Managing Middlescence

Harv Bus Rev. 2006 Mar;84(3):78-86, 149.


They make up more than half your workforce. They work longer hours than anyone else in your company. From their ranks come most of your top managers. They're your midcareer employees, the solid citizens between the ages of 35 and 55 whom you bank on for their loyalty and commitment. And they're not happy. In fact, they're burned out, bored, and bottlenecked, new research reveals. Only 33% of the 7700 workers the authors surveyed feel energized by their work; 36% say they're in dead-end jobs. One in three is not satisfied with his or her job. One in five is looking for another. Welcome to middlescence. Like adolescence, it can be a time of frustration, confusion, and alienation. But it can also be a time of self-discovery, new direction, and fresh beginnings. Today, millions of midcareer men and women are wrestling with middlescence-looking for ways to balance work, family, and leisure while hoping to find new meaning in theirjobs. The question is, Will they find it in your organization or elsewhere? Companies are ill prepared to manage middlescence because it is so pervasive, largely invisible, and culturally uncharted. That neglect is bad for business: Many companies risk losing some of their best people or-even worse-ending up with an army of disaffected people who stay. The best way to engage middlescents is to tap into their hunger for renewal and help them launch into more meaningful roles. Perhaps managers can't grant a promotion to everyone who merits one in today's flat organizations, but you may be able to offer new training, fresh assignments, mentoring opportunities, even sabbaticals or entirely new career paths within your own company. Millions of midcareer men and women would like nothing better than to convert their restlessness into fresh energy. They just need the occasion-and perhaps a little assistance-to unleash and channel all that potential.

MeSH terms

  • Commerce
  • Humans
  • Motivation*
  • Personnel Management / methods*
  • United States