Why do we need managers?

Why do we need managers?

No one likes being managed. If you ask employees, most will say they don’t need managers. For a long time, I agreed. If you ask company founders if they need managers, many will say they hope to never hire middle managers. No one grows up aspiring to be a manager. Yet almost all companies continue to have managers. Why? The answer is simple: we need them.

Superior management practices start with middle managers. A good manager reduces employee attrition and improves customer satisfaction, productivity, and work quality. Some managers create unique and highly motivating micro-cultures within a larger organization. These managers are talented leaders who energize their team members by modeling desirable behaviors. In short, good managers increase their companies’ profitability and growth.

An economy with fast-growing companies will create jobs and encourage investment. If a country grows its base of good middle managers, the improved management practices will result in increased wages and a higher standard of living for everyone. Such is the contribution and impact of a good manager!

Society has always had managers. Kings and their ministers needed to manage populations.  At a local level, affairs were managed by landlords, land owners, traders, and priests. Many of these officials appointed managers who administered their affairs.

One reason managers have existed for so long may be that management structures meet humans’ psychological needs. Hierarchy creates structure, which provides comfort in chaotic situations.  Religious organizations, governments, and companies have relied on hierarchy for as long as they have been around. Additionally, humans need to view our world as well-structured and organized (orderly and structured). In environments that we can’t control, we find it comforting that authority figures (e.g., managers) exist. If we do not know what will happen (uncertainty) or can’t change the outcomes in our favor, we find authority figures reassuring.

Changes in industries around the world result in frequent company reorganizations, which create anxiety. Hierarchy in organizations helps people reduce anxiety. Job security remains one of the top concerns for employees. Because many of these reorganizations are outside of our control, people prefer to be part of a company that offers managerial support and is organized.

While managers are sometimes looked at unfavorably by employees, they are necessary to a well-functioning workplace. Management hierarchy provides structure that frees subordinates from having to worry about company-wide operations. Instead, subordinates can focus on the immediate tasks at hand, allowing them (and the overall company) to be more productive.

The above post is an excerpt from my upcoming book, What I did not learn in B-school, Insights for New Managers. The book examines key common issues faced by new and aspiring managers.