It’s not enough for middle managers to be good team players. They have to demonstrate power in order to gain respect and make their way up the career ladder.
According to a new study by Germany’s ESMT business school, displaying certain power competencies could make company managers better liked by their colleagues and, more importantly, help them get ahead in their organisations.
The study found that being a ‘good team player’ and just focusing on achieving individual goals does not lead to success.
Successful middle managers demonstrated ambition, influence, conflict-management abilities and the ability to effect change.
Not do these qualities lead to career success, they also, perhaps counter-intuitively, make them more popular with their contemporaries.
Professor Laura Guillen, who carried out the research, said: “What is clear is that, at middle manager level, simply being good at your own job and working well as part of a group is not nearly as effective as exerting some power over your colleagues and working environment. The ability to take control of situations, enforce change and resolve conflict – typically behaviours that you would associate with senior management – are key to getting ahead.”
She added: “What was perhaps most surprising was that, although many may imagine that exhibiting these behaviours might prove unpopular amongst colleagues, the opposite appeared to be the case. Behaving in a powerful way actually made the middle managers we looked at more popular amongst their co-workers.”
In the study, middle managers filled in a personality questionnaire asked to assess what personality traits and behaviour needs to be displayed for them to be successful.
“Middle managers make up over half of the workforce – and yet the majority of research into workforce behaviour tends to focus on either the more senior end of the management spectrum or the bottom rungs of the corporate ladder,” said Guillen.
“Motivation typically shapes behaviour, so this research can be used as a powerful guide to the developmental efforts of middle managers and help to contribute towards transparency regarding promotion and reward policies within companies.”