Performance feedback and middle managers’
divergent strategic behavior: The roles of social
comparisons and organizational identification
| Nüfer Yasin Ates¸
| Steven W. Floyd
| Yoojung Ahn
Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus
University, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Faculty of Business Administration, Bilkent
University, Ankara, Turkey
Tilburg School of Economics and Management,
Tilburg University, Tilburg, Netherlands
Isenberg School of Management, University of
Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, Massachusetts
College of Business, City University of Hong
Kong, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong
Murat Tarakci, Rotterdam School of Management,
Erasmus University, Burgemeester Oudlaan 50,
Rotterdam, 3062 PA, The Netherlands.
Research Summary: What drives middle managers to
search for new strategic initiatives and champion them to
top management? This behavior—labeled divergent stra-
tegic 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 organiza-
tions (MCOs) of a Fortune 500 firm point to social per-
formance comparisons rather than historical comparisons
in driving divergent strategic behavior. Moreover, man-
agers’ organizational identification affects whether they
attend to organizational- or individual-level feedback.
These results contribute to research on performance aspi-
rations and strategy process by providing a multilevel,
multidimensional framework of performance aspirations
in middle management driven strategic renewal.
Managerial Summary: 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 perfor-
mance 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 organiza-
tional rather than individual performance discrepancies.
Thus, our study unveils an important approach for organi-
zations aiming to spark strategic renewal.
Received: 11 November 2016 Revised: 23 October 2017 Accepted: 24 October 2017 Published on: 22 January 2018
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution
and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
© 2017 The Authors. Strategic Management Journal published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Strat Mgmt J. 2018;39:1139–1162. wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/smj 1139