Middle Management: Definition, Roles & Responsibilities

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  • 0:01 Getting Promoted
  • 0:37 Managerial Levels
  • 1:11 Middle Management
  • 2:20 Example
  • 4:21 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Wiley-Cordone
Managers, regardless of industry or company size, are responsible for meeting organizational objectives. Understanding the functions of different layers of management will help you develop your own managerial skills.

Getting Promoted

Have you or a friend ever been promoted up through the ranks, or have you had a boss who has been? Top-ranking sales figures for four years in a row? Now, you're the sales lead! Great social worker engaging well with clients? Let's have you supervise other caseworkers! Fantastic coder? Why not make you technical team lead! The skills required for doing the work and the skills required for managing the work are often quite different. The shift from front-line worker to manager can be a tremendous change, but you can ease the transition by understanding management functions.

Managerial Levels

This image shows the flow of information through an organization. Top-level managers pull data, details and facts from outside the organization and from the supervisors below, then they push information down to the layers beneath them. Low-level managers (supervisors) directly manage the workers and take responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the business. They need daily information from the employees below them, and they report summaries of the data to the next level of management. In between the two is the middle-management layer, which is the main topic of our lesson today.

Middle Management

Middle managers deal with goal setting and department-level decision making. They need to get summarized weekly or monthly information horizontally across functional lines in the organization. The five typical functional lines are:

  1. Accounting
  2. Human resources
  3. Manufacturing/services
  4. Research & development
  5. Marketing

Middle managers are responsible for each of these areas, as well as for specialized units within these functional lines. Middle managers need information from above to know what the strategy is and information from below to track progress and current conditions.

Middle managers spend their time determining specific tactics for reaching organizational objectives set by top management. The terms 'strategic' and 'tactical' are military terms that have been adopted by business and the general population, but they are often incorrectly used interchangeably. It is helpful to think of strategy as the plan to change the environment from its current state to a new, desired state. In a healthy organization, strategy does not change in the short term. Tactics specifically refer to how to achieve the desired outcome, but they may change 'on the ground' as conditions require.


Let's look at a specific business example, the case of the Sparkly Clean Water Testing Company. We'll start with our business's current condition: The Sparkly Clean Water Testing Company makes one product - consumer test strips. Sales from new customers have declined sharply, but sales from existing customers remain stable.

So, what's their desired condition? More first-time customers purchase a Sparkly Clean product and are converted to repeat buyers. To accomplish this, they must decide on a strategy: Develop a new product line attractive to a broader customer base.

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