Every one would like to be a manager
In my years of teaching at Universities, I found students queuing up to learn management and personnel psychology, industrial psychology, organizational psychology, etc.
Few though, had any idea what management entailed. And they are horrified when they find out.
. . . it is well paid, but . . .
The financial rewards are high. Yes, the trappings of good clothes, assistants, and international travel are glamorous.
I could say that “this is what is wanted in return for these goodies”. But that sounds like a bargain. You give us this – and we give you the rewards that you desire.
It doesn’t work like that.
On the surface, yes. Incompetent managers, who have themselves made a Faustian bargain, will tell you that your job is to brown-nose the boss. The website is full of how to impress your boss. Well, the same skills will be valuable when you want to impress the gangs in prison-where you just might find yourself.
Management is NOT about impressing the boss. If you boss wants impressing, he, or she, is a pratt. End-run them. I suppose that is why most big organizations are run so badly. Most people understand this rule and end-run their boss.
Management does have a purpose
Management is about coordinating the various parts of an enterprise. I’ll give you an example.
Psychologists are part of general management
As psychologists, we belong to the general management function
Let’s take a real example. A few weeks ago, in an effort to stop a visiting friend from stepping into a busy street in Edinburgh, I took my eyes off my feet, tripped over some metal protruding out of the concrete. I fell flat on my face.
It hurt, a lot. It was Edinburgh after all, so it hurt my dignity too. I looked drunk, which I wasn’t.
Fortunately, I didn’t break anything – including my glasses. I just bruised and grazed my knee.
My point is this. That metal has been there a long time. I am not the first to trip over it. It is a menace to the blind, the elderly, wheelchairs . . . and me. A decent psychologist looks out for such situations.
Why? Dozen of city officials walk that street – they issue parking tickets, they inspect shops. How is it that a metal obstruction that trips people has gone unnoticed and unsorted? A decent psychologist would look at the organizational structure that allows the error to occur and to persist.
This is the UK – we have ‘targets’ the way other countries have ‘bandits’. An organizational psychologist would be alert to the consequences and their own responsibilities in the face of such a policy. A decent organizational psychologist would bear in mind that his or her job is ‘general management’ – the way parts of an organization come together to form common cause.
When an accident happens, a relative junior will investigate what happened and why. A relatively junior lawyer will review the legal liability. A more senior psychologist thinks about the incident at a systemic level. They ask
- Who follows up these incidents?
- Who is responsible for minimizing these incidents?
- What is the relative importance of checking for hazards on the pavement and checking for unapproved adverts, for example, which we have paid many people to do?
- How did we get to the point that none of us have sorted out an obstruction on the pavement for years?
Within an organization, a psychologist will ask a manager why his or her subordinates have walked past an obstruction, again and again?
If targets are to blame, remove the targets! If the manager say that s/he has no authority to remove the targets, they have abdicated. In a Weberian bureaucracy, they have said clearly “I cannot make the decision. Please refer to my superior.” If they do not put your through, or make an appointment for you with their superior, then you only have one choice – to seek that appointment yourself.
If you are external to the organization, and their organizational structure is concealed, then go directly to the Chief Executive – with that argument.
This happened. I inquired from the public officer nominally responsible. They did not have the authority to solve the problem. They declined to refer me to their manager, which I understand is their obligation when they do not have the authority to resolve my request.
I now refer this to you and ask you to direct it to someone who does have authority.
To psychologists, if these incidents are happening in your organization, you aren’t fulfilling your responsibility as general managers. Different sections aren’t meshing.
Bring it to the attention of a line manager, once. Once. Then go to their managers. And keep going. Politely. Sweetly. That is your job.
Psychology requires the exercise of authority, not brown-nosing a boss.
That is why not everyone really wants to be a manager . . . or a work & organizational psychologist
That is why a lot of students duck out of organizational psychology, once they get in to it.
Our trade is not only about earning money. It is not about brown-nosing a boss.
It is about exercising responsibility in accordance with the law. Pay bonuses that lead to recklessness or metal protuberances in the pavement, are prima facie evidence that the common cause of the organization is being neglected If they aren’t resolved on first raising, that is prime facie evidence that some general staff are asleep. To put no finer point on it – problems that persist are prima facie evidence that people earning much beyond 25K are stealing their wages.
That includes us – psychologists. It is our job to raise these matters and insist they are resolved.
That’s why, after all, a lot of students don’t want the job.