Why do managers do what they do

The otherwise problematic nature of that respon

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the otherwise problematic nature of that respon- sibility. How the central common characteristics of managerial work may be accounted for in these terms is sketched out. Managerial work: evidence in search of an explanation It took a long time from Carlson's (1951) pioneer- ing work for research studies on managers' work activities to move beyond the purely descriptive. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Carlson's obser- vation, undeniably correct at the time, that the first priority was 'to know more about how executive work is carried out' (1951, p. 21) was the guiding impulse to research. Most of the early studies (Brewer and Tomlinson, 1964; Burns, 1957; Copeman, Luijk and Hanika, 1963; Kelly, 1964; Sayles, 1964) were entirely descriptive, classifying managers' work by task, activity, contacts, media, location and so on, and recording how managers distributed their time amongst these. Other studies added a second dimension to these descriptions by demonstrating a correlation between managers' work and other variables - such as organization size, hierarchical level, functional specialism or job (Blankenship and Miles, 1968; Dubin and Spray, 1964; Hemphill, 1959; Hodgson, 1965; Home and Lupton, 1965; Martin, 1956; Stewart, 1967). These early studies, however, exhibited a num- ber of limitations, both in terms of their research focus and in their treatment of the evidence, which were to influence further developments in the field of enquiry. First, disappointment with the failure by some of these early studies to de- scribe, if not define, 'the' managerial job independ- ent of its structural location led to something of an overreaction in the form of an acceptance that managerial work was inherently variable and that documenting its many variations was to be the primary concern of research. In short, in aband- oning the attempt to describe the managerial job, research studies also largely abandoned some- thing quite different and much less problematic - the description of commonalities in managerial work which extended across different managerial jobs. Second, whatever the focus, there remained
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Why do Managers Do What They Do? 337 a reluctance to move very far from pure descrip- tion of what managers did - certainly as far as advancing broad explanatory theory, but even as far as developing generic categories of description, a reluctance bemoaned by Campbell et al. (1970) in their comprehensive review. Third, these two limitations were intertwined in that the reluctance to explain the research findings was particularly evident in those studies which pointed to common- alities in managers' work. These commonalities tended to be treated as obvious and self-evident, whereas variations were deemed in need of ex- planation. Fourth, however, even accounts of variations in managerial work rarely went beyond demonstrating correlation with other variables to advancing possible substantive causal connections.
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  • Two '12
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  • Management, managerial work, Colin Hales

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