Lower level Managers and their Role in Organizational Functioning
Lower level Managers and their Role in Organizational Functioning
All the organizations are comprised of a large numbers of different managerial tasks. When these are coordinated properly, and there is a strong hierarchal system of management in place, then the organization is extremely efficient in creating value through the production of their products, services and overall workflow.
In an organization all those who are responsible for the work of others are known as managers. Though their primary task remains the same which is getting the things done by other people, wide variances exist with regard to the authority and responsibility of the managers. These differences are largely due to the differences in the levels of management. Based on the scope of authority and responsibility, management job needs several skills and talents. Normally the management system of the organization is structured in the shape of a pyramid.
Managers are organizational members who are responsible for the work performance of other organizational members. Managers have formal authority to use organizational resources and to make decisions. The job of a manager is essentially about planning, organizing, staffing, leading, and controlling. It is about the effective use of financial, human, information, and physical organizational resources to achieve specific goals. However, the nature of managerial jobs differs from organization to organization and, more particularly, level to level. Further, there can be a number of changes to organizational structures which can take place and which can influence the role, tasks, and responsibilities of the managers at each level of the organizational hierarchy.
In most organizations, the number of managers at each level is such that the hierarchy resembles a pyramid, with a large number of lower level managers, lesser numbers of middle level managers, and the least numbers of senior level managers. One perspective which can be taken for the organizational management is a hierarchical view. Under this perspective, managers at different levels are responsible for different degrees of organizational scope, which can be visualized as having responsibility over a larger volume of processes and people. When illustrating this concept, the managers at the lower level management are at the bottom of the pyramid while the managers at the senior management are at the top level.
The term ‘levels of management’ stands for the arranged managerial positions in the organization. It refers to a line of demarcation between various managerial positions in an organization. It determines a chain of command, the amount of authority, and the status enjoyed by a managerial position. The number of managerial positions increases when the size of the organization and the number of employees in the organization increases. But, the organizations normally follow a system which divides the managerial positions in three hierarchical levels. These three levels are (i) senior management level, (ii) middle management level, and (ii) lower manage level.
These three levels of management taken together form the ‘hierarchy of management’. It indicates the ranks and positions of the managers in the hierarchy. It shows that the managers at the middle level management are subordinate to the managers at the senior level of the management and the managers at the lower level are s subordinate to the managers at middle level of the management. Employees at the workplace form the bulk of the organization’s membership. Within the managerial ranks, the number of managers at each level decreases as one move from lower level to the senior level of management. The authority of the managers decreases from senior level to lower level whereas the accountability increases. Fig1 shows the pyramid for the hierarchy of the management levels.
Fig 1 Hierarchy of management levels
Managers at the senior management level are responsible for the entire organization, especially its strategic direction. They devote more of their time on conceptual issues. They concentrate on activities related to long-range planning, monitoring business indicators, coordinating, and internal consulting. Managers at the middle management level are at the middle of the hierarchy. They are responsible for major departments. They are at the middle for all activities and normally supervise the managers at the lower level of management.
Hierarchy in the organization plays an important role in its effective functioning. The hierarchy in the organization brings multiple levels of management. Since each level of management interacts with other levels, it adds value to other levels both by being thrilled from them and influencing them. The lower level managers who interact with the employees at the workplace are an important link and interface between the higher level managers and the employees at the workplace. They play an important role in improving organizational performance by adding value to the functioning of the employees with their perceptions, attitudes, and behaviours.
As organizations have been forced to operate more efficiently in order to maintain their edge in an increasingly competitive environment, more and more organizational managements are now recognizing the important role played by the managers at the lower level of the management. Managers at the lower level focus on the execution of tasks and deliverables, serving as role models for the employees at the workplace.
The managers at the lower level of the management are task or process oriented. They are functional specialists managing departments or projects. They thrive in pursuing operational efficiency. They balance functional expertise with strong interpersonal skills to optimize specific operational processes. They frequently balance functional or technical understanding of those who report to them with the interpersonal skills of a manager. This form of leadership needs a strong ability to communicate, mentor, train, organize, optimize processes, and prioritize.
The managers at the lower level of management are above the employees at the workplace but below the middle management level in the organization. They play an important role in the organization. They are assisted by a number of employees who carry out the activities as per schedule or demand. The essential feature of this level of managers is that they are in direct contact with the employees at the workplace. They represent a link between the higher management and the employees at the workplace. They plan day to day production schedules within the goals set from the above. They assign tasks to the employees at the workplace, guide them, and take corrective action on the spot.
