Use Mindfulness Techniques to Support Stressed-Out Middle Managers

Pulled by expectations from upper management and their employees, middle managers face major stress in the workplace. One leadership coach and mindfulness expert shares how organizations that lead with mindfulness can more effectively support their middle managers.

Although stress and burnout affect everyone from entry-level employees to C-suite executives, organizations should pay attention to the pressure middle managers are facing. 

For example, Gartner listed middle managers feeling sandwiched by leader and employee expectations as one of its 2023 workplace trends, and a recent survey from the Workforce Institute at UKG showed that 45 percent of managers say they will likely quit in the next 12 months due to work-related stress.  

How can associations help their middle managers navigate this pressure? Executive coach and mindfulness expert Karen Liebenguth shared how association leaders can use mindfulness to better support middle managers. 

Make Connections 

To start, it’s important that C-suite leaders recognize they won’t be able to support middle managers unless they prioritize self-care as well. 

Liebenguth recommends executives take a few moments throughout the day to check in with themselves. “Create time to reflect on what’s going on,” she said. “Check in with yourself, ‘How am I doing, what am I feeling, what do I need right now?’”

These check-ins will help leaders become more self-aware. “We become more aware of the quality of our mind,” Liebenguth said. “Are we typically closed off or easygoing?” 

As CEOs and other leaders start understanding their mindset, they’ll start seeing the connection between their actions and attitude.  

“[W]hen we become more aware leaders, we’re sensitive to our actions, our thinking, and how we communicate,” Liebenguth said. “You notice how being snappy with your employees may leave you both feeling disconnected. But if your middle managers see you acting with kindness, they are more likely to be open and feel motivated.” 

Listen Actively 

Leaders must sit down with their middle managers and employ mindful listening techniques to understand what they need.  

“Mindful listening means stepping outside of your own needs and expectations,” Liebenguth said. “Listen and recognize how difficult it must be for your middle managers to feel under pressure from their own employees and upper management.”

Liebenguth recommends leaders should approach these conversations with curiosity. Pay attention to what managers are saying, rather than thinking of what to say next. In addition, remember to ask them questions. 

“This is about being curious and open,” she said. “Recognize that something is going on for your people. Put your agenda aside in order to listen to what your managers need.”  

When executives are attuned to their own feelings and the needs of their staff, they’re in a better position to make positive, impactful decisions for their people. 

“Through mindfulness and greater awareness of the self and others, they’re able to make decisions based on what’s actually going on in the present moment, rather than on any assumptions or expectations,” Liebenguth said. “There’s more trust and safety within an organization when our leaders are aware.”  


Hannah Carvalho

By Hannah Carvalho

Hannah Carvalho is Senior Editor at Associations Now. MORE

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