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What is it like for a middle manager to take safety into account? Practices and Challenges


  • Middle managers (MMs) play an important role in aviation safety.
  • MMs’ safety-related practices involve influencing others, making decisions and managing information.
  • Influencing others includes regular collaboration and exchanges with stakeholders.
  • For their decision making, MMs tend to involve people from different horizons and background.
  • MMs rely on a variety of sources and types of information


Aviation today is seen as a very safe industry, yet recent accidents have shown that vulnerabilities still exist. The literature has often drawn attention to the role played by top managers/CEO in running their businesses profitably, and at the same time keeping them safe from threats. Research has also investigated the way people at the sharp-end of organisations are ‘mindful’ of the possible threats that can occur in their day-to-day activities, and how they can anticipate (most of) them. But what about the role played by middle managers in ensuring safety in every organisational operation? Even if researchers now agree that middle managers’ actions are a valuable asset for organisations and central to pursuing key organisational outcomes, very little is known about how middle managers take safety into account in their daily operations, and the challenges they face. This paper reports on the safety-related practices and challenges of middle managers of the civil aviation industry. Within the Future Sky Safety project, over a two-year research activity, 48 middle managers from a range of aviation organisations agreed to talk about the strategies and actions they put in place on a routine basis, to embed safety in the daily operations. Methodologically, semi-structured interviews were conducted and the qualitative content analysis (QCA) method was used to make sense of the raw material, through a data-driven coding frame. The findings of this research suggest that the practices middle managers identify as central in relation to their role in the management of safety can be grouped into three high-level categories: (1) making decisions, (2) influencing key stakeholders to get the job done, and (3) managing information. This research adds knowledge in relation to the middle managers’ role in the management of safety, in particular shedding light on the competency that middle managers from the civil aviation industry rely on to get the job done when it comes to contributing to safety

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