Manager vs. Senior Manager: What's the Difference?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated July 22, 2022 | Published March 12, 2020

Updated July 22, 2022

Published March 12, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

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A small team gathers on an empty office floor to discuss strategy.

Understanding the different levels of management within a company may help you know which jobs to target during a job search. When you choose roles closest to your level of education and experience, you increase your chances for an interview.

In this article, we discuss the roles and primary responsibilities related to managers and senior managers and learn about their key differences.

What are the roles and responsibilities of a manager?

Managers commonly assume a supervisory role over a specific team in their department to achieve company goals. They typically have one to four years of experience managing teams and report to senior managers, directors, vice presidents or owners of the company.

A manager may have a wide range of roles and responsibilities, depending on the size of the company. Common responsibilities are as follows:

1. Oversee a small group of employees

Managers assume a leadership role as they oversee the efforts of employees within their department. This includes daily communication with key members of the team who must work to meet company deadlines.

Overseeing several professionals at once means managers must have exceptional organizational skills and the confidence required to assign and follow up with tasks.

Related: How To Be a Good Manager

2. Hire and train new staff

Managers recognize when the demands of a project exceed employee resources and often request hiring additional staff members. Once the executive team approves their request, managers assist the human resources department in creating job listings, interviewing potential candidates, making job offers and training new hires.

3. Support and coach existing employees

Employees often need guidance and direction from managers to complete projects. Managers help their team members by providing additional steps and resources that help employees move ahead with confidence. They may provide reassurance and praise when the team is meeting goals on schedule or working efficiently.

Related: Supervisory Experience vs. Managerial Experience (With Steps)

4. Monitor performance and conduct evaluations

Part of the management role involves monitoring the progress of team members. Those who are underperforming may need redirection or a special one-on-one meeting to determine the reasons behind their actions. Top performers may earn additional praise through promotions and bonuses. Managers often conduct annual reviews to gauge an employee's level of effort and enthusiasm in their role.

5. Set individual and team goals

Managers who make an effort to set individual and team goals commonly experience greater levels of success because everyone knows their expectations. Individual goals help shape progress on a personal level, while team goals provide a clear direction for all roles involved.

Related: How To Set Goals as a Team: Steps and Examples

6. Review expenses and budgets

Managers make decisions based on company budgets, which necessitates their involvement in overseeing departmental expenses. Referencing budget information determines the overall plan of action throughout the year, including any hiring decisions.

7. Collaborate with multiple departments

It is common for managers of a department to team up with other department heads to achieve the completion of a company goal.

For example, in e-commerce settings, any changes to the website involving sales, content and other updates typically require collaboration between the marketing, sales and IT departments. The customer service department may need to be aware of the changes in sales, so they know how to handle customer inquiries.

Read more: Cross-Departmental Collaboration: 12 Tips To Foster It at Work

8. Conduct department meetings

Although managers may communicate regularly with their teams, they often hold weekly meetings to ensure everyone understands which tasks take priority. As the week goes on, additional updates to the original strategy may necessitate another meeting to keep progress on track.

Managers also hold additional meetings with key stakeholders and other department heads to report progress happening within their team. They essentially act as the liaison between their team members and upper management.

Read more: How To Conduct Meetings

9. Plan upcoming goals and initiatives

The specific duties of a manager often vary from one company to the next. Larger companies have multiple levels of managers responsible for different aspects of the organization like production, projects, administration, development, marketing, information technology and other areas.

Smaller businesses and retail stores may have one general manager who oversees all employees, including lower levels of management like supervisors.

Related: Learn About Being a Manager

What are the roles and responsibilities of a senior manager?

Managers in a senior-level position may possess many of the same responsibilities as a manager, though on a more strategic level. They often have five to 10 years of managerial experience and specialize in a particular area of business like marketing or accounting. They typically:

1. Guide supervisors

Senior-level managers possess the knowledge and expertise to guide supervisors in their roles. Because this position is a level up from the role of a manager, the level of responsibility increases in a broader scope.

The senior title commonly follows the manager's background, where they oversee their department. For example, they may hold the title of senior marketing manager, senior accounting manager and other titles that add another layer of management to a department.

Related: Advancing Your Career With Leadership Development

2. Approve hiring and firing requests

When managers recognize the need to add new team members or let go of specific employees, they typically must get approval from senior-level managers. This is because they have a better understanding of the company's unique challenges and culture.

They often possess valuable insight regarding the desired skills and passion needed for the job. When ending employment, they want to ensure that they understand the truth behind the decision, which may take time to evaluate.

Related: 11 Items To Include in Your New Hire Checklist

3. Create organizational objectives

Senior managers often set precise goals and objectives based on a strategic planning process. They create the overall direction of their team, implementing this strategy through strong communication that includes a plan of action, clear expectations and accountability. Their objectives become the focus of the department, which lower-level managers may refer to as they lead their team members in daily tasks.

4. Make critical decisions

Increased responsibility in a senior-level role means increased exposure to problem-solving and decision-making in the workplace. Senior managers must understand how to identify issues and resolve time-sensitive challenges that arise. This requires creativity and innovation to find new solutions to complex issues.

Related: Why Is Decision-Making an Important Leadership Skill?

5. Manage department budgets

Senior managers commonly control cost and budgeting for the departments they oversee. They work with the manager to ensure funds get used appropriately and the budget stays on track.

In addition, they prepare financial reports for the chief financial officer (CFO) and forward important records, including invoices, contracts and receipts, to the accounting department for safekeeping. They may collaborate with other senior managers and executives to evaluate quarterly spending.

6. Improve employee performance

While managers hold the main responsibility of overseeing employee performance, senior managers work to maximize the team's efficiency, productivity and performance. For example, as managers are keeping employees accountable for meeting goals and deadlines, senior managers are going one step further by employing efficient work methods. This may take the form of online productivity tools, company workshops and performance challenges.

Read more: 14 Strategies To Improve Employee Performance

7. Possess strong technical computer skills

As senior-level managers become more involved with different aspects of the company, they often take on more responsibility in addition to creating word documents and spreadsheets.

Depending on their unique role, they may need to learn specialized software founded on accounting and coding principles. They may also use a database management system and possibly enterprise resource planning software (ERP).

Managers may progress to senior-level positions by demonstrating proficiency in all aspects of their roles. Their performance history, professional qualifications, experience levels and area of expertise all factor into potential promotions.

Related: Learn About Being a Senior Project Manager

Main differences between a manager and senior manager

When determining the differences between managers and senior managers, there are several considerations:

  • Years of experience: Hiring managers often look at how long you've worked in a previous role and compare your level of experience with other candidates, though this is not always the determining factor when making the final selection.

  • Level of expertise: Companies value candidates who have extensive experience in their field. Listing top achievements helps define your level of expertise, which may be more important than having seven years of experience.

  • Area of specialty: Every manager comes from a unique background that offers valuable insight into their industry. Companies often look for candidates with specific backgrounds that will help them achieve their business goals.

Other levels of management

There are other levels of management within the manager designation. Some of these roles include:

  • Line managers: Responsible for overseeing the production or delivery of goods and services

  • Product managers: Responsible for the development of products, including its function and features

  • Project managers: Those assigned to manage a single project for a company

  • Lower management: This includes supervisors, foremen, office superintendents and departmental heads who oversee the daily activities and tasks of their team members daily

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