Article Review: Why Do Managers Do What They Do?

11195 Words Sep 21st, 2012 45 Pages
British Journal of Management, Vol. 10, 335-350 (1999)

Why do Managers Do What They Do? Reconciling Evidence and Theory in Accounts of Managerial Work
Colin Hales
Westminster Business School, University of Westminster, London NWl 5LS, UK This article seeks to show that there has been surprisingly little interest in developing a causal explanation of the consistently documented common characteristics of managerial work and attempts to sketch out such an explanation. It is argued that researchers In the field have either contented themselves with description and correlation or have given priority to explaining variations, whilst theories of management have tended to suggest that managerial behaviour can be inferred, unproblematically,
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Despite the recent retreat from, or even antipathy towards, 'meta-narratives ' or grand theory, it can still be argued that the aim of systematic enquiry is to explain or understand, rather than merely describe, social phenomena. Without an explanatory theory, however tentative, much of the evidence on what managers do is rather meaningless: a catalogue of disconnected actions, events and encounters. Second, and obversely, any body of theory which fails to generate or engage with empirical evidence remains only a speculative abstraction: interesting perhaps, but of little 'performative ' power. Third, on a more practical level, an explanatory account of why managers do, or have done, what they do, offers a basis for anticipating possible future changes in the nature of managerial work. Understanding which variables and processes impinge on managerial work - and how - makes it possible to do more than speculate on the effects of changes in these variables and processes. Finally, understanding the nature of, and reasons for, the common, generic characteristics of managerial work is also central to management education, training and development and to systems of managerial appraisal and remuneration. Whilst all of these have become more nuanced
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