To Improve Employee Experience, Start by Improving the Middle Managers

Jason Cortel
5 min readNov 23, 2019


Employees can only be as good as their manager, and the middle managers directly impact the employee experience. Leaders create the vision, mission, and culture. Middle managers deliver on that vision, mission, and culture. More so, they set the atmosphere through their energy. Therefore, to improve employees’ experience, stop neglecting the middle managers.

Employee experience is a worker’s observations and perceptions of their employment by a particular company. Physical work space, work-life balance, and technology that enables productivity partially influence the experience. Middle managers create the magic, or the nightmare, for the broader workforce. Because front-line employees account for a majority of an organization’s workforce to improve employee experience, start by improving the middle managers.

Do the middle managers think they have an incredible job? Is it a job they love? If it isn’t, they will create an environment where the employees negatively perceive the organization. They will observe their leaders hating their job or the organization, and they will soon adopt the same feeling.

When middle managers struggle to come to work, are feeling under-appreciated, and aren’t being developed, they will not be able to build up the team they are responsible for leading. If middle managers are unable to show up with their best self every day, they won’t be able to inspire their team to do the same. To improve employees’ experience, start by improving the middle managers.

Invest in Management Training

Companies invest heavily in leadership training and focus less on supervisors and middle managers. Therefore, to improve employees’ experience, invest in training for supervisors and middle managers. Even more, create opportunities for continuous development. They need to know how to coach, motivate, inspire, and develop their team.

If middle managers aren’t getting development, they will do what they feel is best, or worse, nothing at all. Develop a middle manager training schedule, so they continue to develop and grow. Assign them to train and mentor new managers to reinforce their skills and development. Continuously training and developing the middle managers will improve the employees’ experience.

Offer Meaningful Feedback Regularly

Feedback is a foundational skill. Provide middle managers with regular, helpful feedback in a manner that encourages them. Be thoughtful in your communication when the feedback isn’t positive. Providing regular feedback to the middle managers will encourage them and help them improve in critical areas.

In addition to providing feedback middle managers can use to improve, you will model how to give feedback. They can mimic your style with their employees. As a result, the middle managers will provide feedback that improves employees’ experience.

Model Better Behavior

Middle managers will mimic the behavior of their leaders. Therefore, they need stronger examples of how things get done. Improving middle managers so they can improve employee’s experience ultimately comes down to being a better leader for the middle managers.

Start by evaluating the bad behaviors you might be demonstrating that the middle managers are mimicking. Making a better effort to model the desired strategies middle managers should use within the organization will improve the experience they deliver to the rest of the employees.

Inspire and Engage Middle Manager to Improve Employees’ Experience

The more inspired and engaged the middle managers are, the more engaged and inspired the employees will be. Start by making sure they are clear on how important their role is and how it supports the organization’s business and vision.

Provide opportunities for middle managers to develop new skills by having them participate in cross-functional teams. Publicly recognize their successes. Assign them to a high-performing team, or select them to lead a project. Even more, give them the autonomy to meet their goals and objectives. All of these things will inspire and engage middle managers. As a result, they will offer similar experiences to their employees, thereby improving the employees’ experience.

Teach Middle Managers How to Delegate

Learning to delegate is a critical skill for leaders. When pressure is on, leaders tend to hoard power and responsibility. It dis-empowers middle managers and causes them to lack ownership. Doing so will also signal their knowledge, experience, and ideas are not valued. Failing to delegate causes disengagement and derails the fulfillment of the organization’s mission and business.

Don’t confuse delegation with task dumping. Truly delegating means passing responsibility for outcomes and the authority to do what is needed to achieve those outcomes. To delegate effectively, communicate the expectations, confirm their understanding, and commitment. Define their authority level and inform whoever else needs to know. Finally, follow-up regularly so that coaching and guidance can be given to ensure they are successful. Delegating real responsibility and authority improves middle managers and, therefore, improves employees’ experience.

Listen to Your Middle Managers

Middle managers are responsible for delivering results, delighting customers, implementing change, and, more importantly, driving employee engagement. What organization doesn’t focus on optimizing and improving those areas? Who knows better than middle managers what to do to improve?

Organizations spend a lot of money on consultants to help them identify areas to improve and how to improve them. Consultants start their assessments on the front-line speaking with employees and middle managers. Middle managers know what frustrates employees about their job. They understand what blocks them and their team from being the best they can be. Furthermore, middle managers understand what is needed to improve efficiency. To enhance employees’ experience, senior leaders need to make more time to speak with and listen to the middle managers.

Without middle managers, organizations would fail. They are responsible for delivering results that delight customers, implementing change that improves outcomes, mentoring future leaders, and more so, driving employee engagement.

Middle managers are often invisible heroes who don’t have the status of being a leader or having an influence on future strategy. Yet the most critical objectives of any organization rests substantially on their shoulders. They are improving the employees’ experience, engaging the talent that delivers the organization’s mission, and are responsible for the employees who delight your customers every day. Therefore, to improve employees’ experience, start by improving the middle managers.

Originally published at on November 23, 2019.



Jason Cortel

Changing the world by developing people professionally. Author who blogs about leadership, career advice, and coaching. #WhyYouNow