Criticise a middle manager today – they can handle it!

Aug 11 2006 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Middle managers are the thickest-skinned and most resilient group in the workforce and best able to accept criticism, a new U.S study has suggested.

Chief executives and company presidents, by comparison, are surprisingly fragile, ranking lowest in the poll of 2,000 employees by human capital assessment firm PsyMax Solutions.

The firm analysed the profiles of district and regional managers, department or unit managers, supervisors and foremen for tough-mindedness and resilience.

The middle managers' median tough-minded score was the highest of all groups.

Company presidents and CEOs came in the lowest for resiliency, followed by executives, and professional, technical, and administrative employees, it found.

"The study suggests that middle managers have the greatest ability to accept criticism," said PsyMax Solutions chief executive Dr Wayne Nemeroff.

"Perhaps because of the nature of the middle management role they continuously get feedback from all directions, from above, below and sideways.

"Those at the centre of the organisational structure demonstrate strength in being able to manage stress and to keep resilient in the face of frustration, disappointment or criticism," he added.

Resilience – or being able to handle being kicked from all directions – is an essential skill for middle managers, the survey concluded.

"Their jobs involve providing leadership to front line supervisors. They plan, direct, or coordinate the operations of companies," said Nemeroff.

"Middle managers may also be owners who head small businesses and require the capacity to handle frequent criticism or rejection, to work through tough negotiations and to build credibility by remaining even-tempered," he added.

And problems can result when the resiliency is not developed as a skill, Nemeroff advised.

"Common issues that might emerge are allowing stress and frustration to show, becoming defensive in response to criticism and having difficulty rebounding from setbacks," he said.

People who needed to develop resilience should readily accept critical comments and seek to learn from them.

"They should also try to share their thoughts or reactions, and not bottle them up. In fact, too much emotional control may cause people to close down their open communication and listening skills. So they should speak more openly and be more willing to be self-revealing.

"Don't make people guess where you're coming from and question whether or not you're really listening to them," said Nemeroff.