Sep 9, 2022 - Economy

"Quiet quitting" threat elevates significance of middle managers

Illustration of medal with a briefcase

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Middle managers play a more important role than ever in a company's success.

Why it matters: Employers remain worried about how happy people are at work and who might leave as the economy faces another period of uncertainty.

State of play: Managers are now at the "front line" of trying to understand what workers need as they continue to redefine their relationships with their jobs, Bryan Hancock, McKinsey's global leader of talent work, tells Axios in an interview.

  • From having an empathetic ear to leading with an engaged and authentic presence, "when it's done well, [it makes] a tremendous difference for their organizations," says Hancock.
  • And despite the flexibility that remote work has provided, workers are craving personal connections so much so that one of the "new office amenities" that people want — is a manager, according to Hancock.

Threat level: Recent studies on "quiet quitting" — or pulling back from going above and beyond — place some of the blame on managers.

Reality check: Managers are employees too, and they face the same risk of burnout and disengagement.

  • Managers have to take care of themselves and "put their own oxygen masks on before helping anyone else," Bhushan Sethi, joint global leader of people and organization at PwC, tells Axios.

What to watch: McKinsey says it's seeing increased demand for services around training leaders to be more empathetic.

Go deeper