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The term “middle management” means different things at different companies, based on the size of the business. If a company is relatively big, there will be more levels of management. Middle managers are generally those employees responsible for carrying out strategic directives, rather than making them. During your climb to the top of the corporate ladder, you might find yourself in these types of positions.
For there to be a middle management, there must be upper management. Depending on the size of the company, upper management might be the owner accompanied with one or two trusted employees, or a group of executives known as the “C-suite.” C-suite executives include the chief operating officer, chief financial officer and chief executive officer. More recent C-suite titles include chief marketing officer and chief information officer. At smaller companies, the owner might run the company by working closely with one or a few trusted employees.
At very large companies, middle managers are often department heads. They head functions such as marketing, human resources, finance, information technology and sales. They meet with and provide input to upper management, but it’s the C-suite that makes the long-term strategic decisions for the business, giving marching orders to middle managers, or department heads, to execute the strategies. If a company has multiple locations or divisions, the head of a location who reports to a headquarters department manager might be considered both a corporate middle manager and a member of that division’s or office’s upper-management team.
At businesses with department heads who report directly to the owner or president, the department managers are considered upper management, since they work near the top of the totem pole and make strategic decisions. Their direct subordinates, who oversee office staff, would be considered middle management. For example, upper management might hold titles such as marketing director or human resources director, while middle managers would be called marketing manager or HR manager. These managers take orders from the directors, then work directly with the rest of the staff to execute the orders of the directors and handle the day-to-day operations of the department. These mid-level managers spend more time managing company policies and procedures, rather than creating them. At a hotel, for example, middle managers might include the front desk manager, food and beverage manager, housekeeping manager and guest services manager.
Small business owners often appoint trusted staff members to manage particular areas of the business. The only upper management is the owner, with middle managers being any staff member with a title and responsibility over other staff members. For example, at a restaurant, the middle managers might be the dining room manager, chef and head bartender. This creates three levels of employees: the owner, managers and staff. If the restaurant were to name a general manager who was in charge of the restaurant when the owner was away, this person would be considered upper management. At a small business that makes a product, middle managers might include the production supervisor and manager in charge of warehousing and shipping.
Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.