Why do managers do what they do

Managers draw upon the particular kinds of economic

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Managers draw upon the particular kinds of economic, know- ledge and normative power resources available to them, semantic rules about what 'managing' work entails and normative rules about the duties and prerogatives which flow from it to attempt to ensure that work gets done. The nature of the labour process bestows other forms of economic, knowledge and normative power resources on those being managed, together with rules about what 'being managed' means (and who does it)
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Why do Managers Do What They Do? 347 which shape employees' response to that attempt. Thus all managers seek to direct and control subordinates, either directly or indirectly through forms of human resource management, and day- to-day 'people management' represents a com- mon and consistently substantial area of work activity for managers. The substantial concern with monitoring and maintaining work processes, together with the fragmented, reactive and exigent disturbance- handling/problem-solving activity which is a con- sistent part of that, are also explicable in terms of managers' responsibility for a labour process, the continued operation of which cannot be taken for granted. Uncertainties attend both the technical organization of the labour process and its asso- ciated technological systems, work technologies and work imperatives and the social organization of the labour process and its associated power resources, skills and obligations. Disturbance handling stems from the chronically, not merely contingently, refractory character of work activity for which managers are responsible. If, indeed, all managers engage in 'fire-fighting', it is not only because they are 'mimetic pyrophobes' (Grint, 1995) but because they are responsible for the chronically inflammable. Conclusion The purpose of this article has been twofold: to draw attention to an important lacuna in the extent management literature and to propose a way of closing it. The lacuna is between, on the one hand, research evidence which has increasingly treated variations in managerial work as being of central significance, and has been reluctant to do more than describe common characteristics of managerial work and, on the other hand, theories of management which have been content to infer, rather than adduce or engage with the evidence on, particular managerial practices. Whilst the common features of managerial work - what all, or most, managers do - are discernible in terms of managerial activities, consistent substantive areas of concern and their characteristics, there is no theoretical explanation of why these are, or might be the generic elements of managerial work. The remainder of this article attempted to go some way towards remedying this omission by sketching a theory of how the defining character- istic of managing - responsibility - is shaped by the resources, cognitive rules and moral rules of the social systems in which managers are located and the way in which managers both draw upon and reproduce these resources and rules in their work practices. Commonalities in managjerial work reflect, therefore, how all managers feel
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  • Management, managerial work, Colin Hales

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