Sandwiched: Exploring role and identity of middle managers in the genuine middle

Susann Gjerde, Mats Alvesson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Citations (SciVal)


This article explores middle managers in the professions from their position in the sandwiched middle. Based upon interviews with senior academics in management roles and their subordinates in UK business schools, we investigate this experienced middle through a metaphor that informs one particular subject position: to be an umbrella carrier. This position entails protecting subordinates from what is seen as unnecessary and/or damaging initiatives and information from top management above, in order to allow for good professional work to take place below. This form of countermanagement, which aims to weaken hierarchical pressure rather than enforce or uphold it, is informed by a stronger identification with the profession and subordinates below than with the leader role or the superiors above, and aids the middle managers in their identity work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-151
Number of pages28
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number1
Early online date11 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2019.


  • identity and protection
  • leadership
  • middle management
  • professions
  • role

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Social Sciences
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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