Senior level Managers and their Role in the Organization

Senior level Managers and their Role in the Organization

Managers in the organization help the organization to accomplish its objectives. 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 the organization. It determines a chain of command, the quantity of authority, and the status of the 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. Managers at these three levels perform different functions.

The three levels of management taken together form the ‘hierarchy of management’. Hierarchy in the organization plays an important role in its effective functioning. The hierarchy in the organization brings multiple levels of management. In most organizations, the number of managers at each level is such that the hierarchy resembles a pyramid. Normally, a senior level manager is an individual with responsibility for both a considerable part of the organization (e.g. a division, a business unit, head of a function, or a geographical area), and a group of middle or functional managers. Fig 1 shows the three hierarchical levels of the management and the main activities of the three levels.

Fig 1 Management levels in the organization

Senior level managers have least numbers of the managers and they are located at the top level of the hierarchical pyramid. This level of managers normally includes the managing director or chief executive officer, chief financial officer, chief operational officer, chief information officer, directors, executive directors, presidents, vice presidents, and in some cases senior general managers. Senior level managers are responsible for the performance of the entire organization. This level of managers is accountable to the chairman and the ‘board of directors’.  Senior level managers get power for their effective functioning in the organization from chairman / board of directors. In turn, they delegate some off their powers to their subordinates.

Defining senior level managers is full of difficulties. There is an increasingly blurred distinction between jobs in the management hierarchy and managerial roles. Senior level managers’ jobs are normally characterized by a high degree of complexity and diversity between and within the organizations. The two dimension of time (i.e. future and present) and focus (both internal and external) can have a particular influence on the range of the types of the senior level managers within the organization. Both the knowledge and experience are important for the effective and efficient functioning of the senior level managers.

There are six characteristics which have been identified for the job of the senior level managers. These characteristics are (i) senior level managers process large, open-ended workloads under tight time pressure, (ii) managerial activities are relatively short in duration, varied, and fragmented and frequently self-initiated, (iii) senior level managers prefer action and action driven activities and dislike mail and paperwork, (iv) senior level managers prefer verbal communication through meetings and phone conversations, (v) senior level managers maintain relationships primarily with their subordinates and external parties and least with their superiors, and (vi) the involvement of the senior level managers in the execution of the work at the workplace is limited although they initiate several of the decisions.

The jobs and responsibilities of the senior level managers include (i) determining the organizational goals and strategies and setting of the policies and directions, (ii) resource management and business control, (iii) managing the environment, (iv) managing their part of the organization, and (v) developing the employees through coaching and mentoring. The increased competitive pressures both domestically and through the globalization of markets, have led to the senior level managers to pursue competitive advantages based on one or more of the issues like (i) cost reduction, (ii) product ‘service quality, and (iii) time meaning speed and market responsiveness.

Senior level managers achieve results through people. They need to work effectively with a diverse group of people in a variety of context. The priority for them is to have ability to build, develop, and lead an effective team. They need to have the leadership quality for building a best place to work and for gaining commitment of the people. They need to have strategic leadership ability to provide clear directions for translating vision into meaningful goals and objectives which others are able to understand and act upon. Further, senior level managers need to have ability to adapt to and to interact with people from varying cultures, environments, and backgrounds. They need competence of adaptability and flexibility.

The three levels of the managers as per the ‘hierarchy of management’ engage in different quantities of time on the four managerial functions of planning, organizing, 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 which allow employees to work together to achieve the planned goals. With leading, managers motivate and coordinate employees to work together to achieve organizational goals. When controlling, managers monitor and measure the degree to which the organization has reached its goals.

The degree to which the three levels of managers perform each of these functions is shown in Fig 2. From the figure, it can be seen that the senior level managers do considerably more planning, organizing, and controlling than do managers at other two levels. However, they do much less leading. The quantity of planning, organizing, and controlling decreases down the hierarchy of management while leading increases as a person move down the hierarchy of management. Fig 2 compares the time spent by the senior level managers on the four management functions as compared to the other two levels of managers.