The effective implementation of the plans and policies, the quality of workmanship and quality of output and the over-all success of the organization very much depend on the hard work, discipline and loyalty of the personnel at this level of management. Further, this level of management represents the employees at the workplace before the higher management and the higher levels of the management to the employees of workplace. The employees look to them for issues relating to various orders of the higher level management, policies, instructions, guidance, encouragement, and increased pay etc.
Though the authority and responsibility of the managers at the lower level of management in the organization as compared to the middle and senior level of management is less, the management at this level too does play a vital role in implementing the policies designed by the senior management level. They have to comply with the rules and guidelines made by the higher authorities of the organization.
The managers at the lower level of management are in direct touch with the employees at the workplace and are to see that the work is properly carried out and on time. They focus almost exclusively on effective execution, and are normally short-term oriented. This allows them to narrow their focus towards the work so as to make it manageable. They are responsible for the work of the employees in their unit and have the primary responsibility for the actual production of goods and services in the organization. They are required to supervise the employees at the workplace and carry out day-to-day activities within their department. They concentrate their efforts on technical issues. Their responsibility is to accomplish tasks through the employees at the operational level.
The managers at the lower level of the management are responsible for the daily management of those employees at the workplace who actually produce the product or offer the service. Although these managers typically do not set goals for the organization, they have a very strong influence on the organization. These are the managers with which most employees interact with on a daily basis, and if the managers perform poorly, employees can also perform poorly and can lack motivation.
Managers at the lower level of management are also responsible for the work of the people in their unit, and their actions in this regard are directly related to their role as a leader. The influence of this level of managers is most clearly seen in the leader role. Formal authority confers them with the potential power, while the leadership quality determines, how much power they actually realize. Increasing productivity at the workplace is directly related to creative and mainly innovative skills of this level of managers. They need not have to be extraordinary individuals, but have to share a number of characteristics such as comfortable with change, clarity of direction, thoroughness, participative management style, persistence, and discretion.
The functioning of lower level managers is a difficult one since it is the key position between the employees at the workplace and higher management levels. On the one hand they have to translate strategy and on the other hand they need to pay attention to the day-to-day problems at the workplace. There is a constant struggle between the policy of the organization and actual operations at the workplace. Lower level managers have an important role in disseminating knowledge with the employees at the workplace and work as mediators between day-to-day operations and strategy. They have to be constantly alert in an environment in which cutting budgets and lifecycle management are a true art form like cost cutting, more efficiency, and in the end delivering the same or even more.
The success of the managers at the lower level of management depends on the preference of the employees, their co-operation, their ungrudging effort, their satisfaction and their loyalty to them. The managers at the lower level of management, in turn, look to the higher management levels for orders, policy information, help and guidance. Fig 2 shows the three hierarchical levels of the management and the main activities of the three levels.
Fig 2 Management levels in the organization
Managers at different management levels of the organization engage in different quantities of time on the five managerial functions of planning, organizing, staffing, leading, and controlling. Planning is choosing appropriate organizational goals and the correct directions to achieve those goals. Organizing involves determining the tasks and the relationships that allow employees to work together to achieve the planned goals. Staffing is linked to the issues related to the human relations management. With leading, managers motivate and coordinate employees to work together to achieve organizational goals. By controlling, managers monitor and measure the degree to which the organization has reached its goals.
The degree to which the managers at the senior, middle, and lower levels of management perform is shown in Fig 3. It can be seen that the managers at the senior level of management do considerably more planning, organizing, and controlling than do managers at lower level of the management. However, they do much less leading. Most of the leading is done by the managers at lower level of the management. The amount of planning, organizing, and controlling decreases down the hierarchy of management while leading increases as a person move down the hierarchy of management. Fig 3 compares the time spent by the managers at the lower management level on management functions as compared to the other levels of the management.
Fig 3 Time spent by lower management level on management functions compared to other levels
The amount of planning, organizing, and controlling decreases down the hierarchy of management while the amount of leading increases as a person move down the hierarchy of management. In addition to the broad categories of management functions, managers in different levels of the hierarchy fill different managerial roles. These roles have been categorized by Henry Mintzberg, and they can be grouped into three major types consisting of decisional, interpersonal, and informational. Decisional roles need managers to plan strategy and utilize resources.
