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Understanding ‘Vulnerability’ and ‘Political Skill’ in Academy Middle Management During Organisational Change in Professional Youth Football

Gibson, Luke and Groom, Ryan (2020) Understanding ‘Vulnerability’ and ‘Political Skill’ in Academy Middle Management During Organisational Change in Professional Youth Football. Journal of Change Management. pp. 1-25. ISSN 1469-7017

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Abstract

The use of political skill to further employees’ self-interests and their ability to cope with ambiguity and employment vulnerability during periods of organizational change is an important yet under researched phenomenon. Taking a middle management perspective, the purpose of this paper is to investigate the experiences of Richard, a newly appointed professional youth football Academy Manager during the process of organizational change. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews, formal academy team meetings, co-worker interviews, and informal observations and conversations, which were analyzed through the process of narrative analysis. Findings highlighted the hierarchical sensemaking challenges of vertically ‘managing up’ (e.g. Chairman, Board of Directors, 1st Team Manager) and ‘managing down’ (e.g. academy employees), and horizontally ‘managing across’ (e.g. Head of Coaching) during the process of organizational change. Importantly, managing expectations and influencing significant others, through skilled micro-political activity, was central to successfully negotiating the ambiguity and vulnerabilities of organizational life during change.

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