Fig 2 Time spent by senior level managers on management functions compared to other levels

As regards the roles of senior level managers, it is possible to draw a number of commonalities across their objectives and responsibilities. These commonalities are (i) determining the organizational goals and strategies, (ii) resource management and business control, (iii) directing their part of the operations in the organization, (iv) management of the environment, and (v) development of the employees.

Senior level managers 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. They are the ultimate source of authority and manage goals and policies for the organization. They devote more time on planning and coordinating functions.

In the majority of the organizations, senior level managers have a great deal of managerial experience and have moved up through the ranks of management within the organization or in another organization. In the organization which implements seriously and carefully succession planning, high potential managers are tagged for promotion to senior level  managers through succession planning. These managers are promoted from within and groomed for senior management positions through management development activities, coaching, and mentoring.

Senior level managers make decisions affecting the entirety of the organization. They do not direct the day-to-day activities of the organization. Rather, they set goals for the organization and direct the organization to achieve them. They are ultimately responsible for the performance of the organization, and frequently, they have very visible jobs. They are to develop individual values, institutional values, and behavioural expectations for the organization to support the implementation of the management system and are to act as role models in the visible promulgation of these values and expectations. They are to ensure that it is clear when, how, and by whom decisions are to be made within the management system.

Senior level managers establish goals, strategies, plans, and objectives which are consistent with the policies of the organization. They develop goals, strategies, plans, and objectives of the organization in an integrated manner so that their collective impact is understood and managed. Further, they are to ensure that measurable objectives for implementing the goals, strategies, and plans are established through appropriate processes at various levels of the organization. They are also to ensure that the implementation of the plans is regularly reviewed against those objectives and that actions are taken to address deviations from the plans where necessary.

Senior level managers are ultimately responsible for the management system in the organization and are to ensure that it is established, implemented, assessed, and continually improved. They are to determine the quantity of the resources necessary and provide the resources to carry out the activities of the organization and to establish, implement, assess, and continually improve the management system.

Senior level managers are to manage the information and knowledge of the organization as a resource. They are to determine the competence requirement at all the levels and are to provide training or other actions for achieving the required level of competence. They are to conduct an evaluation of the effectiveness of the actions taken. Suitable proficiency is required to be achieved and maintained.

Senior level managers are to ensure that the employees are competent to perform their assigned work and that they understand the consequences of their activities. Employees are to receive appropriate education and training, so that they acquire suitable skills, knowledge, and experience to ensure their competence. Training is to ensure that employees are aware of the relevance and importance of their activities and of how their activities contribute in the achievement of the organizational objectives.

Senior level managers determine, provide, maintain and re-evaluate the infrastructure and the working environment necessary for work to be carried out in an efficient manner and for requirements to be met. Fig 3 shows the role cycle for the senior level managers.

Fig 3 The role cycle for the senior level managers

Senior level managers assume multiple roles. A role is an organized set of behaviours. If the senior level managers cannot create a good environment for the organizational behaviour, then it immediately presents as internal problems at all the organizational levels. In such a case, organizational behaviour directly has impact on work satisfaction, courtesy, dedication, and organizational commitment and the environment is related negatively on role performance and organizational behaviour.

Senior level managers play several roles in the organization. Besides discharging specific responsibilities allocated to them such as those related to functions like marketing, production, finance or personnel management, senior level managers play strategic, leadership, operating, and other roles. A role is ‘a set of expected behaviour patterns attributed to someone occupying a given position in a social unit’. The performance of the senior level manager depends considerably on how well they play their multiple roles. In turn, how well these roles are played by the senior level managers influences the performance of the organization. Senior level managers are to have the competencies needed to play the multiple roles expected from them.

There are five characteristic which have their effect on managerial behaviour. These are (i) behavioural consistency, (ii) integrity, (iii) control, (iv) communication, and (v) demonstration of concern and their impact is to increase trust of the employees to their managerial level. Organizational conflict can be a test for the senior level managers during the performing of their activity. Senior level managers are to involve deeply in the conflict resolution activities. Conflict can come from inside organization, such as between managers’ level, individuals, or groups, etc. External factors which can create organizational conflict are technological change or environmental change. These conflicts push the senior level managers to make decisions for resolving the conflicts. Senior level managers are responsible to resolve the conflicts through conception and principles.

