How Setting Goals Determines Whether Middle Management Is Set Up For Success

Researchers at Penn State revealed how middle management could be as vulnerable to unethical behavior as any other level of management in a company. The ethnographic study of an unnamed telecom company showed the motivation could range from the simple desire for a project team to look successful in the eyes of their bosses, to making sure they receive their bonuses.

The researchers found there were specific reasons for middle management to lie about their results. All of them had to deal with how senior management created the project and set the goals and how they determined success or failure.

Your Middle Management Can Lose Its Way

The principal reasons middle managers felt the need to be deceptive in reporting their productivity were found to be:

  • Senior management set unreasonable and unattainable goals

  • The team’s members weren’t adequately trained or didn’t feel competent enough to carry out their tasks.

  • Project managers didn’t allocate enough time for the work.

  • There wasn’t enough of a market base to support the project. In other words, there weren’t enough customers.

In the telecom company, mIddle managers realized they had a problem and used a variety techniques to make the project look better and seem more successful than it was. The managers did this because they want to keep their jobs, receive their bonuses, and appear to be succeeding with the project.

The managers also used coercive tactics to get their subordinates to go along with their deception. This certainly didn’t build or strengthen relationships throughout the company.

The Damage Goes Far Further Than The Deception

When this type of behavior occurs, it hurts the reputation of the company with employees and with customers. Middle management loses credibility with employees and with executive management because people will quickly see how unethical their behavior is. If customers find out what occurred, they lose faith in the company and flee to competitors.

Furthermore, the executive leadership could end up allocating more money and resources to a project they believe is succeeding when it is failing. Managers can make bad decisions, and other promising plans can be underfunded.

The Answer Is In The Basic Principles Of Any Company

The key to avoiding this type of problem is more research by executive leadership before they begin establishing goals and incentive programs. Goals have to be motivating and attainable. If people believe the goals are unrealistic, they will quickly abandon them and do what they can to survive.

A company with clear lines of communication won’t have a problem. If employees believe they can tell their supervisors the goals are too difficult to meet and middle management passes this on to the executive level, they can make changes and new goals implemented.

You can avoid this issue by incorporating honesty into your company culture. If one of your company’s core values is integrity and it is exhibited from the top down, then the value will have a substantial influence throughout all levels of the company.

Remember, your operations are built on your best practices and your best practices are a result of your core values and the resulting company culture.

Equal Parts Consulting works with companies to develop company cultures centered around strong core values. We assist many companies from a variety of industries in strengthening their internal operations. We welcome any questions or comments about this topic. Our team is prepared to meet with you, and invite you to contact us for further information.