The debate around the relevance of the title “manager” in the business world is ongoing, with arguments for its elimination rooted in changing workplace dynamics, employee expectations, and evolving leadership roles.
While I am not in favor of eradicating the term, there is a need to rethink and realign the characteristics of this title. I have seen too many times where the title has become one of entitlement because I have so many years with the company or there is some nepotism in the department. So many managers who needed more time to be ready or had no desire to lead others have been promoted.
It is time to rethink many titles, particularly this one. I challenge all leaders to be creative and proactive in establishing new roles that allow flexibility, transparency, and honesty.
Here are several reasons to consider realignment of the title of “manager”:
Employee Autonomy: The term “manager” can imply a hierarchical and micromanaged environment, which is increasingly at odds with modern workplace cultures prioritizing employee autonomy and self-direction. Millennials, particularly Gen Zers, view workplaces as networks rather than hierarchies, preferring to collaborate across levels rather than follow strict top-down instructions. While many firms require people to return to the office, the experience these groups strive for is based on a neural network of associates who can produce innovation and thought for the company. There are ways to incorporate a hybrid structure that will make sense to everyone and simultaneously reduce the conflict of office politics.
Managerial Stress and Work-Life Balance: Managing often comes with juggling multiple competing priorities, which can create significant stress. Gallup reports that 43% of managers feel that job demands interfere with their family life, and 37% experience stress during their workday. This stress comes from external pressures from leadership and internal pressures of managers trying to climb the ladder. This can be frustrating and demoralizing if not orchestrated in a way that allows the balance of work-life functions.
Lack of Engagement and Inspiration: Only 8% of managers feel inspired by their performance reviews to improve, suggesting that traditional management roles may not provide the motivation or support needed for personal growth. Of course, this does mention another hot topic, performance reviews, which I will not explore in this article. Leadership seems to have lost its desire to groom people for positions, hence some of the dilemmas here. But rather than the term of grooming, I am much more open to creating a group that focuses on helping employees with career management.
Limited Advancement Opportunities: A staggering 83% of managers do not see clear opportunities for advancement within their roles, which can lead to stagnation and a lack of motivation to excel within the company. If the manager role is the carrot that has always been used in your company, your people will eventually be at this point, leading to frustration, anger, and turnover. Invest the time for a new, innovative approach to promotions and job migration. It will bring about positive change.
Outdated Approach to Disruption: Managers are often expected to operate within a prescribed set of guidelines. However, work today is far more about navigating disruption and developing innovative solutions, which may not align with traditional managerial duties. This will occur when the industries are inundated with regulations, unwritten rules, or attitudes of entitlement. Disruption is here to stay, so I highly recommend leaders become the positive disruptive element within the company before competitors or customers demand change.
Engagement and Team Dynamics: An engaged manager can significantly increase the likelihood of having an engaged team. However, if managers struggle with their roles, this can negatively impact team dynamics and overall performance.
These points suggest that the title and traditional role of “manager” might be misaligned with modern businesses’ evolving expectations and needs. There is a push towards roles that are less about controlling and more about guiding, coaching, and enabling employees to utilize their strengths and contribute to the organization in more meaningful ways.
Here are some suggestions for the title of “manager,” depending on the context and the nature of the role. While this list is not exhaustive, it is meant to start the wheels turning for the leader who understands this action’s need and necessity.
Ethical Team Leader
Remote Work Coordinator
Emerging Product Developer
Team Network Advisor
Trust Development Coach
Chief People Officer
Officer Diversity Consultant
Product Design Coach
Chief Wellness Facilitator
Customer Experience Manager
Employee Experience Manager
Each title carries slightly different connotations and may be more appropriate in different organizational contexts or industries.
To make the change, ensure that the holder is empowered to act in the role, contribute to the vision, and be customer-focused and that it is not just a title. Invite innovation, growth, and evolution to the table so the list of creative titles can continue to expand.
Don’t attempt this if the leadership team is unwilling to delegate power or accept feedback and advice from the new leaders.