Skip to main content

See also:

Should culture change be top-down or bottom-up

Should culture change be top-down or bottom-up?
Should culture change be top-down or bottom-up?
Used by license from

As organizations continue to switch their management style from traditional to contemporary there is an ongoing debate about whether or not that change should start at top levels of management and filter down or begin with front line employees and build up. Regardless of the direction taken, current employees are not going to embrace the culture change.

Why? Because they have been successful in and are comfortable with the existing culture. They will worry about how the change will impact their job satisfaction and future success.

Many people wonder if a culture change is best if started at the top of the organization or with the rank-and-file. This is a flawed question because the successfully changed culture will rest with neither of these two groups. This is not to say that they will not be important in making a culture change happen but the key group in a culture change will be middle management.

It is within middle management that the desire for career advancement is the greatest. Entry level management is interested in advancement they have not fully defined how that advancement will occur. Upper management has less room for advancement and is more likely to depend on their abilities than the culture itself. The middle management of an organization has achieved their position by successfully working within the existing culture and they are most likely to see that culture change will give them a change to be champions of change, a key to their future advancement.

To successfully change your corporate culture upper management must provide a clear vision to middle management of what they culture looks like and how success and future promotions will be achieved. They must fully support in thought, word and action middle managers throughout the change process.

At the same time it is important for middle management to impress upon their subordinates the critical need of the change of culture. Even with the support of upper middle management the new culture will not take root lovesick grows from the bottom up.

©2014 Max Impact, used with permission.

Resources for creating a winning workplace culture:

Cultural roadmap, a look at the contents of the character within each of us.

Max Impact offers free leadership training and development materials including Cultural Faux Pas and Culture Quizzes

Keep your workforce motivated with these motivational quotes.

Repository of business surveys offers many informative and/or fun surveys about the business world.

Books about workplace cultures.