Middle Manager Role in Organizational Change
Employee readiness for change is a mindset and can be defined as the “beliefs, attitudes and intentions regarding the extent to which changes are needed and organizational capacity to successfully undertake those changes” (Armenakis, Harris & Mossholder, 1993, p. 681). Readiness is important because the state of employee readiness to adopt change affects organization success in implementation and return on the investment of change efforts. Employee readiness to change includes employee confidence that the people leading the change have to expertise to lead it, a belief that the change is necessary, alignment around the urgency for change and the extent to which employees feel capable of adapting to change (Armenkais & Fredenberger, 1997). Middle managers play a critical role in operationalizing change initiatives by aligning their business unit with senior executive change initiatives (Balogun & Johnson, 2004). Senior management relies on middle managers as communicators of organization decisions and as implementation leaders who possess technical knowledge and functional skills to lead change (Guth and MacMillan, 1986). As such middle managers are the “lynchpins of organizational change, acting as intermediaries between top management and the front line” (Luscher & Lewis, 2009, p. 221) making sense of the change and disseminating that meaning to followers so that they can align their actions and behaviors accordingly.
Literature on the middle manager’s contributions to leading major change has tended to portray them as having a modest role or being a barrier rather than a driving force for change (Huy, 2002, Guth & MacMillan, 1986). Their role traditionally has been to enact changes developed by senior management rather than create organization change. Middle managers are often challenged during implementation to support and lead changes that they don’t fully understand or support. And concern for their own self-interest has been shown to affect the degree of their commitment to change. Managers who do not believe in a strategic change or do not believe their efforts will lead to success may struggle to support directives from the top (Guth & MacMillan, 1986). Their role in implementing change has been characterized as that of a ‘juggler’ who must balance their role as a recipient of change, change leader and ‘emotional balancer’ (Huy, 2002). Consequently middle managers often find themselves in situations where they need to negotiate a ‘new order of things’ shifting between conflicting roles as target of a change, and change implementer (Bryant & Stensaker, 2011) while maintaining normal day to day business operations.
Alternative points of view have suggested that middle managers are a strategic asset during organization change (Wooldridge & Schmid & Floyd, 2008). Middle managers are responsible for designing and implementing a plan that meets senior leaders’ directives. Studies have shown...