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Middle-Management Reductions Affect Millennials the Most, But Gen Zers Will Have Less Guidance

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
May 23, 2024


A  growing reduction in the number of middle-management positions—a phenomenon known as “unbossing”—has implications for younger generations in the workplace, Business Insider reported.   

Companies are cutting middle-management roles deemed to be obsolete, many of which are held by millennials. But unbossing also could mean that junior staff—such as members of Generation Z—won't receive the mentorship needed to advance their careers.

Several factors have brought this situation about, Business Insider reported, including cost cutting, Gen Z's distaste for management, remote working and increased pressure on performance.

"In the analog era, going back to, let's say, the '80s, you had to communicate manually to be able to align your workforce," said Joe Galvin, the chief research officer of the executive-coaching organization Vistage, in an interview with Business Insider. "Today, technology has made that all possible. And the behavior change that we saw during the pandemic was an accelerant to that."

In 2021, when Steven Baert was the chief people and organization officer of Novartis, he told Gallup that traditional leadership was "becoming redundant." He said the company's goal was to have a workforce that's motivated and encouraged to be effective rather than told what to do.

"That boss' job has changed tremendously," said Galvin. "How you manage relationships in a more digital environment is much more difficult."

Middle-management positions accounted for almost one-third of layoffs in 2023, an analysis for Bloomberg found, an increase from 20 percent in 2018. The analysis, by Live Data Technologies, also found that manager-level or higher roles made up almost 50 percent of all layoffs in 2023, an increase of 57.6 percent compared with the previous five-year average.

As it happens, many middle managers are millennials, often in their first management positions or on their way to climbing to more senior roles, Business Insider reported.

They were also hit the hardest during the "Big Firing" of 2022, making up 94 percent of laid-off workers, according to data from Revelio Labs and

"Since millennials make up a large portion of middle management, they, along with some Gen X, are most likely to be affected by this trend," said Chris Lovell, a careers expert at SoFi Technologies and the founder of Careers by Chris.

Ironically, he said, millennials are "less interested in corporate bureaucracies or hierarchies," which could be one reason why middle-management roles are being cut. Gen Zers could also be shifting the culture of the workforce, putting more emphasis on their boundaries, their mental health, and their desire for more autonomy.

"I think this collides with economies and the way that the world is going, that companies are cutting costs," said Lara Milward, a workplace culture expert "If we're thinking about a world of diversity, inclusivity, and including new generations, they are trying to move towards a more flat structure and less of the old-school parent-child sort of relationship."

Millennial managers can be "difficult to work with," said Joel Wolfe, the founder and president of customer-service agency HiredSupport. "They have fixed schedules and aren't flexible, which is something difficult to adapt to, especially when you are working with different time zones.”

This may make them seem inflexible and thus vulnerable when layoffs happen, he said.

But Gen Zers "are new to the world of work, and they do really need managers to help them find the ropes," said Shoshanna Davis, the founder of Fairy Job Mother and a consultant who helps young people with their careers. "Ultimately, eliminating this kind of middle-management position means less guidance, less coaching, and less mentoring, which I feel like is still desperately needed in a post-COVID world."