By PT Staff, published on May 1, 1997 - last reviewed on August 30, 2004
Are companies laying off the wrong people when they downsize? In
recent years many firms have tried to stay competitive through two
tactics: firing middle managers and dramatically rethinking how their
company operates. But a study by Gretchen Spreitzer, Ph.D., of the
University If South Carolina, suggests that the managers who are most
likely to restructure their companies are those who haven't been promoted
lately. "This is the very group of people that organizations let go first
when they are downsizing," says Spreitzer.
Together with Robert Quinn, Ph.D., professor of organizational
behavior at the University of Michigan, Spreitzer studied 191 middle
managers who were entering Ford Motor Company's Leadership Education and
Development program, which was designed to encourage employees to devise
bold new ways to run the company's daily operations. Spreitzer figured
that Ford's star supervisors would dutifully embrace the company's call
for change and reorganize their departments. But, in fact, it was the
workers whose careers had stalled who were most likely to attempt the
dramatic changes Ford wanted.
Puzzled, Spreitzer and Quinn looked for an explanation from the
second-string managers themselves. "They told us, 'We're not going to get
promoted anyway, so we might as well do what we think is right,'" reports
Spreitzer. And the high-achieving managers? Perhaps because they'd
benefited most from the status quo, they were more reluctant to rock the
boat by altering the corporate structure.