Performance feedback and middle managers’ divergent strategic behavior: The roles of social comparisons and organizational identification

Murat Tarakci, Nufer Ates, Steven W. Floyd, Yoojung Ahn, Bill Wooldridge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

73 Citations (Scopus)


Research Abstract: What drives middle managers to search for new strategic initiatives and champion them to top management? This behavior—labeled divergent strategic behaviorspawns emergent strategies and thereby provides one of the essential ingredients of strategic renewal. We conceptualize divergent strategic behavior as a response to performance feedback. Data from 123 senior middle managers overseeing 21 multi-country organizations (MCOs) of a Fortune 500 firm point to social performance comparisons rather than historical comparisons in driving divergent strategic behavior. Moreover, managers’ organizational identification affects whether they attend to organizational- or individual-level feedback. These results contribute to research on performance aspirations and strategy process by providing a multilevel, multidimensional framework of performance aspirations in middle management driven strategic renewal.

Managerial Abstract: Middle managers are essential actors in strategic renewal. Their unique positions offer insights into operations alongside knowledge of strategy. In contrast to typical assessments of managerial performance with reference to a prior year, this research shows that performance comparisons relative to peers and other organizational units better motivate managers’ divergent strategic behavior. Our results also show that managers who identify with the firm are more attentive to organizational rather than individual performance discrepancies. Thus, our study unveils an important approach for organizations aiming to spark strategic renewal.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1139-1162
JournalStrategic Management Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


  • strategy process
  • middle managers
  • strategic roles
  • performance aspirations
  • strategic renewal
  • behavioral strategy


Dive into the research topics of 'Performance feedback and middle managers’ divergent strategic behavior: The roles of social comparisons and organizational identification'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this