Rethinking the contents of managerial jobs

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BATANAI KAMUNYARU 

Technology is changing things at a much faster rate than the past two decades. It is changing even the contents of jobs, what was relevant two decades ago is no longer relevant in this era. The century is calling businesses to evolve daily if they are to be in existence in the next decade. The change does not necessarily mean changing the products or services, but maybe just an adjustment to the way the product is being delivered – that can be counted as evolutionary! What is also changing with the change in technology is the contents of the managerial jobs. It is no longer management as it used to be two decades ago, a lot must change to be able to attract talent and be profitable.

Any managerial job should have a broad scope and authority to be able to make measurable contribution to the success of the business. In the past, management was about supervising and controlling people so that they can produce results – however, patterns have changed. Also, managers were controlled and directed by their bosses. Now, the managerial jobs demand that they be controlled and directed by the business objectives of performance. The role of the manager should now be determined by the activities that have to be performed to achieve the objectives of the business – broadening the scope to more than supervising and controlling subordinates. Being appointed manager is no longer the opportunity to toss subordinates around and inducing fear in them. The managers who control by fear and manipulation attains the least of performance.

Managerial jobs exist in companies because the activities that lead to good performance requires them – and managers must manage! The job must come with its own responsibilities and authority to enable progress. To accompany the authority must be some level of power. It is pointless to bestow authority in a role but with no power. A managerial job should always carry maximum responsibility, embody the maximum challenge, and make the maximum contribution to the performance of the business. If the manager is the one making the least contribution to the performance of the business, then the manager will be of no relevance to the business – the business will be better without him.

In coming up with the contents of the managerial jobs, there are several pitfalls that lead to poor performance and limit the effectiveness of a manager. Making the contents of the job so small is preventing the manager from growing – as a result the job becomes a retiring job. The incumbent stops growing and probably hold the position until he or she retires from the company. It is folly for a manager to hold the same job for more than ten years – maximum number of years for an incumbent in a certain role should be restricted to ten years. Being in one role for more than ten years does not only disadvantage the business from new thoughts, but it is a disservice to the holder of the job – no wonder companies do not grow as people try to protect their retiring territories!

As the corporate ladder goes up, the contents of several jobs become smaller than those at the bottom of the ladder. By content, it is not only the number of responsibilities one should perform but the depth and breadth of the responsibilities. The less challenging the content is, the manager will be bored, frustrated and stops working. In other words, they would have retired on the job! Once one retires, they would resist any change, any new thought different from theirs and any form of innovation as they view change as threatening to their security. The twenty-first century is no longer the century of job security, but the era of being innovative daily to remain relevant to the business. Companies should not continue with people who have retired – if people have retired the company performance will be affected greatly. The whole idea of security comes from the fact that managers know that they are not contributing anything anymore, and that brings insecurity – hence they resolve to fighting any new thoughts or ideas that transforms business.

It is on the notion of people ‘retiring’ on the jobs that the contents of managerial jobs should be designed to allow the incumbents to learn, to grow and develop daily. It is better to design the jobs too big than too small – too big jobs stretch the manager to give their all – and they should not be penalized if they fail to fit in the big job shoes if they meet the minimum standard. The challenges of the job will stretch them to become better and develop faster, obviously with good support. A too small job can be likened to poison that slowly paralyses the manager and the business.

The contents of managerial jobs should be drafted in a way that provide satisfaction to the incumbent – through performance. It is the job itself that should challenge and reward, because if the key satisfaction of the job is promotion then the job would have lost significance and meaning. It is unwise to focus on promotion since several people in managerial positions end up disappointed in their hopes for promotion as the higher jobs are given to other people – even people from outside the organisation. To inculcate meaning in jobs and satisfaction, it is therefore of paramount importance to put emphasis on the job itself rather than on the next managerial job.

One of the things that cause organizational turbulence is managerial jobs that have a narrow depth and breadth. The worst kind of jobs are those described as the “assistant”! A job that is too small seems to be far much better than the “assistant”. Each managerial job must have specifics, especially when it comes to objectives and purpose. It brings satisfaction if a manager is given room to contribute to performance and the contribution can be identified. Very few managers hate accountability – it is the retired ones that shun accountability. Accountability is what makes the jobs more interesting and challenging. Therefore, to create better content for the organisation’s managerial jobs, consider including specific objectives and specific purpose to the roles. The assistant mostly does not have a job that contributes and cannot be held accountable as his or her functions or purpose or objectives cannot be easily identified.

If a managerial role is titled “assistant to”, it mostly means that he or she is a helper and the role is to do whatever the boss thinks needs to be done. Such a job is poison, no wonder so many assistants retire as assistants! With such a job, the incumbent either becomes an abuser of his influence with the boss or becomes a flatterer who tries to make his or her career by licking his boss’s shoes – and mostly mislead the boss. The “assistant” or “vice” roles are even poison to the overall organisation, as no one understands the role or authority or power of the assistant. Also, instead of working towards the success of the organisation, the assistant works so hard to topple the boss – at least to find relevance. A good organisation should not have positions or roles titled “assistant” or “vice” – let the roles and positions be defined by the tasks necessary to attain the organisation’s objectives. An “assistant” may easily be flattered by other managers and exploited.

Becoming a manager is not a pass not to work, for management is work! The way to make the contents of a managerial job interesting and challenging is to combine the managing aspect and the working aspect – making the role responsible for a specific function. If the contents of a managerial job are not much and not enough for the manager, there is a tendency by managers to do the subordinates work and unnecessarily appear to be busy forgoing the valuable elements of their jobs. Managers who are often blamed for not delegating means they do not have enough work and therefore encroach into the work that the subordinate should be doing – even creating conflict with the subordinates. Certainly, it is frustrating for managers to have no work of their own, especially those managers who were once shop-floor employees. Such a manager will quickly lose the sense of hard work and workmanship, leading to more harm than good. To avoid such situations, a manager should be a working manager rather than just an organizer or coordinator.

In the twenty-first century, the role of any manager requires advanced human relations – more is achieved by good human relations than by rules and inflicting fear. The content of the managerial role should also include developing subordinates to be better. It is an old belief to think that if an employee becomes better they will take your job – anyway, why not if they can produce better results?! Contents of a job role are more important than titles – therefore, in rethinking the contents of a managerial job ensure that tasks and responsibilities come first than title – for titles do create expectations and to use them as empty gestures will be asking for serious trouble. It is also of importance to clearly define what the purpose of the job is and the specifics to be produced by such a role.

Batanai Kamunyaru is a business writer, speaker and coach. He can be contacted on bat.kamunyaru@gmail.com or +263 718 852 489.