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Here, Want a Nice, Thankless Job?

This week marked the fiftieth anniversary of "National Boss Day." Sometimes big bosses get a hearty handshake and a card from the staff. But you can bet that lesser bosses called "middle managers" got little at all. No more money, no time off, no thank-yous. In that respect, it's very much like their jobs.

Who wants to be a middle manager in America these days? Who wants that job as a factory shift supervisor, a newspaper night editor, or the women's-clothing manager at a department store?

The answer is: nobody!

OK, that's an exaggeration. Obviously somebody wants the job, or at least takes it, usually because it pays more money and gets one's foot in the door of an executive career.

But Bruce Tulgan, who has written a book called It's OK To Be the Boss, says lots of people these days are saying extra bucks, a little office, and a taste of authority and prestige are not worth it.

Middle managers are, after all, in the middle! Bigger bosses demand that they wring more results out of the staff. "These people must be motivated, and we're counting on you to do it!" Meantime, subordinates are presenting their own demands and complaints, personality conflicts, expectations, and excuses.

Middle managers typically work long hours — sometimes into the night and weekends — for no extra pay. They must fill out infernal forms, attend and hold meetings no one wants to go to, and often discipline people who were their former colleagues and friends. It's a recipe for stress.

In recent workplace surveys, middle managers' morale is often just as sour as that of the rank and file. They have sacrificed free time, family time, and any chance to work at home one or two days a week for what? To be miserable?

So big companies are trying to sweeten middle-management jobs by offering incentives: international travel, specialized training, and bonus money.

But when middle-manager jobs are offered, the response they're often hearing is, "Thanks. I'm flattered. But no, thanks."

[It's OK To Be the Boss, by Bruce Tulgan, is published by HRD Press.]