Although management has no universal definition, the Oxford Dictionaries (2017) defines it as “the process of dealing with or controlling things or people”.
“Managers exist within complex social constructions known as organizations” (Naqvi, 2017) and their job is to “coordinate and oversee the work of other people so that organizational goals can be accomplished” (Robbins and Coulter, 2010).
Managers work closely with their employees every day and are thus constantly exposed to social interactions with one another.
Given the impossibility of relying on just their own capabilities when trying to successfully run an organisation, managers need the help of other people and for this reason they can be seen as social animals as they are unable to support a business without interacting with other human beings (Gray, 2010).
With the support of management theorists and theories, this essay will attempt to demonstrate that managers are social animals and will discuss how the different schools of thought coincide and differ over this topic.
Managers are at the top of the organisation and their roles vary depending on what the organization’s goals are. Usually, a manager’s job mainly consists of planning, organising, commanding and controlling both human and financial resources in order to achieve the organization’s purposes. Establishing strategies and plans for achieving the organisation’s goals, employing the right people, taking the right decisions and monitoring the overall business activity and changing things according to it, are all tasks that are due to managers (Robbins and Coulter, 2010).
People play a big role in an organisation since they are the ones that make it up and influence it over time with their thoughts and behaviours. For this reason, a manager has to be “social” and have strong human skills in order to communicate, motivate, influence and lead its employees effectively in order to make the business successful (Robbins and Coulter, 2010).
During the course of the years, many management theorists expressed their view on management and whether a manager’s traits made it a social animal or not.
The classical school of thought of theorists Frederick Taylor (1856 – 1915) and Henri Fayol (1841 – 1925), builds the idea of management and managers around the principle of efficiency. Their theories are known to be mainly descriptive and who mainly aim to promote productivity and efficiency in the workplace, achieved by following various functions and procedures, failing to acknowledge the significance of human social factors.
In his “Fourteen Principles of Management” (1914), Fayol proposes his idea of management and suggests that in order to increase the business’s productivity and efficiency managers need to be able to plan, organise, command, co-ordinate and control their available resources. Likewise, Frederick Taylor proposes a similar idea in which, in his scientific theory of management, managers are meant to set tasks based on scientific evidence, train employees for specific jobs with clear instructions while supervising them and pay them based on their output produced and not based on the amount of time spent at work (Naqvi, 2017).
Conversely, a view that seems to contrast the ones of Fayol and Taylor, comes from the Canadian academic business writer Henry Mintzberg (The Economist, 2009).
Belonging to a more modern school of thought, Mintzberg empathizes more the human aspects of an organisation, looking at the people’s emotions and the social interactions happening in the workplace. Unlike the classical school, he proposes a different approach to management based on managers acting like irrational animals, explaining how their activities are “characterized by brevity, variety, and discontinuity and they are strongly oriented to action and dislike reflective activities” (Mintzberg, 1990).
According to Mintzberg, managers should also possess human skills, i.e. being able to work with, understand, and motivate other people and he proposes that managers can take on different roles such as the interpersonal role (that deals with managing people), the informational role (that processes information) and the decisional role (that involves taking decisions and problem solving) (Naqvi, 2017).
Hence, Mintzberg suggests that managers tend to manage in a way that deals more with people rather than focusing on the various functions of management, i.e. the “folklores” the classical school of thought proposed (Chew, 2017). For instance, he suggests that “managers strongly favour verbal media, telephone calls and meetings, over documents” (Mintzberg, 1990), which differs from the folklore of managers taking decisions by just receiving documents from the information system (Mintzberg, 1990).
Thus, we can see how the two different schools of thought differ on the idea of managers being social animals. Fayol and Taylor do not take into consideration the human aspect in their management theories and views managers as someone whose only aim is to make the organisation as efficient as possible. Mintzberg, on the other hand, views management in a more modern way that involves social interactions between people, which contrasts with the classical school of thought who saw managers as rigid persons who tended to create rules and strictly follow them.
Together with the classical theorists and Mintzberg, also Fred Luthans, an organisational behaviour professor at the University of Nebraska (Google Scholar, 2017), contributes to the debate over managers being social animals or not.
In his journal article Effective Vs Successful Real Managers (1988), Luthans analyzes what effective compared to successful managers do and includes both the classical (such as traditional management activities) and Mintzberg’s (regarding communication activities) thought but also introduces John Kotter’s view which suggests that successful managers do not just follow Fayol’s functions of management but instead spend most of their time at work interacting with other people, and thus promotes the idea of managers being social animals.