Managers at the lower level of the management are more concerned to planning and organizing the operations at the departmental level. They implement the policies of the organization. They also play the supervisory role since they are in direct contact with the employees at the workplace. They are more concerned with day-to-day direction and control function as compared to planning and organizing functions of the management. They directly guide and control the performance of the employees at the workplace.
Managers at the lower level of the management communicate the organizational goals or ethical guidelines to the employees at the workplace. They act as a leader and set example for other employees to follow. They give commands and directions to the employee, make decisions, and mobilize employees’ support. In the role of liaison, the lower level manager is to coordinate the work of others in different work units, establish alliances between others, and work to share resources. Informational roles are those in which managers obtain and transmit information. These roles have changed dramatically as technology has improved. As per the monitor role they evaluate the performance of the employees at the workplace and take corrective action to improve the performance. The role of disseminator requires that managers inform employees of changes which affect them and the organization. They also communicate the organizational vision and purpose. Finally, they play the role a spokesperson to communicate the information from the higher management level to the employees.
The responsibility of the managers at the lower level of the management includes employees’ supervision. Hence, they need to possess the technical skill of the workplace. Further, since they are concerned with planning and organizing at their department level, they are to fix the departmental goals only for the short term in line with the organizational goals. They are to perform the control function by evaluating the performance of the employees and then communicate the information upward. They also need to possess the requisite human skill since they have to deal with the employees at the workplace to get things done through them. They are responsible for developing harmonious relations among the employees and help them in solving their work problems. They are to represent the concern of the employees to the higher management and the concern of the higher management to the employees.
Managers at the lower level of the management are required to work with the higher levels of the management as well as with the employees at the workplace. Their effectiveness is dependent on critical leadership skills, including interpersonal and communication skills and the ability to inspire, motivate and mentor the employees at the workplace.
The three hierarchical levels of the management can be distinguished by the three types of managerial skills namely (i) technical skills, (ii) human relation skills, and (iii) conceptual skills. Technical skills are the capabilities which the managers are to have for operating the process and using the tools, procedures, and techniques of their working area. These skills are the mechanics of the job. Human relations skills involve the ability to work with people and understand employee motivation and group processes. These skills allow the manager to become involved with and lead his group. Conceptual skills represent the abilities of the manager to organize and analyze information in order to improve organizational performance. These include the ability to see the organization as a whole and to understand how various parts fit together to work as an integrated unit. These skills are needed to coordinate the departments and divisions successfully so that the entire organization can pull together. Fig 4 shows different levels of these skills as needed at the three levels of the managerial positions.
Fig 4 Skills needed by lower level manager compare to other levels
As shown in Fig 4, success in the senior management level needs far more conceptual skills and less use of technical skills in most (but not all) situations, whereas in the lower management level positions, the managers normally need more technical skills and fewer conceptual skills. In fact, the managers at the lower level of management are frequently highly skilled and even functional specialists. They are best positioned when they focus on controlling and directing specific employees. However, the human relations skills, or people skills, remain important for success at all three levels in the hierarchy.
Managers at the lower level of management are placed at the bottom of the hierarchy of management, and to achieve success in the actual operations is the responsibility of this level of management. They are frequently to be highly skilled and even be the functional specialists. They need to have two distinctive skill sets namely (i) the interpersonal skills to manage people, and (ii) the technical expertise for lines actively executing the functional tasks. As a result, they are frequently highly valuable team members with the versatility to contribute in various ways. Core skill sets for these managers can change depending on what function they are overseeing. However, on the interpersonal side they are required to be effective at (i) communicating, (ii) observing and actively listening, (iii) giving and receiving feedback, (iv) prioritizing, (v) aligning resources, and (vi) organizing processes and tasks’
The managers at the lower level of management are in direct touch with the employees at the workplace. Their authority and responsibility are limited. Good interpersonal and communication skills are important in dealing with employees since they communicate the instructions, plans, and the policies of the higher levels of the management to the employees of the workplace. They interpret and divide the plans of the management into short-range operating plans. They are also involved in the process of decisions-making. They have to get the work done through the employees at the workplace. They allot various jobs to the employees at the workplace, evaluate their performance and report to the higher level of the management. They are more concerned with direction and control functions of management. They devote more time in the supervision of the employees.
Managers at the lower level of the management are responsible for the daily management of the operations at their respective workplaces and of those employees who actually produce the product or carry out the service. They are to assign duties to the employees at the workplace as per planned schedules given by the higher level managers. They have responsibility for managing of their team of employees. They are also responsible for maintaining discipline among the employees at the workplace and develop an increased spirit of work among them. The quality and quantity of output at the workplace depends upon the efficiency of this level of managers.
