The Paradox of Managerial Downsizing

Published on Sep 1, 2004in Organization Studies3.54
· DOI :10.1177/0170840604046314
Craig R. Littler4
Estimated H-index: 4
Peter Innes5
Estimated H-index: 5
Delayering and the flattening of organizational hierarchies was a widespread trend through the 1990s. Peters (1992) in the USA promoted flattening as an organizational strategy and Keuning and Opheij (1994) promoted the prescriptions in Europe. Despite these strategies and apparent structural changes, the number and ratio of managers appears to have grown. This paradox of managerial downsizing has not been adequately probed in the literature. The predominant explanation, that there has been a 'myth of managerial downsizing', is associated with Gordon (1996). However, this debate has been shaped by the US experience and data. There is a need to reassess the dynamics of the 1990s in relation to other economies. This article focuses on a semi-peripheral economy, that of Australia. A study of the population of firms over time is necessary in order to resolve the issues. The article utilizes a comprehensive range of data, including several national surveys and a longitudinal database of all larger private-sector firms in Australia during the 1990s. The results indicate that the 'myth of managerial downsizing' must be rejected. There were dramatic effects on managers through the course of the 1990s in larger Australian firms. The dynamics of the process are analysed, tracking 4,153 firms across the decade and the paradox explained. The theoretical implications are discussed.
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  • Citations (61)
Published on Apr 28, 2003in Journal of Management Studies5.84
Craig R. Littler1
Estimated H-index: 1
(RHUL: Royal Holloway, University of London),
Retha Wiesner9
Estimated H-index: 9
(University of Southern Queensland),
Richard Dunford14
Estimated H-index: 14
(Macquarie University)
The 1990s witnessed significant changes in organizational design philosophy. Unique to the 1990s were prescriptions for restructuring involving delayering (the planned vertical compression of managerial levels of hierarchy) (Keuning and Opheij, 1994; Peters, 1992). What did this mean in practice? The current understanding of delayering can be encapsulated in a 'delayering thesis'. However, outside of the USA and UK there has been limited study and measurement of the extent and effects of delayer...
Published on Dec 1, 2001in Administrative Science Quarterly8.02
Christina L. Ahmadjian6
Estimated H-index: 6
(University of California, Berkeley),
Patricia Robinson3
Estimated H-index: 3
(University of California, Berkeley)
This study examines the role of downsizing in the deinstitutionalization of permanent employment among publicly listed companies in Japan between 1990 and 1997. We found that although economic pressure triggered downsizing, social and institutional pressures shaped the pace and process by which downsizing spread. Large, old, wholly domestically owned, and high-reputation Japanese firms were resistant to downsizing at first, as were firms with high levels of human capital, as reflected by high wa...
Published on Oct 1, 1999in California Management Review5.00
Sanford M. Jacoby18
Estimated H-index: 18
Despite corporate downsizing and the rise of Silicon Valley, career-type employment practices remain prevalent in the United States. Evidence to support this claim is drawn from a variety of data on employee tenure and mobility; job creation and job quality; employer responses to labor-market tightness; and benefit and pay structures. Yet while career jobs are not dead, employees today bear more risk, such as risk of job loss and of pay fluctuations. This is an important change. But it would be ...
Published on Jun 1, 1999in British Journal of Management2.75
Robyn Thomas25
Estimated H-index: 25
(Cardiff University),
David Dunkerley8
Estimated H-index: 8
(University of South Wales)
The future of middle management has been the focus of attention in the media, following a period of unprecedented restructuring in organizations. However, there are mixed messages in the literature on the impact that this restructuring has had on middle managers' roles and careers, as well as on their reaction to these changes. It is the aim of this paper to address some of these tensions and contradictions. The research presented here is based on a two-year study of middle management in 50 orga...
Published on Sep 1, 1998in Journal of Management Inquiry1.99
William McKinley22
Estimated H-index: 22
(SIU: Southern Illinois University Carbondale),
Mark A. Mone17
Estimated H-index: 17
(UWM: University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee),
Vincent L. Barker18
Estimated H-index: 18
(UWM: University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee)
This article explores the ideological foundations of organizational downsizing in the 1990s and focuses on the ideology of employee self-reliance and the ideology of debureaucratization. We document these two managerial ideologies by examining business press articles and popular management literature in which they are being promulgated. Based on past organizational research that has traced the effects of ideologies on organizations, we argue that these two ideologies increase the likelihood of d...
Published on Feb 1, 1997in Personnel Review1.36
A Thornhill17
Estimated H-index: 17
Mark N. K. Saunders25
Estimated H-index: 25
Jo Stead2
Estimated H-index: 2
Considers the pursuit of high quality, flexibility and employee commitment alongside significant downsizing and delayering initiatives. Examines the impact on surviving employees in downsized and delayered organizations. Proposes that organizations need to be more mindful than they have been in the past of survivor responses and issues. Contends that the espoused aim of many organizations to achieve employee commitment may be dependent largely on the degree of success with which organizations ov...
