The managers aren’t all right: Why those in the middle have the lowest well-being ratings

Although most employee engagement markers have rebounded to pre-pandemic levels or higher, well-being among managers is “dangerously low,” according to a June 25 report from Perceptyx.

On a 5-point scale, managers scored lower (at 3.69) than both individual contributors (3.77) and executives (3.84).

“Over the past three years, we’ve seen engagement trends shift for the better, but employees still show signs of disruption and doubt,” Emily Killham, senior director and head of the Center for Workforce Transformation at Perceptyx, said in a statement.

“It’s clear organizations still have work to do to foster a sense of belonging and inclusion among all employees,” she said. “That includes middle managers, who often receive little training and are spread thin trying to satisfy demands from above and below.”

Facing a “manager squeeze,” managers consistently scored lower than executives or individual contributors on work-life balance, reasonable workload and manageable stress levels. Managers often take on the extra stress and responsibility of their direct reports while also “managing up” to satisfy senior leaders, the report found.

Career development and inclusion can help. Managers said they were twice as likely to stay with a company when they felt a sense of belonging, and they were 2.2 times more likely to stay when they had career opportunities.

Leading the company through change is also important, the report noted. About half of managers expressed confidence in their company’s ability to manage change effectively. A lack of confidence could signal areas of decreased manager well-being, belonging and retention.

Managers play a vital role in talent development, according to a Beamery report, so improving their well-being and career development could help front-line workers as well. Investing in and empowering managers can help companies boost retention and overcome talent challenges across the organization, Beamery’s CEO said.

Managers also affect employees’ mental health more than doctors or therapists and about the same as a spouse or partner, according to a UKG Workplace Institute poll. Ineffective managers tended to micromanage, listen poorly and take an impersonal approach, while effective managers checked in with their employees’ emotional states, provided help when needed and offered constructive feedback.

To become more effective, managers may need better training to support employee growth, according to an Info-Tech Research Group report. New managers, in particular, may need guidance on how to lead, as well as how to build better habits and apply new skills.