Middle Managers in Corrections Deal with Conflict and Ambiguity by Managing Up and Down

Danielle Rudes
Associate Professor of Criminology, Law and Society, George Mason University

Key Findings

  • Middle managers used resignation, refocusing and reinforcement to solve conflict.
  • Thirty-six percent of managers demonstrated reliance on a middle manager peer to discuss issues in their office.
  • Forty-one percent of all middle managers discussed refocusing energy in 61 instances.


In the article, “Managing Up and Down: Community Corrections Middle Managers Role Conflict and Ambiguity during Organizational Change,” Rudes examines the role of middle management in correctional settings. Previous studies have not looked at how middle management reconciles conflicts when translating policy into practice through observations and focus groups. The findings showed that middle management uses resignation, refocusing and reinforcement to solve conflict. Resignation is the idea that, “good enough is good enough,” when managers are not able to complete the full scope of their tasks. To refocus, managers resolve conflict by switching energy to another area. The final strategy, reinforcement, is when managers use positivity to maintain relationships.

View Full Research