Ten roles have been identified for the senior level managers for meeting the several demands needed for performing their functions. These ten roles are divided into three groups namely (i) interpersonal, (ii) informational, and (iii) decisional. The performance of managerial roles and the requirements of these roles can be played at different times by the same senior level manager and to different degrees depending on the level and function of the management. The ten roles are described individually, but they form an integrated whole.

Interpersonal roles – The interpersonal roles link all managerial work together. The three interpersonal roles are (i) figure head role, (ii) leader role and (iii) liaison role. These three roles are primarily concerned with interpersonal relationships. In case of the figure head role, the senior level managers represent the organization in all matters of formality. They represent the organization legally and socially to those outside of the organization. In the leader role, the senior level managers define the relationships between them and their subordinate employees. In case of liaison role, the senior level managers interact with peers and people outside the organization. They make use of the liaison role to gain favours and information as well as to maintain the routine flow of work.

Informational roles – The informational roles ensure that information is provided. The three informational roles are (i) monitor role, (ii) disseminator role, and (iii) spokesperson role. These three roles primarily concerned with the informational aspects of managerial work. In case of monitor role, the senior level manager receives and collects information about the operation of the organization. In case of disseminator role, the senior level managers transmit special information into the organization. They receive and transmit more information from people outside the organization than the other level of managers. In case of spokesperson role the senior level managers disseminate the organizational information into its environment. Hence, they are seen as an industry expert.

Decisional roles – Decisional roles need managers to plan strategy and utilize resources. These roles make considerable use of the information. There are four decisional roles namely (i) entrepreneur role, (ii) disturbance handler role, (iii) resource allocator role, and (iv) negotiator role. In case of the entrepreneur role the senior level managers initiate change, new projects, identify new ideas, and delegate idea responsibility to other levels of managers. In case of the disturbance handler role, the senior level managers deal with the threats to the organization. They take corrective action during disputes or crises, resolve conflicts among subordinates, and adapt to the environmental crisis. In case of the resource allocator role, the senior level managers decide who gets the resources, they schedule, budget, set priorities, and chooses where the organization applies its efforts. In case of the negotiator role the senior level managers negotiate on behalf of the organization. They make the decisions about the organization as a whole. Fig 4 shows the roles of senior level managers.

Fig 4 Roles of senior level managers

The main aspect of the role of senior level managers which distinguishes them from other managers is their need to visualize the future of the organization. They need to have the vision and the capabilities for the strategic thinking and the strategic planning. They are required to see the needs of the organization taking a long term view.

Senior level managers need to have a strong and disciplined self management since it determines their personal style, dedication, integrity, energy, and determination. They are required to have a positive self image, self control, confidence in self, and ability to handle challenging situations. They need to have tenacity so that they can stick with a problem until it is resolved. They need to be independent by holding their own conviction and being prepared to express them even if it means taking a stand on an unpopular issue. An effective senior level manager does not give in unduly to pressure in order to please or avoid conflict.

Competencies of managers are simply referred as ‘the skills, knowledge, experience, attributes, and behaviours which a manager needs to perform a job efficiently. The three levels of the managers as per the ‘hierarchy of management’ need to have three types of skills. These skills are (i) technical skills, human relation skills, and conceptual skills. Fig 5 shows skills needed by the senior level managers as compared to middle, and lower level managers.

Fig 5 Skills needed by senior level managers as compared to middle, and lower level managers

Technical skills are the abilities of the managers to use the methods, process, and techniques of managing. These skills involve process or technological knowledge and proficiency in a certain specialized field, such as engineering, computers, accounting, or manufacturing. These skills are more important at lower levels of management since these managers are dealing with employees doing the organizational work. The technical skill involves the managers’ understanding of the nature of job which the employees under them have to perform. It refers to a person’s knowledge and proficiency in any type of process, or technology.