The authority and the responsibility of the managers at the lower level of the management is limited according to the plans drawn by the senior management. Although the managers at the lower level typically do not set goals for the organization, they have a very strong influence on the performance of the organization since they are the managers which the employees interact with on a daily basis. They also to guide and help the managers at the middle level of management in recruiting, selecting and appointing the employees.
The plans developed and scheduled for application by the senior level management fail if the managers at the lower level along with the employees at the workplace do not fully appreciate the work allotted to them nor enjoy the nature of their work. The quality and quantity of the work done by the lower level managers depend upon the performances of the employees at the workplace. The supervision by the managers at the lower level at the workplace is to be maintained so as to achieve high quality standards of the manufactured product.
The managers at the lower level of the management are frequently being regarded as the voice of management for the employees at the workplace on the one hand, while on the other hand, they represent the problems or grievances of the employees before the middle level management. They are directly linked to the employees at the workplace and hence they are the right persons to understand their problems and grievances.
The managers at the lower level of the management are to communicate with the employees at the workplace and encourage them to come forward with their suggestions for improving the working conditions, process efficiency, and process safety. They are to motivate the employees to take initiatives. They are not only to welcome their suggestions but also to ensure that the good suggestions are implemented and rewarded. Further, they are to ensure that both the precise standard of quality and steady flow of output are maintained at the workplace. For achieving this they are to boost the morale of the employees and develop the team spirit in them.
The managers at the lower level of the management have responsibility of creating and maintaining good working conditions employees at the workplace. They are to promote and develop healthy relations between the superior and the subordinates. For this, they are to create supportive work environment. Their responsibilities include looking after the health and safety of the employees at the workplace for which they are to see that a healthy, safe, and secure work environment as well as good house-keeping at the workplace is maintained.
The performance of the managers at the lower level of the management has a considerable effect on the efficient working at the work place. Their performance gets reflected in the performance of their team of employees. If they perform poorly due to lack of capabilities or lack of motivation, then the working of their team at the workplace gets severely affected which results into not only poor efficiency level being achieved but have effect on the working of the connected teams and the connected processes.
The managers at the lower level of the management constitute the management at the operational level. They comprise the lower level in the hierarchy of the organization. They directly oversee the efforts of the employees at the workplace. They play a very important role in the organization since they interact with the actual employees at the workplace and communicate policies and plans of the management to the employees at the workplace. Through their efforts quality of output is maintained, wastage of materials is minimized and safety standards are maintained. The quality of workmanship and the quantity of output depends on the hard work, discipline, and loyalty of the employees at the workplace who are supervised and controlled by them..
The managerial responsibilities of the managers at the lower level of management differ with respect to the type of department or function. There are differences in the managerial responsibilities needed for quality assurance, manufacturing, marketing, accounting and finance, and human resource management departments etc. For example, manufacturing department managers are to concentrate their efforts on products and services, controlling, and supervising. Marketing department managers, in comparison, is to focus less on planning, coordinating, and consulting and more on customer relations and external contact. Managers in both the finance and account department and human resource management department are to focus high on long-range planning, but they are to spend less time on the organizational products and service offerings. Managers in finance and account department are also concerned with controlling and with monitoring performance indicators, while human resource managers provide consulting expertise, coordination, and external contacts. The emphasis on and intensity of managerial activities varies considerably by the department the manager is assigned to.
Responsibilities of the managers at the lower level of management consist of two important aspects. The first is the expertise needed to do whatever they are managing. For example, take the case of accounting managers, they are to be able to balance the books and understand enough of everyone’s specific function to fill the gaps. In another example taking the case of managers looking after blast furnace operation, they are to be in a position to take the corrective action whenever an irregularity in the operation of the blast furnace is noticed.
On the managerial side, the managers at the lower level of management are frequently having the tasks such as assessing performance, providing feedback, delegating functional tasks, identifying gaps, maximizing efficiency, scheduling, and aligning team of the employees to the work tasks. As the primary point of contact for the employees at the workplace, they are to be careful listeners, capable of understanding employee needs, removing blockers, and optimizing performance.
It is a fact that the managers at the lower level of management cannot always control all the issues which have an influence on job satisfaction, such as pay, job design, or workplace working environment, yet they can do a lot to trigger the ‘feel good’ factor in the employees which helps to motivate and engage the employees. This ‘feel good’ factor is strongly influenced by them since they (i) help employees see where they fit into the broader organizational vision, (ii) respect, develop, praise, and reward their employees, (iii) value the voice of employees and listen to their views and concerns, and (iv) build relationships based on mutual trust and shared values.
