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The Nature and Variety of Flexibility in Managerial Jobs (Classic Reprint)

The Nature and Variety of Flexibility in Managerial Jobs (Classic Reprint)

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Excerpt from The Nature and Variety of Flexibility in Managerial Jobs

A number of studies exist that describe job flexibility from particular perspectives, but no attempt has been made to identify either the kinds, or the variety of the opportunities that managerial jobs offer for jobholders to do them differently.

This paper describes how two recent studies in the U.K. can contribute to our understanding of the flexibility of managerial work, and the diversity of managerial behavior. The first study was of 98 managers in industrial and commercial companies. The second of 41 senior administrators in similar posts in the National Health Service in the U.K. Both used lengthy open-ended interviews, silent observation and group discussions.

The main conceptual framework for analysis, that of demands, constraints and choices is explained. A detailed classification of the factors determining the nature and amount of flexibility is given. Comparisons of the behavior of managers in similar jobs are used to illustrate the diversity of behavior that is possible both in content and method. The common and distinctive aspects of flexibility in jobs are described. The implications of flexibility for our understanding of managerial work and behavior are discussed.

The subject of this paper has received little attention either in the management literature or, more surprisingly, from researchers specifically concerned with managerial work or managerial behavior. There has been much more interest in organizational flexibility (Weick, 1979; Warner, 1977). There are writers who, from a number of different perspectives, have described particular aspects of job flexibility. The role-set model of Kahn, Wolfe, Quinn, Snoek, and Rosenthal (1964) and the role-making systems of Graen (1976) envisage the individual influencing other's perceptions of what his role should be. These postulate flexibility in a job, and see it as a process of negotiating over time the nature of role expectations. Such an approach is related to the topic of this paper in its recognition of flexibility in jobs and in its emphasis on their dynamic nature, but it provides no guide to analysing the characteristics of flexibility in particular jobs.

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