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The Subjective Nature of Management Practice Essay (Literature Review)

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Updated: Jun 9th, 2022


Management practice is often assumed to be the execution of pre-set and pre-determined action plans which fall into place smoothly during actualisation. Managers are probably looked at as a group of professionals whose roles and responsibilities only mean turning strategies into reality.

Their work seems cut-out and only awaiting simple procedural implementation by those with the right technical know-how. However, in real life scenario, managers actually face more challenging tasks than simply executing what is written on paper.

Organisations undergo a lot of challenges and obstacles, all of which seems to be conspiring to rebuff the attainment of such pre-set goals and objectives. This paper analyses in detail the subjective nature of management and explains how flexible the management role should be if any tangible results have to be attained.

Role Transitions in Management

Any managerial role or duty undergoes a transition or change because of numerous reasons. The transition cycle of a manager can be thus summarised into 4 easy phases:


All managers must have prior preparations about their anticipations and targeted goals and objectives. This process involves extensive and comprehensive planning where a manager lays out a number of alternative strategies to aid him in execution.

The alternative strategies come about as a result of anticipated problems which may affect the entire running of the organisation. The future is shrouded in a lot of uncertain situations and conditions and therefore managers must give room during their planning in order to accommodate such uncertain scenarios (Atkinson, 1984).


During this phase, managers are emotionally concerned about the task or challenge that lies ahead. Practically, managers at this phase engage in a lot of sense making activities in order to try and shape up and align the psychological state of their workers.

The understanding is that there are possibilities of encountering person-job misfit due to various reasons. It is not so obvious that a perfect match will be realised at 100 percent. There could be some individual shortcomings at the individual level which could limit their effectiveness and overall performance (Barley, 1989).


This phase directly builds from phase 2 which is encountering. The manager, after realising and noting misfits in his team, must make arrangements to correct the mistakes. Thus, adjustments will be done accordingly which will involve development of roles that perfectly matches personal capabilities such that any possibilities of misfit are addressed.

The occurrence of an unanticipated business situation must be addressed through a perfect readjustment of strategy because the company has to find a way out of the situation.

Strategy readjustment is a very crucial stage because it could either make or break the organisation. If the adjustments are done in a perfect manner and in good time, the organisation will be able continue with operations without too much effect. However, delays in implementing readjustments may turn out to be costly to the firm even if the strategy itself is the best.


The manager assumes that finally, the transition will attain stability where there is a perfect person-role fit. However, in actual sense, stabilisation is never permanent. It is a temporary state which managers should never sit back and enjoy. This is attributable to the fact that management is dynamic and is actually dictated with a lot of forces, some of which are external and the company has little control over.

Therefore, as soon as things begin appearing stabilised, the management should quickly think of restarting the entire process again because this is an endless life cycle. A stable condition, although is good and most preferred, must be constantly be observed to ensure deviations are not encountered.

Transition challenges

The transition process may not be an easy smooth ride for the manager as it may appear on paper. In some instances, the manager will face counter actions from the workers who do not approve or agree with the entire process. In some other instances, the transition could be taken positively which will ultimately result in a positive gain for both the worker and the organisation.

A worker who positively accepts the transition will often develop expectations that are positive and helpful. He will be more confident in coping with the expectations and enjoy in sense-making. Additionally, such a worker will target developing relations within the organisation through sustained trust, commitment, as well as effectiveness with tasks (Bauer Morrison & Callister, 1998).

On the other hand, workers who regard transition in bad light will often be fearful and express a lot of reluctance and lack of preparedness. During the encounter phase of the transition, managers will have a problem because such workers will always tend to be shocked.

They feel dejected, and full of regrets. Trying to adjust such workers would only turn out to be disastrous as they will never fit in any role, they will generally be degraded and grieving. The imminent result of this scenario is failure to attain objectives as the worker may never reach the stabilisation stage (Coupland, 2002).

Transition cycles and their implications

The general understanding that success breeds success should be what governs managers in their roles to steer the organisation towards objectives and roles. Individuals in organisations are more likely faced with the possibility of being ‘locked in’ in their own assumptions of transition cycles.

It is, however, possible to break this pattern following the intervention of numerous factors. Managers who themselves suffered from a terrible career mistake could occasion a very difficult work role transitions. For instance, the preparation stage of a transition cycle is meant to be a time to develop anticipation through modelling expectations, feelings, and motives.

However, erroneous expectations will cause a highly negative mismatch thus resulting into an encounter phase that will be more consistent with a transition cycle that is only but negative (Jones, 1986).

The switch from either transition could occur at any particular stage although it is more likely that it be witnessed during the encounter stage. Thus, managers need to ask themselves whether they really understand whatever they are pursuing and whether the strategy they are planning to employ is the best suited.

Mistakes in management and decision making put the entire organisation at a very precarious position as it could mean loss of resources and time. Misapprehension right at the planning and preparation phase makes it difficult for the encounter stage to have any positive (Agyris & Schon, 1978).

