Episode 122: Why Middle Managers are So Unhappy

The 90th Percentile: An Unconventional Leadership Podcast

Published: October 18, 2023


Have you ever stopped to wonder who the unhappiest individuals within your organization are? Those weary souls who navigate the daily grind with an invisible weight on their shoulders, all while hiding behind their smiles? And what’s driving them crazy? Well, They may not be who you think they are. At least they were not who we would have thought of. In today’s episode, we going to uncover the hidden narratives behind workplace unhappiness and what can be done to fix it.

Key Learnings

Key Takeaways from the Podcast on Workplace Unhappiness:

1. Engagement Stats: Only 23% of workers are engaged at work, with 59% quietly quitting or disengaging, and 18% actively disengaged.

2. Profile of Unhappy Employees: They are often mid-level managers with 5-10 years’ tenure and good performance ratings.

3. Top Causes of Unhappines:
– Lack of diversity appreciation
– Inefficient organizations
– Overwork
– Lack of issue resolution
– Feeling undervalued
– Perceived unfair treatment
– Lack of meaning in work
– Limited career growth
– Poor leadership

4. Compounding Effects: These factors often compound, worsening employee dissatisfaction.

5. Impact on Organizations: The 5% of unhappy employees can drag down an organization’s success and profitability.

6. Solutions for Improvement:
– Offer feedback to managers to prompt change.
– Focus on specific behavior changes.
– Consider reassignment for unresponsive managers.
– Address employee issues or exit.

7. The Role of Good Leadership: Good leaders are crucial for employee engagement, and organizations should not tolerate poor leadership’s harm.

These insights highlight the hidden causes of workplace unhappiness and provide guidance for organizations to address them effectively.

Connect with Jack Zenger


Zenger Folkman hosts an exclusive live webinar every month, where you can meet Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman, and join in a conversation about their latest research in leadership development. Find out more information and register here.

Additional Resources

Why Middle Managers are So Unhappy— Harvard Business Review Article by Jack Zenger & Joe Folkman