Handbook of Research on Managing Managers

Handbook of Research on Managing Managers

Research Handbooks in Business and Management series

Edited by Adrian Wilkinson, Keith Townsend and Gabriele Suder

This book explores the changing role of managers in the workplace. In recent years, there has been considerable debate on the future of management, with both pessimistic and optimistic views being put forward. However, in the wake of delayering, downsizing, re-engineering and the pursuit of leanness, the more gloomy perspective has gained currency, especially in the popular managerial literature, and some have pronounced the end of management altogether. Some paint a more optimistic picture of managers and managers’ work with roles being transformed rather than replaced and the new organisational context providing more demanding work but greater autonomy and increased skill development. With contributions from experts in the field, this book is concerned with the way organisations manage their managers and how this continues to evolve with reference to global issues.

Chapter 13: A manager-centred perspective on organisational work–life agendas

Paula McDonald and Abby Cathcart

Subjects: business and management, human resource management, organisational behaviour


Decades of research have shown that the uptake of workplace ‘flexibility’ provisions set out in organisational/HR policies rests heavily on the support of line managers. However, the majority of scholarship addressing the intersection of managers’ roles and work–life integration has been employee-centred. That is, the literature primarily situates managers as gatekeepers to the effective implementation of work and family policies as they affect employees or workers, examining their role in, for example, approving requests to adjust or personalise employees’ work schedules; influencing whether employees are cross-trained to undertake the work of others during absences; publicising available policies; and creating norms supporting the use of formal provisions (Ryan and Ernst Kossek, 2008). Managers’ actions are primarily seen as key, contingent phenomena affecting the adoption and diffusion of work–life initiatives in an organisation, consequently affecting the work–life outcomes of subordinate employees (Bardoel, 2003; Gregory and Milner, 2012). Much less research has taken a manager-centred approach to understanding work–life phenomena in organisational settings. While managers’ capacity to achieve work–life balance themselves, and support subordinates seeking work–life integration, may arise from the discretion and influence associated with the managerial role per se, top–down exigencies are also relevant. These may include mandated provisions defined in industrial agreements, HR policies, executive-level strategies, productivity and other key performance indicators, the provision of staffing and economic resources, and so on.

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