Forming expectations

Rousseau (2001) opines that workers in possession of high experiences in their roles and duties will most often have schemas that are more developed. Comparatively, experienced workers readily understand why they are working in a given organisation than fresh graduates from school.

The latter care more about what it means for them to be employed in the organisation. Managers, on the other hand, determine a number of experiences which they consider as basic in helping with their decision making. These experiences build up right from childhood through to the time of making that actual decision.

Managers who undertook responsibilities in their childhood, such as watching over siblings, are more likely to draw their decisions from as far as such escapades. Influences to the manager in his or her early childhood life from role models, like teachers, also bear a lot of influence to their decision making process (Berger & Luckmann, 1967).

These experiences model the development of role schemas and self-schemas in managers. It is possible, therefore, that discernible experiences to the manager could be part of his decision making process. Decisions may also be affected by such variables as age, gender, and social class among many others (Hill, 2000).

The proposals of these differences are not as a result of ‘individual difference’, such as traits or styles. Instead, their formation is based on commonality of experience which may result in individuals depicting similar schemas.

A manager who has changed jobs has already undergone several transitions in terms of his occupation as well as in terms of organisational structure. Individuals who began work, changed organisations, got promoted, and studied for professional qualifications, for instance, can be grouped as experienced newcomers.

Managers are poised to have high and elaborate schemata in as far as matters concerning their identity as professionals, as well as their roles are concerned. This will have a bearing on whatever work-role transition they undergo. Newcomers, on their part, will have their biographies and other past experiences influencing their initial experiences.

It is of significant importance for both managers and organisations to give this issue a deeper thought. A new manager who has just joined the organisation may have different existing role schemas to those held by the workers in the organisation.

Such a scenario is more likely to occur in cross-cultural management, where a manager from a different country may be posted to another country. Overly, representing the schemas’ content such that a mutual understanding of the organisation or individual is realised could be a difficult thing (Mankiw, 1998).

Issues for consideration by mangers during expectation

A managerial role performance is inextricably connected with knowledge or understanding of how the organisation is set. Managers must understand the operations of an organisation for it to be able to attain desired results and objectives. Thus, managers should be fairly sophisticated in their field and also understand what the organisation’s construct and way of operation is.

However, it is also thought that managers could be most useful at such a time of unfamiliarity. This is because they will look at the organisation and its existing workers in a different way. It thus makes it easier for them to question practices and operations that exist and change them for the getter (Louis, 1980).

For managers, role expectation is a particularly challenging area because of the complexities that are involved. Organisations sometimes hire managers for the simple reason that their recruitment is against the grain of what exists in terms of individuals and organisational culture. The reason behind such hiring of new managers is to bring change I the organisation.

It is important to point out, however, that such appointments often set the manager to a very complex work-role transition. It is common knowledge that all organisations would wish to have workers who will comfortably fit into the organisational structure. The presence of an ill-fitting individual, nonetheless, is done deliberately so that the individuals could encounter a tinge of discomfort.

Encountering reality

All organisations encounter a clash between their anticipations with what the real life situation offers. Such deviations are what enable managers to become aware of the real organisation environment. In other words, schemas will often be changed in such a way that they match the environment more accurately.

Managers will find themselves in very unfamiliar position whenever their plans fail to match the expectations. They are expected, in such a scenario, to get the organisation around the unfavourable condition or obstacle. Managing through such an unfavourable condition would call for introduction of drastic measures which are very different from the original ones that were being pursued by the organisation.

The manager, therefore, has to spend time studying the unfavourable condition and determine what counter strategies could be more appropriate. This crisis planning is done within very limited time constraints as continued delay could further hurt the organisation’s prospects.

A manager, therefore, has to revisit the transition cycle and rearrange it such that it would be possible for the results to reflect positively on the organisation. Planning should identify new aims and objectives that are different from the ones that existed before the uncertain condition occurred.

Roles of the workers must also be swiftly rearranged depending on their individual strengths, experience, and capabilities. Workers must accurately be selected for their specific roles because the organisation has little time to gauge their performances.

Although general theories about management could still be applied to help solve out the matter, the scenario becomes more subjective and requires that action be taken depending on what the challenge is like (Watson, 2001).

Management knowledge and changing scenarios

Management perspectives that were postulated by early scholars, including Marslow and Lewin, were never linearly related but rather recursive in nature. In other words, knowledge of management moves in different directions, allowing managers time and freedom to manipulate changes that could result in better performance.

Management knowledge in itself is an epistemological chain of facts and thought. In pursuing the organisation’s goals and objectives, managers are free to use or even create tools that they deem relevant in the performance of their roles. They do this through transforming the complex epistemological theories that were postulated by early scholars, instead turning them into ontological heuristic that are more simplified (Rousseau, 1995).

Paradoxically, the artifactual heuristics become atheoretical, where they are removed from the original theories that formulated them and applied by the managers. Managers must be able to derive independent constructs of a particular theory and employ its direct knowledge in order to enable him make proper judgement as pertains a realistic situation in his managerial duties.

