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Staff more likely to back changes implemented by middle management

Organisational change initiated by middle managers wins greater employee support than change launched by top managers, a study co-authored at Cambridge Judge Business School has found.

The study published in the Journal of Management Studies says that to effect fruitful change companies should blend the different skills of top managers (TMs) and middle managers (MMs) and break away from a blame culture in which TMs blame MMs for being ‘unenthusiastic’ and MMs blame TMs for being ‘unwilling to listen’.

Report co-author Shaz Ansari, Professor of Strategy and Innovation at Cambridge Judge Business School, said: “Our study looks at how middle managers and top managers can best work together to win employee support and drive constructive change. The most employee support comes when middle managers devise the change ideas; support is then strengthened if top managers implement those steps.”

The study, based on 1,795 survey responses in 468 organisations undergoing substantive change, cites middle managers’ proximity to employees and knowledge of core technologies as key factors in their ability to win over rank-and-file support for changes they instigate.

This support is amplified when the MMs’ ideas are carried out by top managers, owing to TMs’ conceptualisation and resource-allocation skills.

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