3 Levels of Management Explained: Top, Middle, Lower

Managers are members of an organization who are charged with the responsibility of supervising other members. Typically, there are 3 primary levels of management: top, middle and lower.

These levels of authority form a hierarchy. Each level is discussed in this article, along with the chief responsibilities. Most business management careers span all levels of the hierarchy, although there are some exceptions (e.g. entrepreneur, general manager, and small business owner).

Top Level Management: Executive Bosses

Top managers are the highest level managers in the business management hierarchy. Their job is complex and demands complete commitment and dedication to the organization. They are carry a high amount of responsibility for the success or failure of the organization.

Top managers include Board of Directors, Chairman, Managing Director, President, Vice President, General Manager, and Chief Executive Officer.

Top-level managers perform the following main functions:

  1. Develop the long-term objectives. Top managers develop the long-term objectives such as manpower planning, distribution of capital, and expansion of the business.
  2. Framing of policies and plans. They formulate and lay down the guidelines for the departmental heads; such as policies relating to production, personnel, marketing, public relation and finance.
  3. Making key appointments. Top authority appoint the key personnel (such as the departmental heads) so as to develop a structure that ensures profitable growth of the organization.
  4. Organizing. Top-level authorities organize the enterprise into various department and sections to achieve the set objectives. They also organize the activities to be carried out by executives in middle management. For example, they may look to integrate human resources and digital marketing staff and functions.
  5. Controlling. They periodically review the work of the executives at various levels to ensure that their performance is at par with the set plans of the organization.

Middle Level Management: Middle Managers

Office buildings, looking up front street-level view.

Middle managers act as the link between the top authority and supervisory management. They implement and control strategies and plans formulated by top-level managers. They have a tactical role.

Middle managers receive instructions and orders from top-level authority and pass them to lower managers for implementation. This level comprises of heads of the various department such as production manager, finance manager, sales manager, and marketing manager.

The main functions include:

  1. Interpreting the policies formulated by the top authority to supervisory level. Middle managers act as the linking pin between the top level managers and the lower level supervisors. They only explain the main policies and plans framed by top management to supervisory level.
  2. They organize the activities of their department to ensure execution of policies and plans, such as online training. Being the heads of departments, middle-level managers organize all the activities and resources of their respective department.
  3. Appointing and recruiting employees for their departments. They look and select employees to work under their departments.
  4. Assigning duties. They assign responsibilities and duties to supervisory and operative personnel to ensure execution of their respective departmental plans.
  5. Communication. They communicate decision and orders downwards and also carries complaints and suggestions upwards.
  6. Coordination. They cooperate and coordinate with other departments to ensure smooth functioning of the business.

Here are five examples of manager roles that would normally be considered to be at middle management level.

  1. Department manager: A department manager is responsible for overseeing the daily operations of a specific department within an organization. They set goals and objectives for their department, manage budgets and resources, and ensure that their team is meeting performance targets.
  2. Project manager: A project manager is responsible for the planning, execution, and delivery of a specific project within an organization. They may manage a team of employees or contractors, set project timelines, and ensure that the project stays on track and within budget.
  3. Area manager: An area manager is responsible for overseeing the operations of a specific geographic region or location within an organization. They may manage multiple teams or departments within their area, set goals and objectives, and ensure that performance targets are met.
  4. Production manager: A production manager is responsible for overseeing the production process within a manufacturing or industrial setting. They may manage a team of production workers, set production schedules, and ensure production goals are met.
  5. Retail manager: A retail manager is responsible for overseeing the operations of a retail store or chain. They may manage a team of sales associates, set sales targets, and ensure customer service standards are met.

Lower Level Management: Work Supervisors

Lower-level managers are also considered as supervisory or operational managers. They are the first-line managers who oversee the implementation of policies and plans by the workforce in an organization. They consist of forepersons, inspectors, supervisors, etc.

Lower level managers perform the following functions:

  1. Represent the grievances or complaints of workers before the middle managers. The operational level managers directly link with subordinates and therefore, are able to understand their grievances better. They pass these grievances to the middle authority.
  2. Develop healthy relations between the middle managers and subordinates. The lower level managers create supportive working environment and conditions to improve the relations between subordinates and top supervisors.
  3. Assist the middle-level managers in selecting, recruiting, and appointing workers to the department. The supervisory managers help and guide the middle managers when they recruit and appoint employees.
  4. They motivate the workforce; being responsible for developing team spirit and boosting the morale of the workers.
  5. Looking after the safety of workers. Supervisory managers provide secure and safe working environment for workers.
  6. Discipline. Operational managers maintain discipline among the workers by taking corrective actions when necessary.
  7. Training. They arrange for the training of workers in the workplace.

Benefits of a Clear Structure / Hierarchy

Having a clear business management hierarchy in place enables enterprises and organization to succeed and remain competitive. It enables everyone in the organization to understand their duties, helping to create a smooth workflow. You can expect significant changes in tasks and responsibilities as you move up the hierarchy across the breadth of management functions.


Middle level management refers to the managers in an organization who are responsible for overseeing the work of a department or group of employees. Middle level managers report to upper level managers, such as directors or vice presidents. They have their own subordinates, such as team leaders or supervisors, reporting to them.

In organizations, management can be organized into four levels:

  1. Top management: This level includes the highest-level executives in an organization, such as the CEO, president, and vice presidents. They are responsible for setting the overall strategy and direction of the organization, as well as making high-level decisions.
  2. Middle management: This level includes managers who are responsible for implementing the strategies and plans set by top management. They often oversee a team or department and are responsible for coordinating the work of their subordinates to achieve the goals of the organization.
  3. Lower management: This level includes managers who are responsible for overseeing the day-to-day activities of a team or unit. They often have direct supervision over individual employees and are responsible for allocating work, setting deadlines, and ensuring that work is completed according to the standards set by higher levels of management.
  4. Supervisory management: This level includes front-line supervisors and team leaders who are responsible for overseeing the work of a group of employees. They often have direct contact with employees and are responsible for providing guidance, support, and feedback to help employees perform their jobs effectively.

Compared to the three levels of management model, the four-level version essentially splits the role of lower level management into two. It’s worth noting that the specific titles and roles at each level of management may vary depending on the size and type of organization.

One thought on “3 Levels of Management Explained: Top, Middle, Lower

  1. You can also have a flat management structure. This is where you have few levels of management (maybe just two or three in practice), and there is a relatively low degree of hierarchical differentiation. With a flat structure, employees often have more direct contact with top management and have more opportunities to participate in decision-making.

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