The changing roles of middle managers: a case study

Pao Yue-kong Library Electronic Theses Database

The changing roles of middle managers: a case study

 

Author: Cho, Chui-ying
Title: The changing roles of middle managers: a case study
Degree: M.Sc.
Year: 1996
Subject: Middle managers -- China -- Hong Kong -- Case studies
Executives -- China -- Hong Kong -- Case studies
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Multi-disciplinary Studies
Pages: viii, 189 leaves ; 30 cm
Language: English
InnoPac Record: http://library.polyu.edu.hk/record=b1235647
URI: http://theses.lib.polyu.edu.hk/handle/200/1515
Abstract: This is a dissertation about the changes on the roles and attitudes of middle management in Hong Kong in the 1990s. Middle management plays a key role as a bridge between top management and the operational level. Thus, they are important groups in an organization. Middle managers were depicted as "Organization Men" in the 1960s. They devoted all their time to work. Career plans were seen as the prime life goals and families were treated as secondary to careers. However, political uncertainty, economic recession, social changes, advancement in information technology, more competitive markets and more concern on quality and services are taking place. In response to that, organizations need to change. They may consider restructuring from an hierarchical to a flatter organization, resulting in down-sizing and redefining business strategies. To cope with the new structures, the roles of middle managers are changing. They are becoming 'business managers' who are commercially oriented and pro-active. They are assigned with additional functions such as human resources, finance, quality control, customer services, cost control, etc., but not necessarily with additional rewards. The time, skills and efforts require for these broader roles are more demanding. Many middle managers do not welcome the changes and thus, their work attitudes begin to alter. They faced problems like limited authority, limited autonomy, promotion blockage and insecurity of job. One possible outcome is that they are not as committed to the organization as before, becoming 'reluctant managers' (Scase and Goffee, 1989). They may reorder their personal goals, and will not rate job satisfaction as life satisfaction. They may reduce their working time and even may consider changing jobs. In this dissertation, we measure organizational commitment as an impact of the changing roles, in terms of identification, involvement and loyalty. A research model is build up to test the correlation among job characteristics (skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy and feedback), role states (role conflict, role ambiguity and role overload) and personal characteristics (age, education, organization and position tenure and hierarchy level) with organizational commitment. A case study of an insurance service company was carried out to gather data for testing the model and hypotheses. In-depth interviews were conducted with 10 middle managers to understand their change of roles, their job characteristics and their attitudes toward the changes. In addition, a survey was carried out to four levels of managers: top, middle, first-line and assistant managers, to measure their level of organizational commitment, job characteristics and role states. The findings of the interviews support the argument that middle managers are requested by top management to act as 'business managers'. However, the responses of middle managers to this changing role are mixed. Some do not agree on the Management's philosophy while some do not want added responsibilities without added autonomy, or added rewards. Some do not like to be assigned without consultations. Thus, the commitment of many managers appear to have declined. There was a suggestion judging from the interviews that many are indeed becoming 'reluctant managers' (Scase and Goffee, 1989). The findings of the survey show that job characteristics, role states and personal characteristics have a positive correlation with organizational commitment. Furthermore, there is evidence that middle managers are less committed to the organization than top managers. To help middle managers cope with such problems, recommendations on improving job characteristics and role states are provided, which are very important in enhancing their level of organizational commitment.

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