Human relation skills are the ability to interact effectively with people at all levels. These skills involve the ability to interact effectively with people, cooperating with others, understanding them, and motivating and leading them in their workplace. Managers interact and cooperate with the employees. Because managers deal directly with people, these skills are crucial. Managers with good human relation skills are able to get best out of their people. They know how to communicate, motivate, lead, and inspire enthusiasm and trust. Human relation skills develop in the managers, sufficient ability (i) to recognize the feelings and sentiments of others, (ii) to judge the possible reactions to, and outcomes of various courses of action they can undertake, and (iii) to examine their own concepts and values, which can enable them to develop more useful attitudes about themselves.

Conceptual skills involve the formulation of ideas, conceptualization about abstract and complex situations. Managers understand abstract relationships, develop ideas and solve problems creatively. Using these skills, managers are to be able to see the organization as a whole. They have to understand the relationships among various sub-units, and visualize how organization fits into its border environment. These skills are most important at the senior management levels.

Conceptual skills are the mental ability to see how various factors in a given situation fit together and interact. Seeing the second order and the third order consequences of decisions and lack of decisions is especially important. Conceptual skills refer to the ability of the managers to conceptualize the environment, the organization, and their own jobs, so that they can set appropriate goals for the organization, for themselves and for their team. These skills seem to increase in importance as a manager move up to higher positions of responsibility in the organization. Thus, technical skill deals with things, human skills concerns people, and conceptual-skill has to do with ideas.

The change initiatives adopted by the organizations in the recent years in pursuit of competitive advantage (e.g. restructuring, externalization, internalization, information technology, and organizational learning etc.) have implications on the skill requirements of the senior level managers. At present, there are some critical skills and competencies requirements which the senior level managers are required to possess.

The main skill required in the senior level managers are (i) the organizational or management skills and technical know-how needed to manage operations, monitor performance, and develop the business, (ii) the conceptual or cognitive skills needed to think strategically, analyze information, solve problems, and to make decisions, (iii) the people skills including those necessary to manage relationships with employees, colleagues, and customers, and (iv) the personal effectiveness skills for managing of self in the role.

As the structure and the forms of the organizations are changing, so are the skills needed for the senior level managers are changing. Future skill needs are to be in line with the changes required in the organization to satisfy the changes in the organizational environment. Organization is required to determine the future skill requirements for the senior level managers and assess the skill gaps which are needed to be filled up for the organization to position itself in the market. In the decentralized organizations with potentially competing organizational units, senior level managers have to work as a team and share a cabinet responsibility for the operation as a whole and not just a part of it. Hence, senior level managers need the skill or competence of sharing, by which they have an ability to share knowledge and information to contribute to the team work, and preparedness to compromise personal aims and objectives to meet corporate and team goals.

Senior level managers are required to possess the ability to build a persuasive argument based on logic, data, and objective merit of a situation. Intellectual attributes and conceptual skills are core elements of the competence of the senior level managers particularly with regards to analyzing and decision making.

Senior level managers are required to quickly pick up and apply new information, concept, and strategy. They have also to be open to the new ideas and ways of operating. They are also required to have (i) the ability to prioritize tasks by assessing their relative information and urgency, (ii) assimilating complex information from a wider range of sources, (iii) taking calculated risks, and (iv) involving others in the decision making process.

Senior level managers are to focus on success. They are to demonstrate a need for achievements by focusing on the results. They are also to articulate the importance of balancing the achievements of short term with longer term objectives. They are to respond to the specific pressures in the organizational environment and externalize their role. Competency such as ‘creating competitive advantage’ reflects the need for the senior level managers to understand the competitors better. The terms like customer insight, commercial judgment, customer focus, and satisfying customers etc. emphasize the need for the senior level managers to increase the organization’s market focus and responsiveness to the customer needs.

There are four clusters of experience, tasks, and priorities for the senior level managers when the dimension of time and focus are taken together (Fig 6). These clusters are (i) change strategists, (ii) policy makers, (iii) change managers, and (iv) business drivers.

