How do middle managers really make decisions within the oil and gas industry?

Zahra Rezvani, Patrick Hudson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


This study explores the process of middle management decision-making in actual conditions within the oil and gas industry by applying multiple methods including interviews, audio task recording, and activity theory. First, eight interviews were conducted in the oil and gas industrial sector to explore how middle managers take decisions. Second, to increase the credibility of research, one of the middle managers interviewed was requested to record his activities for one month using an MP3 player. Finally, the data were analysed by applying qualitative data analysis & research software (ATLAS.ti Ink - version 7.5.4) and based on the activity theory principles. The results revealed that middle managers were involved in a variety of decisions. Among them, the frequency of safety-related decisions was high (80%). The analysis also showed that middle managers considered a limited number of alternatives and criteria which substantially supports the notion of bounded rationality. Decisions were mainly consensus decisions, followed by combined decisions, and finally, individual decisions. The middle managers applied rule-based decisions that were mostly if-then rules consisting of both simple and combinations of if-then rules with and/or, else to show interdependencies and nonlinear relationships between different criteria as well as to overcome the uncertainty of outcomes. When the probability of alternatives was equal, and options had middle-truth values, they made parallel decisions instead of sequential decisions to overcome uncertainty and to improve the efficiency of decisions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105199
JournalSafety Science
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Activity theory
  • Audio task recording
  • Decision-making
  • Middle management

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