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Careering downwards? Middle Management in the Downsized Organization

By Robyn Thomas and D. Dunkerley


The future of middle management has been the focus of attention in the media, following a period of unprecedented restructuring in organizations. However, there are mixed messages in the literature on the impact that this restructuring has had on middle managers' roles and careers, as well as on their reaction to these changes. It is the aim of this paper to address some of these tensions and contradictions. The research presented here is based on a two-year study of middle management in 50 organizations across both the public and private sectors, involving semi-structured interviews with middle managers and key decision-makers. The findings show that, paradoxically, whilst middle managers report feelings of greater job satisfaction from increased empowerment over their work roles, this is in tandem with working in intensified work regimes with increased pressures and stress. Many middle managers are still looking towards hierarchical career progression as the main reward for their continued commitment, despite this being significantly diminished in the downsized, delayered organization. The denial of this reward for what is seen by many middle managers as excessive work demands, it is suggested, will ultimately lead to middle managers becoming increasingly bitter and jaundiced

Topics: HD28
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
Year: 1999
OAI identifier: oai:
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