Fig 6 Roles of senior level managers differentiated by timeframe and policy

As change strategic, senior level managers are to focus on establishing the long term strategic direction of the organization within its environment. They typically do the big picture work, reading the external pressures for change, positioning the organization as compared to its competitors and exploring the possibilities of future alliances etc.

As policy makers, senior level managers are involved with the development and monitoring of the policies and processes for the present day organization build those capabilities needed from it to meet the future challenges. They are predominantly focused on managing existing external boundaries with a variety of the stakeholders (e.g. customers, regulatory bodies, share holders, and society etc.).

As change managers, senior level managers are perceived to be those managers who manage the day-to-day process of change in response to the future requirements. They are concerned with the internal characteristics and the culture of the organization and the choice of the tactical options for the achievements of the performance improvements.

As business drivers, the senior level managers typically emphasize a strong results orientation for ensuring their part of the organization meets existing performance targets. This role is the most closely associated with the senior level managers responsible for the co-ordination of the resources within the organization.

Organizational conflict can be a test for the senior level managers to judge how effective they are in performing their activities. Conflict can come from inside the organization, such as between managers’ level, individuals, or groups, etc. Senior level managers are also responsible to resolve these conflicts through conception and principles which the organization has. External factors which can create organizational conflict within organization are technological change and environmental change. These two factors can push the senior level managers to make certain decisions which can cause conflict within the organization. The best way to eliminate conflict in the organization is to control since otherwise it has wider implications for the senior managers in managing conflict.

Senior level manager and organizational change

Organizational change is a process which is associated with a number of difficulties and barriers. In the organizational change process, the role and responsibility of senior level managers is to ensure that the difficulties and barriers are overcome. Senior level managers are to promote stability. They are to control the problems by adopting problem solving decision making techniques.

The role of senior level managers is necessary in several areas, such as (i) in developing skills and good organizational behaviours, and (ii) providing problem solving by effective decision making. Senior level managers facilitate successful progress during organizational change. In fact, the process of organizational change directly depends on the value, experience, motivation, and beliefs of the senior level managers.

Changes in the organizational environment (external change) get reflected in the organizational change. During organizational change, the behaviour of the organization change in several different ways. These changes in the internal organizational behaviour can also be derived from the external environment changes. The changes in the internal organizational behaviour affect all level of managers as well as the employees.

Senior level managers need to create ethical behaviour and motivation in order to ensure that the organization adapts easily the changes taking place in its environment. If the organization is not able to adapt the changes then it gets reflected in the organizational behaviour and appears as organizational problems at all the levels of the organization. Organizational behaviour need to be supported by organizational policies for overcoming the potential problems. There are five characteristics which have their effect on managerial behaviour. These characteristics are (i) behavioural consistency, (ii) integrity, (iii) control, (iv) communication, and (v) demonstration of concern. These characteristics have their impact on the trust which the employee have for the senior level managers.

Role stress and senior level managers

Role stress is important in case of senior level managers since it has an adverse impact on their performance. Role stress is the stress which is generated from the role which an individual plays in the organization. It is normally defined according to two variables namely (i) role conflict, and (ii) role ambiguity. Role conflict refers to the extent of conflicting expectations associated with a role. Role ambiguity refers to the extent of perceived uncertainty involved in realizing the role requirements or the lack of predictability about the outcome of role behaviour. Role stress results from role sets in the organizations and can be subdivided according to the following ten circumstances.

Inter-role distance – Conflicts can exist between two roles a person attempts to play (e.g. between organizational roles and family roles). These can be incompatible and are quite frequently a source of conflict in a society in which people increasingly occupy multiple roles in various organizations and groups. The greatest contributor to inter-role distance is that the people not being able to spend time with family and friends. Other factors include negligence of other interests and interference with the non-work roles. Inter-role distance conflict is highest for middle level managers, followed by senior level managers and lower level managers.

Role stagnation – When people have occupied a role for a long time and become secure in it, they hesitate to take on new challenges and their role stagnates. The most significant factor contributing to role stagnation is the lack of scope for personal growth. Other factors include (i) not learning enough to prepare for a higher role, (ii) being too preoccupied with the present duties to prepare for future responsibilities, and (iii) having a lack of time to prepare for future challenges. Role stagnation conflict is highest for middle level managers, followed by senior level managers and lower level managers.

