Week 1 What do managers do? Reading 3

Reading 3, The demands, constraints and choices of your job, in Chapter 1 takes you more deeply into the context of management – the particular situation that you work in. The text sets out different types of demands on you – things you must do; different types of constraints – factors that limit what you can do; and choices that you may have. As you read, consider your job in terms of each type of demand, constraint and choice. This will prepare you for Activity 4.


Rosemary Steward (1982) developed a concept which enables jobs to be examined in three very important ways:

  1. the demands of the job, which are what the job-holder must do;
  2. the constraints, which limit what the job-holder can do;
  3. and the choices, which indicate how much freedom the job-holder has to do the work in the way he/she chooses. 

Her purpose was to show how dealing appropriately with demands and constraints, and exercising choices, can improve managers’ effectiveness. 

Demands of the job. Demands are what anyone in the job must do. They can be ‘performance demands’ requiring the achievement of a certain minimum standard of performance, or they can be ‘behavioural demands’ requiring that you undertake some activity such as attending certain meetings or preparing a budget. Stewart lists the sources of such demands as being:

  • Manager-imposed demands – work that your own line manager expects and that you cannot disregard without penalty.
  • Peer-imposed demands – requests for services, information or help from others at similar levels in the organisation. Failure to respond personally would produce penalties.
  • Externally-imposed demands – requests for information or action from people outside the organisation that cannot be delegated and where there would be penalties for non-response.
  • System-imposed demands – reports and budgets that cannot be ignored nor wholly delegated, meetings that must be attended, social functions that cannot be avoided.
  • Staff-imposed demands – minimum time that must be spent with your direct reports (for example, guiding or appraising) to avoid penalties.
  • Self-imposed demands – these are the expectations that you choose to create in others about what you will do; from the work that you feel you must do because of your personal standards or habits.

Constraints. Constraints are the factors, within the organisation and outside it, that limit what the job-holder can do. Examples include:

  • Resource limitations – the amounts and kinds of resources available.
  • Legal regulations.
  • Trade union agreements.
  • Technological limitations – limitations imposed by the processes and equipment with which the manager has to work.
  • Physical location of the manager and his/her unit.
  • Organisational policies and procedures.
  • People’s attitudes and expectations – their willingness to accept, or tolerate, what the manager wants to do.

To this list for today’s world we would add factors which will impose constraints such as:

  • ethics – your own and those to which your organisation adheres
  • the environment – climate change and remediation.

Choices. Many managerial jobs offer opportunities for choices both in what is done and how it is done, though the amount and nature of choice vary. Managers can also exercise choice by emphasizing some aspects of the job and neglecting others. Often they will do so partly unconsciously. The main choices are usually in:

  • what work is done
  • how the work is done
  • when the work is done


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