Question:

What happens when you mix over 10,000 academicians and other “experts” on managing with one insubordinate?

Answer:

I’m not sure, but I’m about to find out.

 

That’s right. Today is the first day of the 76th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management (AOM), which this year is being held at the Anaheim Convention Center, in Anaheim, CA, August 4-9. It is expected that 10,685 management professionals, scholars, and other experts on managing from 88 countries will be in attendance.[1]

Including yours truly.

For those of you unfamiliar with the AOM, according to its website it is the “preeminent professional association for management and organization scholars,”  and boasts over 20,000 members, as well as 34 divisions, interest groups, and committees.[2] Its stated goal is “to inspire and enable a better world through our scholarship and teaching about management and organizations.”

So I figure someone around here should have something interesting to say about managing.

This year, the main program theme is “Making Organizations Meaningful,” and is to include a total of 3576 papers, 742 symposia, and 384 “professional development workshops.”[3] I’ve selected a few titles at random, just to give you a sense of the range of topics that will be discussed:

  • “Pluralism at the Front-End of Capital-Intensive Projects: Governance and Performance Implications”
  • “Problematising Agency of the Subalterns in the Politics of Representation”
  • “Analyzing Round-robin Dyadic Data: The Social Relations Model in the Organizational Sciences”

(Yeah – I’m not sure what any of that means either.)

 

Questions that need answering

So just what exactly do I plan on doing here in Anaheim, you might ask?

Listening, mostly.

You see, I’d still like to hear some answers to some of those questions I posed way back in January, in my inaugural post: “Why your boss probably sucks.” For instance:

  • If the roles of advisor and evaluator are incompatible,[4] why are managers routinely saddled with both responsibilities, despite the obvious conflict of interest? (For more on this, please see my post “My door is always open”)
  • If managers are in fact responsible for assessing their subordinates’ performance, doesn’t this create a “catch-22”? After all, one of the things that most influences employee performance seems to be how well he or she is being managed.[5]
  • It’s been argued that organizational efficiency can be increased by both “flattening” an organization (that is, reducing the number of layers in its hierarchy), and by limiting a manager’s “span of control” (which keeps supervisors from spreading themselves too thin).[6] But in order to flatten a hierarchy one must necessarily increase the number of people who report to any given manager… (For more on this, please see my video post: “Flatten that span?”)
  • “Teamwork” involves cooperating and working together – which is great. But it also appears to require subordinating one’s own interest to those of the group on occasion – or “taking one for the team,” so to speak. Except that sounds like something a communist would say, not a capitalist, right? (For more on this, please see my video post: “Teamwork? What ‘teamwork’..?”)
  • If we can agree that the person closest to a problem is typically best equipped to solve it,[7] why are frontline employees routinely denied the authority to address those issues that prevent them from doing their best work?
  • Why is it still who you know, and not what you know, that’s important at so many companies? In other words: Why all the office politics?

And then finally, I’d actually like to add one more to this list:

  • Where does a manager’s authority come from? Or, to put it another way: Why is your boss your boss?

 

That’s it – so if you’re at the meeting this week, and have something to say about any this—or about anything else that’s on your mind—please feel free to stop by. I’ll be in Booth 108, on the south side of Exhibit Hall C (on your left as you enter the main exhibitor’s hall). And if you’re not in attendance, but would like to weigh in anyway, shoot me an email at insubordinate@insubordinationblog.com.

As for the rest of you, stay tuned. I’ll be blogging about my experiences in upcoming posts…

 

 

Endnotes

[1] Academy of Management 2016 Annual Meeting Program, p. 57. http://digitaleditions.sheridan.com/publication/?i=318879. Retrieved July, 28, 2016.

[2] To be honest, I won’t be a total outsider in Anaheim. In addition to being a dues-paying member of the AOM (I belong to the Critical Management Studies (CMS) Division, perhaps not surprisingly), I attended the 2014 annual meeting, which was held in Philadelphia.

[3] AOM Meeting program, op. cit., p. 57.

[4] Hill, Linda. 2003. Becoming a Manager. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, p. 209.

[5] Wagner, Rodd, and James K. Harter. 2006. 12: The Elements of Great Managing. New York: Gallup Press; Shaer, Steven J. 2013. Fix Them or Fire Them. Challenger Books.

[6] Simon, Herbert. “The Proverbs of Administration.” As reprinted in Jay M. Shafritz & J. Steven Ott. 2001. Classics of Organization Theory (5th edition). Orlando, FL: Harcourt, Inc., pp. 112-124.

[7] Peters, Tom, and Robert Waterman. 1982. In Search of Excellence. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.