Middle Manager Role in Organizational Change

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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...

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... employees wanting to absorb and adapt to their new circumstances (Woodward & Hendry, 2004). Communicating effectively “contributes to the formulation of positive attitudes to change” and ultimately to successful implementation (Vakola & Nikolaou, 2005, p. 170).
Research on sensemaking and sensegiving has focused primarily on top management that formulates the strategy and develops a scheme for identifying and interpreting future scenarios. Some researchers have argued that middle managers are not privy to the broad view top managers have of the organizations and participate in strategy execution rather than development. Their focus is on the day-to-day activities required to run the business. (Huy, 2002). Others have demonstrated the important role of middle managers in influencing the meaning of strategic change for frontline staff (Balogun & Johnson, 2004).
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