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From Where We Sit

Middle of the pack

Anton Ng

The moment we had our third daughter, I was very conscious of the fact that we now have a middle child in the family. At the onset, I really wanted to pay very particular attention to our second one, because I did not want her to ever feel that she is being left out. Over the past few weeks, however, I have been noticing that the situation I have tried to avoid is happening.

Although it could be unintentional, parents tend to give more attention to the eldest and the youngest.
The eldest child is essentially a parent’s first experience in almost everything when it comes to having a family. The first child is a parent’s first experience of going through sleepless nights to feed the baby, changing diapers, dealing with tantrums in public, tutoring for school, and a whole lot more. Being first somehow requires a certain level of attention that only the eldest child receives.

The youngest, on the other hand, seems to know that she has our full attention whenever she smiles, giggles, whines, and cries. Among our daughters, she was the only one who slept with us on our bed. This leaves our second daughter to feel, based on my observations, she is not getting the attention she needs from her parents and even from her older sibling.

This feeling of being left out, of feeling the lack of attention, can also happen in organizations. A certain level of attention is normally given to the top and bottom performers. Top performers are given opportunities not available to everyone. They sometimes have more exposure with the leadership of the organization, because of the projects assigned to them or because they are given the opportunity to be mentored by someone from senior management.

Bottom performers, on the other hand, also receive a certain level of focus by management. Together, they discuss how to improve performance or how to produce better outputs. Both the top and bottom performers are somewhat known among the leadership of an organization.

The middle group, which is sometimes the biggest chunk of the employees, may be the ones feeling left out. With limited time and resources at an organization’s disposal, those in the middle of the pack are sometimes the ones that do not get the attention that could aid them in further enhancing their performance. Since their performance is just about right, there are times when there are no specific plans laid out for them for their career progression within an organization They can even be at a loss as to what their future is if they continue where they are.

By not giving attention to middle-of-the-pack employees, an organization might miss out on developing talents that were just not given the right opportunities to show their capabilities. Oftentimes, this realization would only surface when these talents have already decided to leave the organization. We regret losing them, knowing that maybe there was something we could have done to retain such talent.

There are others who might be performing at an average level, because they are not fit to the kind of task assigned to them; given a different set of roles, the average employee can be one of the top performers. However, since not enough attention was given to them, the leadership was not able to identify who among the employees fits well in their current role.

The objective of engaging further with those in the middle of the pack is to understand their individual context with regards to their performance; to see whether they can further be stretched; and to evaluate whether they are fit.

Although there are obvious gains in putting in more effort in engaging with the average employees, the limited time and resources of an organization are some of the major reasons the lack of attention is happening in the first place. Just like ensuring that our middle child gets her fair share of attention, committing to such an exercise would require more time spent on employee engagement, a commitment exponentially more difficult to do than to act upon.

Anton Ng is a Partner in the Audit and Assurance division of P&A Grant Thornton. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading audit, tax, advisory, and outsourcing firms in the Philippines, with 23 partners and more than 900 staff members. We’d like to hear from you! Tweet us: @PAGrantThornton, like us on Facebook: P&A Grant Thornton, and email your comments to or For more information, visit our website:


As published in The Manila Times, dated 11 September 2019