Managing Change, or Changing Managers? The role of middle managers in UK public service reform

Mark Gatenby, Chris Rees, Catherine Truss, Kerstin Alfes, Emma Soane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Drawing upon interview data from three case study organizations, we examine the role of middle managers in UK public service reform. Using theory fragments from organizational ecology and role theory, we develop three role archetypes that middle managers might be enacting. We find that rather than wholesale enactment of a ‘change agent’ role, middle managers are balancing three predominant, but often conflicting, change-related roles: as ‘government agent’, ‘diplomat administrator’ and, less convincingly, ‘entrepreneurial leader’. Central government targets are becoming the main preoccupation for middle managers across many public services and they represent a dominant constraint on allowing ‘managers to manage’.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1124-1145
Number of pages22
JournalPublic Management Review
Issue number8
Early online date20 Mar 2014
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 2015
Externally publishedYes

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