The Paradox of Managerial Downsizing

Published on Sep 1, 2004in Organization Studies3.543
· DOI :10.1177/0170840604046314
Craig R. Littler12
Estimated H-index: 12
Peter Innes6
Estimated H-index: 6
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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