The key source of a manager’s next course of action when faced with a complex situation is a past experience. The selection process is also a key source of expectation which the manager relies on. The external forces upon which the organisation acts are continuous and managers should never sit back without thinking about how to react in case an unfavourable condition occurred.

Currently, the global economic crisis continues to ravage economies across the world without basing on specific countries. The world economy is closely knitted and therefore whatever happens in one corner of the world is more likely to affect other areas either directly or indirectly. This realisation eliminates the need to focus on rigid frameworks because the organisation has to flexibly react on environmental changes.

Some of the reactionary measures that managers undertake to mitigate the effects of the unsavoury situation includes laying workers off and cutting down on expenditure costs. These drastic measures means the organisation may not be within means of actualising the original objective or target of the organisation. However, it settles for a fallback objective that may overly not leave the organisation injured.

When managers make drastic changes to the organisational goals and targets, their decision is mainly influenced by the firm’s profitability. Such expenditures as on workers’ salaries and other additional operations costs such as power and water bills are often targeted in ensuring that unnecessary spending is completely done away with.

In dealing with the ongoing global economic crisis, some multinational firms have decided to close down their subsidiaries which are located in hard hit areas. Some other companies have shut down operations in their numerous divisions which seem to have low profitability levels while maintaining operations in divisions that are comparatively profitable enough (Chell, 1998).

Career transition in management

Expectations by managers transform over time as they gain experience in their performance. Managerial roles are intricate and the extensive work experience makes managers to have more elaborated schemas. The manager’s role, nonetheless, is shaped up by the numerous environmental mixes which, together, influence the activity and operations of organisation (Allen & Meyer, 1990).


Organisations often identify their goals, aims, and objectives in advance before employing strategies that would enable the attainment of these set targets. Managers are charged with the responsibility of ensuring the organisation moves towards attaining these goals. Their knowledge and expertise is particularly very important in ensuring the organisation stays within course as it focuses on the goal.

However, the environment within which organisations operate is not certain and a lot of factors affect the smooth running of the organisations thus making their initial targets unachievable. Managers are forced to readjust their actions in order to ensure that the targets could be achievable.

One of the tools that managers use to try and realign the organisation is the transition cycle. This cycle enables managers to put plans across that the also anticipate changes along the way. Once the manager has planned, there needs to be an emotional and sense making process whose objective is to ensure all workers within the organisation are perfectly arranged to perform roles.

Where a mismatch may occur for one reason or the other, the manager needs to readjust his strategy so that it may fit within the objectives. Readjustment leads to stabilisation where the organisation maintains its performance within the parameters of the objective determine. This cycle is continuous and should never stop at any stage even if it appears as though the organisation is stable.

List of References

Agyris, C & Schon, DA 1978, Organizational learning: A theory of action perspective, Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Allen, NJ & Meyer, JP 1990, ‘Organizational socialization tactics: A longitudinal analysis of links to newcomers’ commitment and role orientation’, Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 33, pp. 847-858.

Atkinson, J 1984. ‘Managing strategies for flexible organizations’, Personnel Management, Vol. 16 No. 8, pp. 28-31.

Barley, SR 1989, “Careers, Identities and Institutions: The legacy of the Chicago School of Sociology”, In M.B. Arthur, D.T. Hall & B.S. Lawrence (Eds), Handbook of career theory, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Bauer, TN Morrison, EW, & Callister, RR, 1998, ‘Organizational socialisation: A review and directions for future research’, Research in Personnel and Human Resource Management, Vol. 16, pp. 149-214.

Berger, PL & Luckmann, T, 1967, The social construction of reality, London: Penguin.

Chell, E 1998, “Critical incident technique,” In Symon, G. and Cassell, C. (eds), Qualitative methods in organizational analysis and research: a practical guide, Penguin, London

Coupland, C 2002, ‘Graduate trainees’ career narrative: fractured or flexible?’ Proceedings of the British Psychological Society Occupational Psychology Conference.

Hill, RC 2000, ‘The case of the missing organizations: Co-operatives and the textbooks’, Journal of Economic Education, Vol. 31 No.3, pp. 281-296.

Jones, GR 1986, ‘Socialisation tactics, self-efficacy, and newcomers’ adjustment to organizations’, Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 29, pp. 262-279.

Louis, MR 1980, ‘Surprise and sense making: What newcomers experience in entering unfamiliar organizational settings’, Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 25, pp. 226-251.

Mankiw, NG 1998, ‘Rethinking economic principles: Critical essays on introductory textbooks’, Eastern Economic Journal, Vol. 24 No.1, pp. 117-120.

Rousseau, DM 1995, Psychological contracts in organizations: understanding written and unwritten agreements, Sage, Newbury Park, CA

Rousseau, DM 2001, ‘Schema, promise and mutuality: The building blocks of the psychological contract’, Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, Vol. 74 No.4, pp. 511-542.

Watson, TJ 2001, ‘The emergent manager and processes of management pre-learning’, Management Learning, Vol. 32 No.2, pp. 221-235

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