The Middle Man

This week we were given four case studies to choose from and I chose, ‘The False Promise of Organizational Culture Change: A Case Study of Middle Managers in Grocery Retailing’ by Emmanuel Ogbonna and Barry Wilkinson because I worked in a grocery store for two years and had some interesting experiences with managers there. I read, ‘A student’s guide to analysing case studies’ in preparation, but found it was pretty common sense; there was a tantalizing mention of various theoretical tools and methods, but no explanation of them. The third reading, ‘God – and the devil – are in the details’ by Glen Holt was very interesting to me because it addressed the management style I’m hoping to use for my Individual Focus Study.Leadership Committee

The chain of grocery stores that I worked for is called Save-on-Foods and it’s parent company is owned and operated by the local billionaire Jimmy Pattison. Save-On has a culture of inclusiveness; one of its values is employing persons with disabilities. This is something that has been there since Jimmy Pattison (He’s always ‘Jimmy Pattison’ – ‘Jimmy’ would be creepy and totalitarian and ‘Mr. Pattison’ would just be weird) started the company be he feels strongly about it. As such, I never witnessed an attempted change of culture there. As strange as it sounds, (because the chain is so widespread in my home province) Save-On never seems big enough to attempt that sort of project. Sure, it has cheesy ad campaigns, but no matter my jobs ups and downs I never felt like the company would get so big for their boots that they would think they could change the values of their employees. Perhaps this is why, unlike the (humorously accurate) description of floor workers in the Ogbonna and Wilkinson article, many floor workers at Save-On work there for life, and why it becomes the centre of their personal lives.

Ultimately, I think that changing the values of middle managers is just as disastrous a concept as changing the values of floor workers. One thing that Ogbonna and Wilkinson come close to stating, but never do, is that (a) employees always know when upper management is trying to change their ‘values’, (b) they resent it, and (c) just who does upper management think they are anyway?

The nerve.


A Student’s Guide to Analysing Case Studies

Heathfield, S. M. (July 15th, 2013). 10 reasons why your employees hate you. Human Resources Guide, , September 29, 2013.

Holt (2002). God – and the devil – are in the details. The Bottom Line, 15(4), 174-175. Retrieved September 9, 2011, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 274375901)

Ogbonna, E., & Wilkinson, B. (2003). The False Promise of Organizational Culture Change: A Case Study of Middle Managers in Grocery Retailing. Journal Of Management Studies, 40(5), 1151-1178. doi:10.1111/1467-6486.00375