Why do managers do what they do

Compelled because of the ambiguous and prob lematic

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compelled, because of the ambiguous and prob- lematic nature of managerial responsibility! and the precarious nature of 'nianagerial' subjectivity, to engage in institutionalized routines draw upon and reproduce the resources and rules which underpin them. The activities, substantive areas and characteristics of managerial work which are common to managers are,lit has been suggested, traceable to the institutional, organizational and management resources and rules which together shape managerial 'responsibility' and which are, in turn, reproduced by what managers do and how they work. ' Only a preliminary sketch of these linkages has been possible here. What is required in the future, however, is a more detailed examination of these linkages, either through a reworking of existing research material or, more likely, through new studies couched in these terms. Such studies, in turn, will require rather different methodologies from those conventionally associated with studies of managerial work. In i particular, structured observation and recording of managers' usage of time will need to be supplemented by research tools able to capture the inaterial, cognitive and moral grounds, as well as the empirical character, of these activities. ; ! What these new forms of research will need to show is how managers make 'managing' what it is: how day-to-day managerial practices reproduce the distribution of resources and reaffirm the meanings and norms upon which these practices trade. Managing therefore^ may entail not merely the broader 'management of meaning' (Gowler and Legge, 1983), but the inanagement of its own meaning. In short, managers act in the way| they do because these actions are constituted, deifined and legitimized, by the resources and rules of the systems in which they are located, as acjtions which affirm the identity, responsibility: and accountability of 'managers'. Much of the substance [of this account relates to managerial responsibility as it has been con- ventionally constituted - as individual personal
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348 C Hales responsibility and accountability for a bounded work process and those who are part of it - and therefore explains the practices which have, as past research evidence shows, flowed from and fed into that. If, however, the resources and rules which impinge upon managerial responsibility begin to change - if, in particular, there are shifts in the distribution of organizational power re- sources or changes in the definitions and preroga- tives of 'managers' such that there are changes in the locus, scope and nature of managerial re- sponsibility (i.e. who has it and over what) - then these hitherto common features of managerial work may begin to disappear. Whether the result- ing practices can then continue to be referred to as exclusively 'managerial work' may be prob- lematic: indeed, the question may then become: 'what did managers do - and why don't they any more?' References Allan, P. (1981). 'Managers at Work: A Large Scale Study of the Managerial Job in New York City Government', Academy of Management Journal, 24(3), pp. 613-619.
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  • Two '12
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  • Management, managerial work, Colin Hales

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