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Is the middle where the magic happens?

By Brooke Kelly | December 10, 2018 | Employee Well-Being

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Odds are you’ve heard how critical middle management support can be to the success of your wellness program.

Wellness and human resource professionals, executives and middle managers themselves understand the vital role they play in the job satisfaction of their employees. And while we talk about this a lot, I’m not sure we’ve equipped our middle management with common sense strategies to demonstrate this in the workplace. In other words, have we given middle management the tools and clarity to execute on the wellness mission, while they are also charged with “getting the job done”?

The Wellness Council of America (WELCOA) released its refreshed 7 Benchmarks earlier this year.

It’s worth a couple minutes of your time to read through the 7 Benchmarks[1] to assess how you stack up. As it specifically relates to middle management support, I was pleased to see the enhancements to benchmarks 1 and 2. Benchmark 1, Committed and Aligned Leadership, is defined as “having leaders throughout the organization that are deeply committed to the wellness of employees and wellness in their own lives.”[1] Benchmark 2, Collaboration in support of wellness, is defined as “creating a formal or informal team that is dedicated to building and sustaining a successful worksite wellness initiative.

This engages stakeholders at all levels and helps maintain a cooperative approach to worksite wellness initiatives.”1 Through these refreshed benchmarks, WELCOA makes a powerful statement that all leaders within an organization play a vital role in encouraging employees to adopt wellness initiatives.

So how do we ensure middle management has the tools and clarity to execute the wellness mission while getting the job done?


It is critical for executives or key leadership to communicate directly to middle management. Why? Hearing from leadership will confirm to middle management the importance of their support of the program. Leadership should share the goals of the program and, ideally, listen to middle management’s concerns, questions, and potential barriers. This type of shared communication will set the tone for middle management and solidify their buy-in.

Clear Expectations

When it comes to the rubber meeting the road, middle management can make or break an initiative. This isn’t intentional—in fact, middle management is most likely in the most challenging situation day in and day out. How do they ensure the work gets done yet support the program and employees? There are no easy answers to this question, but solutions can be found through collaboration. This is why it is paramount for leadership to share their expectations and communicate what success looks like. From there, a clear and direct line to directors or leaders will encourage middle management to share concerns and find solutions to benefit everyone. Knowing exactly what leadership hopes to achieve will only expedite this process.


What better way to demonstrate to middle management how important they are to the success of the program than with recognition? Bestow praise, ongoing public recognition and consider awards specifically for middle managers who have found a way to make it work. Encourage them with gratitude for their efforts (large and small) and let them mentor others to create a culture that stands the test of time.

And finally, the most important step you can take is to not overlook this critical group of employees. In fact, I might say they are the most important spoke in your wellness wheel. Your middle management seeks to achieve company goals while promoting an environment of personal growth and support. But they need your help. They need clear direction, clear support and it doesn’t hurt to recognize them along the way. These simple strategies are highly effective and produce far-reaching results. Talk to your middle managers, listen to them and find solutions that support the employees and the goals of the program. I guarantee it will be time well-spent.

source: [1]