The key agents for implementing the HR (human relations) practices are the managers at the lower level of the management since they interact with the employees at the workplace in a frequent and timely manner. They have HR management responsibilities by virtue of their frequent and direct interactions with their team members and subordinates. Hence, involving them for implementing HR policies and procedures is a practice followed by several organizations. Organizations involve the managers at the lower level of the management to a varying degree in HR functions and give HR responsibilities to them rather than personnel specialists. For delegation of the responsibility of HR issues, they are provided with an opportunity to engage with day-to-day people management decision-making, In turn, HR specialists work on achieving closer alignment of the organizational systems and processes with corporate objectives, while remaining sensitive to external environmental changes.
The traditional role of the managers at the lower level of the management typically includes (i) day-to-day people management, (ii) managing budgets and operational costs in their area of working, (iii) planning and organizing the work, (iv) providing technical expertise and guidance to the employees at the workplace, (v) carrying out the quality control, (vi) measuring operational performance, and (vii) monitoring work processes and systems. The critical role of people management played by them include executing the HR practices on the work floor, monitoring of attendance, coaching and development, discipline and grievances, involvement and communication and performance appraisal. As regards implementing the HR practices on the work floor, they have a crucial role to play.
It is important that the managers at the lower level of the management can help to engage the employees and encourage positive discretionary behaviour in them by (i) bringing the organizational policies and procedures to life in the workplace which frequently means giving things like the time and care to the organizational policies and procedures, (ii) making a connection with employees since they are best placed to talk to the employees, listen to their concerns, and coach them as needed, (iii) leading by example means that they are always to demonstrate the importance of significant issues like work pace, discipline, and safety etc., and (iv) managing performance by always giving praise and positive feedback for work well done. At the same time the managers at the lower level of the management are to guide and coach the employees at the workplace to improve the employees’ performance if it is not upto the standard. This includes holding of the difficult conversation when it is needed. In turn, they are to be coached by higher level managers so that they can develop their management skills, play an active role in decision making and discuss any problems with them they can be facing.
Managers at the lower level of the management are critical to the success of the organization since they have a considerable influence on the behaviour of the employees and their overall attitude towards the organization. Hence, it is necessary that they are carefully selected and coached for ensuring that they have the right skills and qualities to motivate employees and deal with difficult situations. They are to be supported by strong organizational values which are to show clearly the behaviours expected. They are to be trained in all those skill areas which are needed to enable them (i) to carry out their duties effectively, (ii) to develop their own careers, and (iii) to fulfill the people management requirements of the job. They are to be confident that the higher level managers are going to treat them with respect. They are to be encouraged to reflect on their own behaviour and how they are perceived by those they manage and to commit to the people management aspects of their role through clearly drawn up job descriptions, performance appraisal and on-going communication. Further, they are to be given a balanced workload which allows sufficient time available to them to carry out their people management duties and to focus on the performance management.
The functions of the managers at the lower level of management are the primary link between the higher level of the management and the employees at the workplace normally have a wide variety of tasks which include (i) planning and implementing the work at the workplace, (ii) supporting employees’ effectiveness, (iii) monitoring and ensuring fulfillment of the performance indicators, (iv) diagnosing and resolving problems at the workplace, and (v) facilitating communication, and (vi) ensuring cooperative behaviour among the employees.
It is important that the managers receive the necessary support and training. Many employees end up in the management roles without the skills and knowledge needed to perform the role successfully. This can be extremely stressful for the manager concerned, and frequently leads to a negative effect on employee motivation and productivity. At the same time, employees expect their manager to know everything about the way the organization works. For the managers at the lower level of the management to perform their job effectively they need training for acquiring skills in a number of essential areas such as (i) communication skills including listening skills and questioning techniques, (ii) motivating the team members and delegating successfully, (iii) promoting a culture of dignity at work, (iv) basic principles of managing discipline and handling grievances, (v) dealing with employees’ absence, (vi) work-life balance, (vii) health and safety procedures, (viii) employees’ supervision and appraisal, (ix) handling of emergencies and difficult situations, and (x) equal opportunities and diversity.
Managers at the lower level of the management are normally assigned with the responsibility of giving on the job training to the new employees, since they have first-hand knowledge of all the skills and qualities required to perform according to the standards and procedures applicable to the area of their operations.