report and wonders how she got to this point. How could a veteran like her, someone who was once celebrated as manager of the year, receive such negative ratings? She used to enjoy her role, but now everything feels out of control. Her job has been reshaped so constantly—by sweeping process reengineering, digitization, and agile initiatives, and most recently by remote work—that she always feels at least one step behind.

The amount of change that has taken place in just the past few years is overwhelming. The management layer above her was eliminated, which doubled the size of her team, and almost half the people on it are now working on cross-division projects led by other managers. She and her team used to meet in her office for progress reviews, but now she has no office, and if she wants to know how her people are doing, she has to join their stand-ups, which makes her feel like an onlooker rather than their boss. She no longer feels in touch with how everybody is doing, and yet she has the same set of personnel responsibilities as before: providing performance feedback, making salary adjustments, hiring and firing, engaging in career discussions.

Not only that, but she’s being asked to take on even more. Because her company is rapidly digitizing, for example, she’s responsible for upgrading her staff’s technical skills. This makes her uncomfortable because it feels threatening to many of her team members. When she talks with them about it, she’s expected to demonstrate endless amounts of empathy—something that has never been her strong suit. She’s supposed to seek out diverse talent and create a climate of psychological safety while simultaneously downsizing the unit. She understands why all these things are important, but they’re not what she signed up for when she became a manager, and she’s just not sure that she has the emotional energy to handle them.

What happened to the stable, well-defined job that she was so good at for so long? What happened to the power and status that used to come with that job? Is she the problem? Is she simply no longer able to keep up with the demands of the evolving workplace? Is she now part of the “frozen middle”—the much-maligned layer of management that obstructs change rather than enables it?

Please select this link to read the complete article from Harvard Business Review.

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