INSEAD Working Paper 2011/56/ST revised version of 2010/100/ST
The literature on top-down strategy implementation has overlooked social-emotional factors. The results of a three-year field study of a large technology firm show how top executives who favor an affect-neutral task approach can inadvertently activate middle managers’ organization-related social identities, such as length of time working for the company (newcomers versus veterans) and language spoken by senior executives (English versus French), generating group-focus emotions. These emotions prompt middle managers—even those elevated to powerful positions by top executives—to support or covertly dismiss a particular strategic initiative even when their immediate personal interests are not directly under threat. This study contributes to the strategy implementation literature by linking senior executives’ actions and middle managers’ social identities, group-focus emotions, and resulting behaviors to strategy implementation outcomes.