Student Name: NAFIS CHOWDHURY
Student ID: 13313106018
Course Name: HUMAN Capital Development
Course Code: GM523
Program: Master in Textile and Clothing Management
Campuslocation: Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea
Dr. Charle Hang
Submission Date: 17/11/2015
1: How and why do middle managers support and resist strategic change?
A view expressed by Floyd and Wooldridge (1994: p.48) defined middle management and
the middle manager as: “the coordinator between daily activities of the units and the
strategic activities of the hierarchy.” They stress the middle manager’s role as “a link, a tie
between top managers and operational workers ... more thanthe ‘hierarchical’ definitions”
(as cited in Vogler, 2007). This view applies across a wide range organizationtypes and
organization context. The middle management role in strategy execution remains a critical
issue in the success of strategic initiatives.
Middle managers, or that group of people located between the senior management team and
frontline workers, are often seen as the crucial audience in strategy implementation.
However, this layer is also the most at risk during any restructuring or downsizing initiative.
We aim to discuss and critically evaluate the why middle managers resist and support
strategic change and how middle managers support and resist strategic change, before
concluding as to what situational pressures can cause middle managers to support or resist
First of all it is imperative to understand why strategic change takes place within
organisations; many infer strategic change arises as organisations try to cope with “continual
alteration, evolution and… revolution” in the environment. Such authors go further in
offering explanations into how strategic change is implemented through the use of middle
management. It is well knownthat middle managers’ hold great importance as they act
simultaneously as change recipients; absorbing change and as change implementers;
applying change. However, such changes such as the flattering of organisational structures
have seen middle managers as obsolete with many adopting the phrase ‘The death of middle
Middle managers resist to strategic change:
Researches into middle managers experience with change, several reasons are put forward as
to why middle managers resist strategic change. The most occurring and prevalent theme
across literature is the increased work pressures. Work pressures such as ‘larger workloads;
increased insecurity and surveillance; replacement of permanent by temporary contracts;
and a decline in ‘life-time’ employment’, can lead to anxiety, stress, emotional dissonance
and a feeling of uncertainty. Uncertainty occurs in situations of ambiguity, whereby
information provided is inconsistent, within the definition of uncertainty Brashers (2001)
describes the role of uncertainty management as a need to lessen uncertainty comes from the
incentive to communicate. As middle managers struggle to facilitate communication and
provide support between senior management and employees, resistance can arise in the
form of uncertainty. Often referred to as role conflict. What can be inferred is that the
absence of support and communication during the pre-implementation process of change
and the implementation of change can hinder middle managers’ uncertainty management
and essentially the way they deal with change.
It seems to be general knowledge that change is often resisted though a top-down change
approach because within this approach change is imposed by senior management, with little
consideration of those within the change process hence why middle managers experience
greater uncertainty and are disillusioned in a top-down change approach.
Resistance to change is often seen as negative and as something that needs to be resolved
and/or minimised. It is observed that resistance from middle managers can lead to higher
intentions to leave, lower levels of commitment and a demotivated attitude towards change,
as middle managers distance themselves from the process of change. All of which are
described as features of resistance to change. This is supported by recent work by
Thornthwaite and McGraw (2012) who recognises that middle managers may resist change
“passively” by resigning, or waiting to be forced out.
A number of reasons have been identified to why and how middle managers resist change.
The literature studied above acknowledges the importance of middle managers as
negotiators between the organisations strategic and operational levels’. However it is also
argues that middle managers act as barriers to change by distancing themselves from the
processes of change and by resigning or waiting to be forced out of the organisation. The
overriding reason for this presented across literature is the due to the increased workload
and commitment required from them.
The middle managers find themselves locked in silos (functional, geographic, business line,
etc.) and the dynamics of the system keeps them at a distance from each other. With time
and with increasing complex hierarchical and matrix structures, the dispersion increases and
some managers may find themselves isolated and unsupported.
The most common reasons why middle managers resist change are-
Loss of status or job security in the organization
Non-reinforcing reward systems
Surprise and fear of the unknown
Climate of mistrust
Fear of failure
Lack of tact or poor timing
Middle managers support to strategic change:
Many case studies have acknowledged that change is more successful and supported by
middle managers when a bottom up change approach is implemented. This is because
middle managers feel involved engaged and motivated within the change process. This is
further supported by the classification of middle managers as creators, designers and
implementers. Research showed that middle managers who had strategic involvement as
Creators and Designers were more certain about the role within the change process and thus
more likely to support strategic change within the organisation.
Although in some cases it is noted that while some middle managers who experienced
increased responsibility, greater autonomy and ‘up skilling’ during periods of structural
changes were more likely to support change, this was only in relation to reward such as
improved bonuses and salaries.
Middle managers also support change in different ways. A commonfeature across literature
for the support of change is communication. Research shows that middle managers stress
the importance of “communications and the provision of information” to fellow employees in
achieving organisational change. This is reflected in a 2006 study, whereby middle managers
communicated at different stages of the change initiatives, described as ‘Pre-implementation
communication with employees’ and during the Implementation.
Middle managers manage aspects of work by “networking” also described as “peer
interaction”. In these two examples middle managers were able to hear and share ideas and
interact with other managers across departments and regions. Although literature discussed
stresses the increased workload for middle managers, it is noted that middle managers also
experience greater autonomy and are able to support change by undertaking research to
increase the success rate of change initiatives. Further allowing middle managers understand
the goals and need of strategic change and reiterating this to employees.
However middle managers also support change, with many recognising the need for change
in ensuring the successfulness/growth of the organisation. Thus many middle managers are
motivated to the idea of change and this is made apparent in the increase of middle
managers communication links between senior management and employees and developing
support networks; increasing the level of interaction across levels of the organisation.
The middle managers have a crucial role in a successful implementation of strategic changes.
Due to their interaction with customers, suppliers and other stakeholders they can provide
top management with useful insights related to strategy definition. Their knowledge of the
organization and business processes is helpful in defining the right planning of strategic
changes. Moreover, middle managers are the key drivers in motivating their teams and
translating the strategic direction into practices that make strategy happen. Based on the
literature and this research, we conclude that middle management’s role in strategic changes
can vary depending on the organizational context, the relational focus and the phase of the
strategic change. Middle managers canplay different roles, but all of them can be categorized
in one of the three main role types abstracted from the literature: the Implementer, the
Networker or the Sense-maker. If we look at the development of middle management’s role
in strategic changes we canconclude that it follows the development of the strategic process.
Normative and theoretical research opportunities remain to be developed by researchers
who should take into account the attributes of the situation, factors driven by management,
and topics and approaches not yet fully explored by the research community.
The possession of excellent ‘soft skills’ by middle managers is a hugely important aspect of
their role. These soft skills are essential for the smooth execution of strategic change and
implementation. These findings concur with Hardy (1996) who argues that to overcome the
shortcomings regarding an organisational strategy, middle managers must be capable of
acting politically and using their power. Hardy (1996) declares that power is needed to
orchestrate and direct actions that are crucial to the realisation of strategic goals within
organisations appear to conclude that middle managers have little influence on the choice of
strategy adopted by their organisation. It may be that not every middle manager should
aspire to be top managers because their own role as middle manager is unique in it and
therefore has a very important place within the structure of an organisation. A wise middle
manager, acting with integrity and possessing the necessary soft skills can pave the way for a
smooth transition of strategic change and implementation which may be crucial to the
outcomes of their organisation.
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