Managerial Roles

Another approach to study management is to examine the roles that managers are expected to perform. These roles can be defined as the organized sets of behaviors identified with the position. These roles were developed by Henry Mintzberg in the late 1960s after a careful study of executives at work. All these roles in one form or another deal with people and their interpersonal relationships.

These ten managerial roles are divided into three categories. The first category of interpersonal roles arises directly from the manager’s position and the formal authority bestowed upon him. The second category of informational roles is played as a direct result of interpersonal roles and these two categories lead to the third category of decisional roles.

Interpersonal Roles

Managers spend a considerable amount of time in interacting with other people both within their own organizations as well as outside. These people include peers, subordinates, superiors, suppliers, customers, government officials and community leaders. All these interactions require an understanding of interpersonal relations. Studies show that interacting with people takes up nearly 80 per cent of a manager’s time. These interactions involve the following three major interpersonal roles:

Figurehead: Managers act as symbolic figureheads performing social or legal obligations. These duties include greeting visitors, signing legal documents, taking important customers to lunch, attending a subordinate’s wedding or speaking at functions in schools and churches. All these/ primarily, are duties of a ceremonial nature but are important for the smooth functioning of the organization

Leader: The influence of the manager is most clearly seen in his role as a leader of the unit or organization. Since he is responsible for the activities of his subordinates, he must lead and coordinate their activities in meeting task-related goals and he must motivate them to perform better. He must be an exemplary leader so that his subordinates follow his directions and guidelines with respect and dedication.

Liaison: In addition to their constant contact with their own subordinates, peers and superiors, the managers must maintain a network of outside contacts in order to assess the external environment of competition, social changes or changes in governmental rules, regulations and laws. In this role, the managers build up their own external information system.

In addition, they develop networks of mutual obligations with other managers in the organization. They also form alliances to win support for their proposals or decisions. The liaison with external sources of information can be developed by attending meetings and professional conferences, by  personal phone calls, trade  journals and by informal personal contacts within outside agencies.

Informational Roles

By virtue of his interpersonal contacts, a manager emerges as a source of information about a variety of issues concerning the organization. In this capacity of information processing, a manager executes the following  three roles:

Monitor: The managers are constantly monitoring and scanning their environment, both internal and external, collecting and studying information regarding their organization and the outside environment affecting their organization. This can be done by reading reports and periodicals, by asking their liaison contacts and through gossip, hearsay and speculation.

Disseminator of  Information: The managers must transmit their information regarding changes in policies or other matters to their subordinates, their peers and to other members of the organization.  This can be done through memorandums, phone calls, individual meetings and group meetings.

Spokesperson: A manager has to be a spokesman for his unit and he represents his unit in either sending relevant information to people outside his unit or making some demands on behalf of his unit. This may be in the form of the president of the company making a speech to a lobby on behalf of an organizational cause or an engineer suggesting a product modification to a supplier.

Decisional Roles

On the basis of the environmental information received, a manager must make decisions and solve organizational problems. In that respect, a manager plays four important roles.

Entrepreneur: As entrepreneurs, managers are continuously involved in improving their units and facing the dynamic technological challenges. They are constantly on the lookout for new ideas for product improvement or products addition.

They initiate feasibility studies, arrange for capital for new products if necessary, and ask for suggestions from the employees for ways to improve the organization. This can be achieved through suggestion boxes, holding strategy meetings with project managers and R & D personnel.

Conflict Handler: The managers are constantly involved as arbitrators in solving differences among the subordinates or the employee’s conflicts with the central management. These conflicts may arise due to demands for higher pay or other benefits or these conflicts may involve outside forces such as vendors increasing their prices, a major customer going bankrupt or unwanted visits by governmental inspectors.

Managers must anticipate such problems and take preventive action if possible or take corrective action once the problems have arisen. These problems may also involve labor disputes, customer complaints, employee grievances, machine breakdowns, cash flow shortages and interpersonal conflicts.

Resource Allocator: The third decisional role of a manager is that of a resource allocator. The managers establish priorities among various projects or programs and make budgetary allocations to the different activities of the organization based upon these priorities. They assign personnel to jobs, they allocate their own time to different activities and they allocate funds for new equipment, advertising and pay raises.

Negotiator: The managers represent  their units or organizations in negotiating deals and agreements within and outside of the organization. They negotiate contracts with the unions. Sale managers may negotiate prices with prime customers. Purchasing managers may negotiate prices with vendors.

All these ten roles are important in a manager’s  job and are interrelated even through some roles may be more influential than others, depending upon the managerial position. For example, sales managers may give more importance to interpersonal roles while the production managers may give more importance to decisional roles.

The ability to recognize the appropriate role to play in each situation and the flexibility to change roles readily when necessary, are characteristics of effective managers. Most often, however, the managerial effectiveness is determined by how well the decisional roles are performed.

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