The Midlife Crisis of the Middle Manager! What it is and What can be Done to Address the Problem
What Is Midlife Crisis, Whom Does It Affect, and what are the Manifestations of It?
Midlife is especially challenging for anyone and more so for those in their careers when they get stuck in a job that has lost meaning.
Indeed, the term midlife crisis is very popular to describe the feelings of listlessness and disconnection that those over 40 feel when they realize the limits to career advancement, personal fulfillment, and any sort of excitement in life.
In the context of corporates and human resources fields, the midlife crisis is acute in those at the middle management level, who having advanced rapidly up the ranks when they were younger, are now faced with stalling prospects for promotion and falling levels of enthusiasm.
Moreover, in the Indian context, it is worth noting that this cohort is particularly vulnerable to layoffs and downsizing as was the case over the last couple of years, when many large IT (Information Technology) firms let go of thousands of middle managers, as they felt that the costs of retaining them exceeded the costs of letting them go. So, in a way the midlife crisis of the middle managers is real problem.
Midlife Crisis is both Universal and Specific and Different Strokes Work for Different Folks!
Having said that, one cannot generalize too much and stereotype beyond a point. This is because there are many if not a large number of those in the over 40 age cohorts who have done exceptionally well for themselves and continue to thrive and prosper, both in their professional and personal lives.
Indeed, in our working lives we have come across umpteen numbers of middle aged managers and executives who inspired us and motivated us to the extent that we consider them role models.
So, it is important to note that there is no broad categorization of midlife crisis, though it does afflict almost all at a particular age.
In other words, while midlife crisis of the middle manager is real, it manifests itself differently and affects the individuals differently.
More so in the Indian context when cultural taboos prevent those with a midlife crisis from articulating their concerns fully and seek assistance, as required.
Talking about assistance and help to those with a midlife crisis, experts believe that therapy and some sort of counseling can help in addition to an introspective journey where the persons concerned can have a honest appraisal of themselves and their priorities and act accordingly.
The Chef Who Became a Corporate Trainer! Reinvention and Rejuvenation are the Keys to Success
Continuing the points made above, it is important for employers to empathize with the middle managers and even those who have gone beyond this level and yet, are struggling with a midlife crisis.
In our careers, we found that many multinational corporates often have dedicated training and up skilling programs for the middle managers so that they can continue to be relevant in a world of fast changing technologies and management fads.
Moreover, as we pointed out earlier, the layoffs of thousands of middle managers happened mainly because the IT firms deemed them to be deadweight, unable to keep up with the younger lot and unwilling to reinvent themselves.
The terms, reinvention and rejuvenation are key to addressing the midlife crisis as unless the persons concerned make a genuine effort to launch themselves again, even the best of the support systems would be futile.
We once attended training where the trainer was once a chef and a tourist manager before becoming a corporate trainer.
He cited his personal example of reinventing himself at every stage to remain relevant and in the reckoning of the rat race. So, it is critical for all of us to reinvent ourselves over time.
How Corporates Can Help Through Career Path and Competency Mapping For Those Above 40
Of course, apart from the suggestions made so far, there is yet another approach that can work and this is the mapping and changing of the career path of those over 40 by their employers. Before we plunge into the discussion, let us first define the terms.
Mapping of career path means organizations draw up a linear as well as non linear graph of their employees likely progression through the organization and then come up with a matrix of expected skills, and competencies and match them with the employees personal characteristics.
Through this, they can then determine the likely path of promotion from then on. So, our suggestion is that the HR staff sits with each of those whom they perceive as vulnerable and whose appraisals have revealed signs of stagnation and then, have an open and frank discussion as to where they are headed and what the organization can do to help them.
In this exercise, both the employer and the employee are equal stakeholders and so, there is no talking down element.
On the other hand, the middle managers themselves are veterans of such kinds of One on One sit downs and so, they are involved and engaged.
Last, it is by no means that a midlife crisis should be classified as something that should be swept under the carpet.
More so in the present times when workplace mental health issues are at the forefront of attention from worried business leaders and societal stakeholders.
So, the least that colleagues and peers as well as organizations can do is to acknowledge and empathize apart from address and engage with each other.
Even collective support therapies can be effective. To conclude, midlife crisis is something that can happen to the best of us and needs effective handling of the same.
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Authorship/Referencing - About the Author(s)
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