Being in the middle of a conundrum is the worst kind of plight. Well, okay, being trapped in an ill-lit room with a bevy of rats might top being in a pickle with people. But that's a conundrum in its own right, right?

The other day I received a panicked call from a client at the rather unreasonable hour of 9:15 pm. I realize stress can do things to a person so I listened instead of reminding him that it was, well, after hours. A cheerless rant ensued until we got to the solution.

"The meeting will happen," I replied. "Not to worry." He seemed placated, at least for the moment.

It got me to thinking about work-life balance and what I could do to ensure life doesn't spiral out of control with calls like that one. And then I realized there really isn't much I can do about external circumstances. I could have chosen not to answer the phone, but knowing it was important, I opted to allow that work piece of my existence to bleed into the life part. We all make choices. I was not a victim of the phone, but chose to handle the caller instead.

Middle management seems to get the brunt of everyone's frustration. Like a middle manager, I have a work arrangement as a subcontractor that keeps me at the beck and call of client and sub-client. It can be a heady experience trying to keep everything afloat amidst a long list of agendas, concerns and requests.

According to a recent Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) report, middle managers in the UK are feeling excessive pressure as a result of the economic downturn. In its quarterly Employee Outlook survey of 2,000 employees, the CIPD reveals that nearly half (49%) of middle managers say they feel tremendous stress either every day or up to twice a week, compared to the overall survey average of 37%. Still, the average exhibits that well over one in three people have fallen off the work-life balance beam. At the same time, 44% of middle managers claimed they are satisfied with their work-life balance, compared to 70% among employees without managerial responsibilities.

One in three middle managers are concerned with job security, compared to 15% of senior managers. As well they should be. They are often the first in line when organizations seek to lay off workers.

But the power of slow is still evident in the following statement:

"It is also important that employers don't ignore the health and wellbeing of their middle managers," says Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy at the CIPD."With a fifth of middle managers saying they are under excessive pressure everyday they are particularly at risk of suffering from work-related stress and burnout."

Now we are back to the all too familiar burnout theme. How can we ensure we remain placid amidst the noise and haste? It starts with not taking things personally, even if others will never be satisfied. Recognize your value. You bring it to the table like no one else can. Honor that. Make choices based on what's important to you. If that means people will be mad, so be it. Embrace change. It opens up new possibilities.

If you find yourself in the middle right now, shift your focus. It will automatically change your position, too.

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