Strategy Implementation: The Impact of Demographic Characteristics on the Level of Support Received by Middle Managers

By Qi, Hantang | Management International Review, January 2005 | Go to article overview

Strategy Implementation: The Impact of Demographic Characteristics on the Level of Support Received by Middle Managers


Qi, Hantang, Management International Review


Abstract

* Middle managers of contemporary organizations play an important role in ensuring successful strategy implementation, which requires top managers to provide adequate support to them. One of the key factors determining the level of support is the demographic characteristics of middle managers.

* This article examines the impact of a middle manager's demographic characteristics on the level of support received during strategy implementation. Factors needed for successful strategy implementation are used to measure the level of support received by middle managers in the marketing department of selected UK private companies.

Key Results

* The findings suggest that (a) the majority of the middle managers surveyed were not satisfied with the level of support received for strategy implementation, (b) the demographic characteristics of middle managers affect the level of support provided by top managers. Issues relevant to the research findings are discussed drawing from a wide range of literature in management, organization and psychology.

Introduction

The middle manager's role is an important factor in the success of strategy implementation, and the support they receive from top managers is crucial (Guth/ MacMillan 1986). To facilitate strategy implementation, organizations need to clarify the role of middle managers, promote their learning and development in the work environment, enhance their teamwork and communication skills, and address the demands of work-life balance. Examining how leading organizations support middle managers, Booth and Farquhar (2003) have identified five challenges that middle managers face:

* executing strategy and delivering results;

* leading, motivating, and inspiring people to perform exceptionally;

* managing, developing, and retaining key talent;

* building relationships and influencing others; and

* building, leading, and participating in teams.

Facing the above challenges, however, middle managers often feel constrained and squeezed from all sides, particularly from the top. The imbalance between what is expected of them and their freedom to act is a source of stress and tension for this middle community. Without strong middle management involvement, the potential for excellent organizational performance will be hard to achieve (Wooldridge/Floyd 1990, Thakur 1998, Floyd/Wooldridge 1996, 2000).

Middle managers come from a wide spectrum of society. They differ in terms of gender, age, experience and education. Although Hambrick and Mason (1984) developed their ideas of demographic characteristics around top managers, their ideas also apply to middle managers because it is unlikely that managers only start to be influenced by their personal characteristics when they reach the upper echelon positions of the firm (Prahalad/Bettis 1987, Judge/Stahl 1995). As "relatively straightforward demographics data on managers may be potent predictors of strategies and performance levels" (Hambrick/Mason 1984, p. 204), it is therefore true to assume that the different demographic characteristics of middle managers will affect their behavior and performance and, in turn, will affect the amount of support supplied by their top managers.

Much organizational research has been devoted to exploring relationships between the demographic characteristics of workers and various work-related outcomes (Ostroff/Atwater 2003, p. 725). Research has not, however, examined the impact of the demographic characteristics of middle managers on the level of support they receive. This is surprising given the growing recognition of the importance of middle managers in strategy implementation (Judge/Stahl 1995, p. 91).

This study addresses this lacuna by looking at the relationship between the support that middle managers receive during strategy implementation and their demographic characteristics. …

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