Kotter, an emeritus Harvard Business School professor, finds that in general “managers spend considerable time in meetings getting and giving information” (Luthans, 1988) and calls these get-togethers “network building”.
Luthans concludes that the so called networking activity, i.e. socializing and interacting with people, is strongly related to success and thus it supports the idea that successful managers are social animals.
He lastly argues that “effective managers are routine while successful managers utilise politics and social networks” (Naqvi, 2017) and that “social and political skills are the real key to being successful.” (Luthans, 1988). Luthans, therefore, puts himself in a position that is opposed the classical school of thought and favours Mintzberg’s thought on management being a social act.
Organisations are the physical place where the managerial activity takes place and where managers and employees closely operate.
Max Weber (1864 – 1920), a German sociologist, is the first to lay the ground for understanding the structure of a business rather the focusing on the individual, and does that by founding his work around how bureaucracy relates to organisations.
In Weber’s bureaucracy people specialize in defined tasks, there are hierarchical structures, there are rules and procedures for task completion and “employees have positions that are based on merit and act in an unemotional way being motivated by the organization’s goals” (Naqvi, 2017). Hence, Weber’s theory mainly aims at efficiency as the classical school does too, while it ignores the social factors inside the organisation.
An organization, however, cannot only be seen as just a machine or structure where just specialization, hierarchy of authority, systems of norms, meritocracy, impersonality and efficiency are promoted (Naqvi, 2017).
Indeed, an organization also involves social interactions and human relations between the manager and its employees and that is why it needs to be viewed as “a structure as the guiding habitus of social interaction” (Naqvi, 2017).
“Viewing the organization only as a machine ignores the development of human social relations” (Naqvi, 2017), which is an essential element for the business’s success.
A theorist that seems to support the idea of an organisation not being just a structured machine is emeritus professor of organizational behavior and psychology Karl E. Weick
(University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, n.d.).
In his “Sensemaking” theory, Weick views organizations as “systems designed for people to understand or form ideas of themselves and others” (Naqvi, 2017).
To him, an organization is “an evolutionary system made by and for the people working within it” (Naqvi, 2017). Weick proposes that the people and the social context create the organisation through expression i.e. through talking (Weick, 1969).
He lastly proposes a version of manager that prefers chaos to organising and planning, which is similar to the one Mintzberg proposed too and that is opposed to the classical view.
Weick, thus, supports the idea of the management being “social”, i.e. that strictly correlates to and with people. This then leads to the development of an organization as a place where people are gathered together to generate ideas each having a sense of self and a sense of others.
An organisation is influenced by the people and by the environment, and thus can be viewed as habitus and as a social construct.
Pierre Bourdieu (1930 – 2002), a French sociologist and philosopher, refers to habitus as “socialized norms or tendencies that guide behaviour and thinking” (Bourdieu, 1990) and so that enormously influence peoples’ identity, thoughts and behaviours inside the organization through the unconscious act of socialization with the others.
Following Bourdieu’s thought, an organization is not a self-entity influenced just by the managers but more a social-entity influenced by the people that work within it (Bourdieu, 1990).
Therefore, unlike the classical school whom thought that an organisation was only influenced by its manager, Bourdieu tends to view the social construct as the main influence, which means everything from the environment including the people, their identity, their culture, belief etc. This idea of social construct refers to managers being social animals as the way managers manage and how they behave are all influenced by the society or the so called social aspects of the organization.
“Management is then not prescribed but defined by the environment in which an organization operates” (Chew, 2017).
Thus, viewing the organisation as habitus and as a social construct supports the idea of management being social and unavoidably managers being social animals.
Based on the evidence provided we can ultimately conclude that managers are social animals.
Even though the classical school of theorists Fayol and Taylor does not take into consideration human social factors in their management theories, we see how more modern schools of thought such as the ones of Mintzberg, Luthans, Weick and Bourdieu support the statement of managers being social animals.
Mintzberg proposes a version of management and of managers that deals more with people and that focuses more on the social interactions happening inside the organisation rather than focusing on the functions and procedures of management like classical school proposed. Luthans seems to share Mintzberg’s thought on management being social by adding that managers need to commit to social networking with other people in order to be successful and not just effective. Lastly, Weick and Bourdieu use the organisation as an argument to support the essay statement by viewing it not only as a formally structured machine like Max Weber proposed, but more as a habitus and social construct made and influenced by the environment and the people working and thus socialising within it.