Published on Jan 1, 1997in Human Resource Management Journal2.84
Gracie Ebadan1
Estimated H-index: 1
(Imperial College London),
Diana Winstanley17
Estimated H-index: 17
(Imperial College London)
Published on Nov 1, 1996in Organization Studies3.54
Zehava Rosenblatt18
Estimated H-index: 18
(University of Haifa),
Bilha Mannheim14
Estimated H-index: 14
(Technion – Israel Institute of Technology)
This study explores rigidity in responses to decline in the Israeli electronics industry. A comparison is made between the public and the private sectors of this industry. The public sector was found to be more rigid in its level of politicization and in its use of employee-termination strategies, whereas the private sector was more rigid in downward communication and in the use of alternative cutback strategies. Only a weak tendency was found in both sectors towards greater administrative inten...
Cited By61
Tom Baum35
Estimated H-index: 35
Purpose – This paper seeks to confront the most challenging issues that the hospitality industry faces. This relates to the recruitment and retention of talented future leaders. This is a long-standing issue but is one that is increasing in importance as industry changes combined with external pressures within the labour market (demographic and competitive) act to restructure the recruitment landscape in many countries. Design/methodology/approach – This paper provides a literature-based analysi...
Published on Mar 1, 2019in Human Relations3.37
William M. Foster12
Estimated H-index: 12
(U of A: University of Alberta),
John Hassard34
Estimated H-index: 34
+ 1 AuthorsJulie Wolfram Cox16
Estimated H-index: 16
(Monash University)
This article analyses contemporary issues relevant to understanding the changing nature of management and managerial work. The argument is developed in four parts. First, to provide context, we offer an overview of the literature on the organization and control of managerial work, tracing contributions mainly from the early 1950s onwards. Second, we discuss the first of two related concerns relevant to understanding the contemporary nature of managerial work – strategies of organizational restru...
Published on Jan 1, 2019in Industrial Relations1.10
Rocio Bonet3
Estimated H-index: 3
Tor Eriksson25
Estimated H-index: 25
Jaime Ortega7
Estimated H-index: 7
We study whether organizations that reward individual performance should give autonomy or should control how managers evaluate their subordinates. The normal way to establish control is to formalize the evaluations, so that managers cannot choose when and how to evaluate. We argue that organizations face a trade‐off because formalization helps reduce biases but also introduces rigidities. Using linked employer–employee data, we study the link between formal performance appraisals and firm financ...
Published on Jun 19, 2017in Economic & Industrial Democracy1.56
John Hassard34
Estimated H-index: 34
Jonathan Morris22
Estimated H-index: 22
Whereas social theorists, qualitative investigators and survey-based analysts suggest advanced economies are increasingly characterized by managerial job insecurity, database and questionnaire researchers propose relatively stable tenure rates for managers. This article aims to make sense of this ambiguity. First, following interviews with managers in Japan, the UK and the USA, the authors offer support for the ‘global convergence’ thesis, through data reflecting greater job insecurity generated...
Published on Jun 1, 2017in Leadership Quarterly5.63
Dina M. Leheta1
Estimated H-index: 1
(J. Mack Robinson College of Business),
Nikolaos Dimotakis11
Estimated H-index: 11
(J. Mack Robinson College of Business),
Jeff Schatten1
Estimated H-index: 1
(W&L: Washington and Lee University)
Abstract We propose a social comparison-based framework in which leaders' meta-perceptions of power relative to their followers can be a source of envy, which can then lead to varied behaviors. We provide a model summarizing the main points of this framework, and develop propositions discussing how and when these effects operate. We start by discussing why perceived power differentials between leader and follower are expected to cause envy in the leader-follower relationship, and the contingenci...
Published on Jan 1, 2016in The Academy of Management Annals12.29
Linda L. Putnam41
Estimated H-index: 41
(UCSB: University of California, Santa Barbara),
Gail T. Fairhurst32
Estimated H-index: 32
(UC: University of Cincinnati),
Scott Banghart4
Estimated H-index: 4
(UCSB: University of California, Santa Barbara)
This article presents a constitutive approach to the study of organizational contradictions, dialectics, paradoxes, and tensions. In particular, it highlights five constitutive dimensions (i.e., discourse, developmental actions, socio-historical conditions, presence in multiples, and praxis) that appear across the literature in five metatheoretical traditions—process-based systems, structuration, critical, postmodern, and relational dialectics. In exploring these dimensions, it defines and disti...
Published on Jan 1, 2016in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology5.92
Gary D. Sherman9
Estimated H-index: 9
(Harvard University),
Jennifer S. Lerner33
Estimated H-index: 33
(Harvard University)
+ 2 AuthorsLisa Feldman Barrett L F131
Estimated H-index: 131
(Stanford University)
Are hormone levels associated with the attainment of social status? Although endogenous testosterone predicts status-seeking social behaviors, research suggests that the stress hormone cortisol may inhibit testosterone’s effects. Thus, individuals with both high testosterone and low cortisol may be especially likely to occupy high-status positions in social hierarchies while individuals with high testosterone and high cortisol may not. We tested this hypothesis by recruiting a sample of real e...
Published on Apr 1, 2015in European Management Journal2.98
Philippe Accard1
Estimated H-index: 1
Abstract This paper presents two case studies of research labs in which changes implemented in hierarchical structures differ from the delayering and downsizing reported by current empirical works. In both labs, authority relationships between superiors and subordinates relaxed and became indirect and recursive. Then, together, superiors and subordinates engaged in self-organizing processes and produced structures that had emergent characteristics. The hierarchical structures that were produced ...
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