Role expectations conflict – Individuals develop expectations as a result of their socialization and identification with significant others. However, there is normally some incompatibility between a person’s own expectation of role and the expectations of others. The factors which contribute to stress related to role expectations include not being able to satisfy conflicting demands made by superiors, peers, and customers, particularly conflicts between managers and their subordinates. Role expectations conflict is highest among lower level managers followed by senior level managers and lowest among middle level managers.

Role erosion – Role erosion is likely to be experienced in an organization which is redefining roles and creating new roles. Factors which contribute to role erosion are (i) reducing role importance, (ii) having traditional functions assigned to others, (iii) being assigned less responsibility, (iv) sensing a potential of doing much better, and (v) having a lack of challenging tasks. The feeling of being able to assume more responsibility than expected has been found to be the most significant contributor to the role erosion conflict. The role erosion conflict is highest for senior level managers, followed by middle level managers and lower level managers.

Role overload – Contrary to role erosion, role overload leads to stress when the role occupants feel that too much is expected from them. The most important factor which contributes to role overload is an overly heavy work load. Other factors include (i) a sense that the quantity of work interferes with the required quality of work, and (ii) the assignment has very high responsibility. Role overload is highest for middle level managers, followed by senior level managers and lower level managers.

Role isolation – Mistrust of those with whom one works is positively associated with high role ambiguity and with low job satisfaction. The leading factor contributing to role isolation is the lack of interaction between a person’s role and that of others in the organization. Other factors include (i) a lack of attention by co-employees, (ii) lack of consultation with others, (iii) no evidence of involvement in joint problem solving, and (iv) a lack of response from others. Role isolation conflict is highest amongst the senior level managers and followed equally amongst the middle level managers and the lower level managers.

Personal inadequacy – This is a feeling of demotion or obsolescence which can arise in people who have hit a career ceiling and are stressed by an eroding of their status before they retire. The leading factor contributing to personal inadequacy is identified as a lack of preparation for the role. Other factors include (i) a lack of adequate knowledge to handle role, (ii) the need for more skills to handle responsibilities, and (iii) a lack of pertinent training. Personal inadequacy conflict is highest amongst senior level managers, followed amongst the middle level managers and the lower level managers.

Resource inadequacy – This refers to the people’s feeling that they do not have adequate resources to perform their roles effectively, whether because of a lack of supplies, personnel, information, or historical data in the system, or because of their own lack of knowledge, education, or experience. The organizational role stress is measured across the resource inadequacy. The most significant factor which contributes to the resource inadequacy is the lack of enough manpower for accomplishing the work. Other factors include (i) not receiving information needed to carry out responsibilities, (ii) not having access to enough resources, and (iii) a desire for more financial resource to fulfill the requirements of the role. Resource inadequacy is highest for senior level managers and lowest for the lower level managers.

Self / role conflict – A disconnect between people’s self concepts and their expectations of themselves in their job roles is the cause of self / role conflict. The most significant factor contributing to self / role conflict is the feeling of having to do things against one’s better judgment, of wanting to handle things differently but not having the freedom to do so. Other factors include (i) tasks which do not make use of the training and expertise inherent in the role, (ii) responsibilities which are not related to interests, and (iii) conflict between one’s values and the job role. Self / role conflict is highest for middle level managers, followed by senior level managers and lower level managers.

Role ambiguity – Role ambiguity is when people are not clear about the expectations others have of them in their roles. The major contributor to role ambiguity is a lack of knowledge of what people in different roles expect. Other factors contributing to role ambiguity are (i) a lack of clarity about the role’s scope and responsibilities, (ii) vague job descriptions, and (iii) a lack of clarity about priorities. Normally middle level managers experience role ambiguity the most, followed by senior level managers and lower level managers.

Senior level managers normally have role erosion as the leading contributor to their role stress. They also are frustrated by resource inadequacy stemming from a lack of critical information.

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