Rethinking 'top-down' and 'bottom-up' roles of top and middle managers in organizational change: implications for employee support

Mariano L. M. Heyden, Sebastian P. L. Fourné, Bastiaan A. S. Koene, Renate Werkman, Shahzad (Shaz) Ansari

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40 Citations (Scopus)


In this study we integrate insights from 'top-down' and 'bottom-up' traditions in organizational change research to understand employees' varying dispositions to support change. We distinguish between change initiation and change execution roles and identify four possible role configurations in which top managers (TMs) and middle managers (MMs) can feature in change. We contend that both TMs and MMs can play change initiation and/or change execution roles, TMs and MMs have different strengths and limitations for taking on different change roles, and their relative strengths and limitations are compounded or attenuated based on the specific configuration of change roles. We subsequently hypothesize employee support for change in relation to different TM-MM change role configurations. Our findings show that change initiated by TMs does not engender above-average level of employee support. However, change initiated by MMs engenders above-average level of employee support, and even more so, if TMs handle the change execution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)961-985
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Management Studies
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017


  • Change execution
  • Change initiation
  • Change roles
  • Employee support
  • Middle managers
  • Top managers

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