This article explores literature on middle managers and the competing roles they play during implementation of change, and presents theory of negotiated order as a framework for further understanding these challenges. Theory of negotiated order highlights social order as emerging from the process of negotiation regarding how work is organized on a day-to-day basis. The article builds upon existing middle management studies by focusing on how roles are negotiated and, in particular, explores the negotiation processes through which middle managers move to manage competing roles. The article argues that management scholars seeking to use theory of negotiated order should focus specifically on characteristics of the negotiation context, as well as social and structural contexts in which order is negotiated. It is also argued that empirical research take specific contextual factors into consideration as well as be conducted at three levels in which middle managers negotiate order: new ways of working, negotiation within the self, and negotiation of boundaries in which middle managers can legitimately negotiate. This information could provide insight into why middle managers engage in the decision-making strategies or activities that they do, or why they do not take a certain course of action in implementing change allowing management researchers to better tailor management strategies to specific organizational environments. Although theory of negotiated order promises new insights into middle management challenges during change, the challenges associated with using this approach are also acknowledged and discussed.
Bryant, M., & Stensaker, I. (2011). The Competing Roles of Middle Management: Negotiated Order In the Context of Change. Journal of Change Management, 11(3), 353-373. https://doi.org/10.1080/14697017.2011.586951