Book Review: The Truth About Middle Managers

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Osterman, Paul. The truth about middle managers : who they are, how they work, why they matter. Harvard Business Press, 2008.

In large organizations, senior management sets the strategy — what markets to enter, with whom to merge and how much to invest. Middle managers have little voice regarding strategy, yet they are responsible for interpreting and executing those decisions.

In recent years, corporate restructuring has made middle management careers less secure. Author Paul Osterman from MIT’s Sloan School studied the careers of middle managers to determine what has been happening to middle managers since 2004. He finds that job security in middle management is nonexistent, but the number of middle management positions has increased. The work has gotten more dynamic and managers have more autonomy, keeping morale high despite the lack of job security.

In the end, Osterman concludes that middle managers are committed to their jobs and their immediate colleagues and subordinates, but are critical of their companies and top management. They enjoy what they do and are committed to high quality work. But job paths are unclear and performance is less visible. The criteria for judging who gets ahead are confused. In conclusion, middle managers are loyal to their professions but alienated from the organizations that employ them.

© Reviewer: Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

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