IACM 2022 Abstract Book »
Unique Experience of Being in The Middle: The Effect of Middle Power on Role Ambiguity
Traditional research on power has focused on the experiences of high versus low power individuals, assuming a linear relationship between power and behavioral outcomes. However, recent research suggests that “middle power” can lead to unique psychological experiences. We bridge insights from the literatures on psychological foundations of power and on middle management to provide a deep understanding of what middle power means in organizations and its implications for middle managers. We theorize that due to the uncertain amount of control middle power is associated with, individuals experience more ambiguity in their roles, which can in turn lead to negative organizational outcomes, such as reduced brokering behaviors. In two studies with MBA students and full-time employees, we found that having structural middle power and medium sense of power led to greater role ambiguity, making people less likely to actively connect or reduce conflict between others.