The Death Spiral of Middle Management

Got a friend who's currently in a creative death spiral. He's got the lead design gig at a large corporation. Which means he now has designers looking up for direction. And management looking down for progress. 

And it's that pinch that's got him making powerpoint presentations at 9pm because the next day already full from meetings. 

It's a weird position that I was in for only three months because quite frankly it was too much. 

Especially if the two upward and downward forces are too unstable. You end up having to constantly smooth and pivot and change and adjust each time management changes its mind, or panics over the timeline, or adds something, or fires something. Meanwhile, your designers who don't have the full view of the landscape and politics question you when you have to disrupt them. 

They won't know that even that bad news has been made better because of you. Because all they know is that the bad news you're delivering. 

It's a position of tension, you're the circuit for all the bad news. Not to mention that often you still have create and design on-top of the management. You can only delegate so much when the CEO wants you to handle something personally. Or when you know that you're the best person to create the design (whether because of time or skill.) 

But why it's a death spiral is because it's often so draining that you don't have the energy to find a new job. You get home, and don't want to do anything else. Not even make dinner. Much less check LinkedIn, or update resumes, or write cover letters. You're exhausted. 

For those who have the temperament, that's great. That's an awesome skill. But my perspective of a creative, the tension of knowing things could be better gets to you. That the process feels broken. And that people are so disappointed all the time. And that you feel like you're not doing enough "real" work in an environment that lets you do "great" work. It eats at you.

So that's why I had to leave. Every work place has its issues, but whether it's toxic to you and whether you have the energy or want to solve it -- that's up to you.