Framing Organizational Reform: Misalignments and Disputes among Parole and Union Middle Managers


  • This work was funded in part through a National Science Foundation Grant, #0518713. Additional funding came from the University of California, Irvine's Center for Organizational Research, the School of Social Sciences and the Department of Sociology. The author wishes to acknowledge the dutiful reading and helpful insights of Calvin Morrill, Ryken Grattet, Joan Petersilia, Stephen Mastrofski, Shannon Portillo, Nancy Reichman (editor), and four anonymous reviewers at Law and Policy.

Danielle S. Rudes, Department of Criminology, Law and Society, George Mason University, 10519 Braddock Road, Ste. 1900, MS 6D3, Fairfax, VA 22030, USA. Telephone: (703) 993-9897; Fax: (703) 993-6020; E-mail:


Any time organizations undertake change processes there are questions about mobilizing support for the change (Vallas 2003). Two essential factors for mobilizing support are (1) how organizational change is framed by both the organization and its employees and (2) whether or not the change is framed in a way that aligns in any meaningful way with actors' interpretations. This article considers middle managers as first-line interpreters of organizational policy changes and offers a look at their patterned response to reform mandates. Middle managers' interpretation of changes in organizational policy or practice provides vital information for workers about how the reform fits with larger organizational and personal goals. Using data collected in three years of ethnographic fieldwork with parole personnel in California during correctional reform, I argue that organizational and union middle managers' differing definitions of, and solutions for, policy reform create an outlet for intraorganizational frame misalignments and disputes with the potential for restricting or halting change.