Article Review: Why Do Managers Do What They Do?

Powerful Essays
British Journal of Management, Vol. 10, 335-350 (1999)

Why do Managers Do What They Do? Reconciling Evidence and Theory in Accounts of Managerial Work
Colin Hales
Westminster Business School, University of Westminster, London NWl 5LS, UK This article seeks to show that there has been surprisingly little interest in developing a causal explanation of the consistently documented common characteristics of managerial work and attempts to sketch out such an explanation. It is argued that researchers In the field have either contented themselves with description and correlation or have given priority to explaining variations, whilst theories of management have tended to suggest that managerial behaviour can be inferred, unproblematically, from the character of the broader management process rather than engaging with the evidence on these behaviours. Even recent and explicit attempts to conceptualize managerial work have not satisfactorily woven theory vtith evidence. The outline of an explanatory account which is offered attempts to link the common characteristics of managerial work to the ambiguous and problematic nature of managerial 'responsibility ' and the way in which all managers both draw upon and, by their actions, reproduce resources, cognitive rules and moral rules, from within the social systems in which they are located, which define and facilitate that responsibility. Well-documented generic managerial activities, substantive areas of work and characteristic features of managerial work are all shown to be accountable in these terms.

Introduction
If the question 'what do managers do? ' (Hales, 1986) has - or, at least, had - an air of naivety, insolence, even redundancy, about it, then the question 'why do managers do what they do? ' seems positively querulous. For, whilst an answer to the former question - albeit a somewhat incomplete and ambiguous one (Grint, 1995; Hales, 1986; Martinko and Gardner, 1985; Stewart, 1989) - has gradually



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