The Changing Role of Management

In OWT 228 we look at the changing role and position of management and managers in organisations and society. Much of modern analysis of management emphasises a change in forms of management control from traditional authority through vertical hierarchical forms to ones which are more horizontal and look to incorporate employees into the organisation and its goals in ever closer ways. This happens for example through attempts to align employees identities, emotions and interests with commitment to the organisation: the much discussed capturing of hearts and minds. Another aspect of this is the manipulation of meaning in order to facilitate this identification of employee and organisation, usually discussed as the corporate culture movement. Together these can be taken as two significant aspects of modern management the management of meaning and the management of identity - which feature little in traditional management texts that emphasise management as the co-ordination of tasks and the control and deployment of resources. 

However, it is important to see management and managers within the light of organisation analysis. Managers are not the autonomous agents they are often portrayed, first because they are also employees themselves (albeit in the position of formally representing the interests of capital), and second, they are also subject to organisational structures, cultures and power relations. Perhaps especially in the light of managerial control designed around commitment, integration and identification with the organisation, managers are tied in by the very control strategies that they themselves are promoting. However, as we shall see, there are also important tensions between the changing context of management and these forms of control which can lead to unintended consequences such as impression management and various forms of resistance. 

Thus this module focuses on how management is a social process, and what this means for the lived experience of doing management. In exploring this we look at topics which are relevant for the day-to-day experience of managers, although rarely are these addressed in conventional management textbooks: issues such as humour, diversity, impression management and emotional management.