Managers shunning discretionary effort

Jan 09 2006 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Almost a third of managers in the UK regard key discretionary elements of management such as coaching and developing staff as being outside the day-to-day remit of their jobs.

Research by Occupational Psychologists, Pearn Kandola, has found that activities such as coaching , diversity behaviours and developing staff, are regarded by 31 per cent of managers as discretionary effort, over and above their job description and normal day-to-day responsibilities.

But these attitudes cannot be blamed entirely on managers themselves. The research also found that many UK organisations fail to formally reward these activities and expect managers to carry them out over and above their other responsibilities – and often in their own time.

This non-recognition is having a direct impact on staff morale and the adoption of initiatives such as diversity across businesses in the UK, the research said.

Pearn Kandola's Nic Sale argued that if senior managers fail to recognise the extra time and effort line managers put in to their job, the likelihood is that this extra input will decline in the future.

"This was especially evident for diversity issues and, therefore, instead of line managers being a catalyst to progressing the diversity agenda, they in fact become a bottleneck," he said.

Instead, organisations need to place greater emphasis on the importance of discretionary effort demonstrated by their employees, and formally recognise these activities. This, in turn, will act as a catalyst to achieving overall organisational goals, such as improving staff morale and embedding effective practices relating to diversity.

Discretionary effort was found to include activities such as: supporting colleagues, adopting a creative approach to work and occasionally resolving health and safety issues.

Managers who do carry out these tasks regard them as discretionary to their role as it often means them having to put in extra work outside their contracted hours in order to fulfil both their formal and discretionary effort duties.

"Employers need to define activities that are regarded as discretionary effort," Nic Sale added. "This will help managers to recognise these activities in a more formal manner such as through the review and reward processes as well as informally through personal acknowledgement, which can be a significant motivator."

"Many organisations simply review their managers against tasks that are easy to measure –for example achieving sales and delivery targets – but they avoid the more challenging areas such as team issues, morale and discretionary effort.

"If a manager is doing a good job of coaching and developing his / her staff this skill needs to be clearly valued by the organisation and managers should assessed against it as part of their review process.

"Failing to assess against these skills simply sends the message that effective people management is not important and results in organisations with managers who are technically competent but people incompetent."