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A manager is a person whose job it is to oversee one or more employees, divisions, or volunteers to ensure that they carry out certain duties or meet specific group goals. Managers can be formal or informal. They are most common within corporations, but are can be found in most any situation where there is a need for a leader to head up individual projects.
Overarching Duties and Roles
Nailing down a manager’s specific job duties or performance requirements can be somewhat tricky since the job title involves so many different kinds of work. Every manager is at his or her core a leader, though, which is where most responsibilities originate. Planning and group-based organization are key parts of the job; supervising, mentoring, and motivating lower-level workers is important, too.
A manager is often called upon to act as the outward “face” of the people he or she supervises. It is often the case that leaders need to drum up support for their team’s work, often by building connections with outsiders. This sometimes comes in the form of fundraising but can also concern publicity or political support.
Tiers of Responsibility
In large companies management is usually divided into three tiers, namely, upper or senior level leadership, middle management, and lower-level supervision. The “lower” tier includes managers who operate at basic levels of commerce or function. Mid-level leaders typically oversee those in more junior positions, and also usually generate reports for senior leaders. People in the top tiers are usually the overarching bosses. Most are also members of the corporate board of directors and as such are responsible for making key decisions on matters of funding, accountability, and profit distribution.
When most people think of managers in the corporate sense, they are thinking about the middle tier. Middle-management can include supervisors that field large territories and solve problems within the lower-management tier. These people are essentially the bosses of the leaders in the lower tier. A leader at this level might make tactical decisions about how to best handle challenging situations that arise within departments, divisions, or even between individual employees. Leaders are also responsible for reporting to upper-management, though in some industries this function has largely been replaced by automation technology. In these cases, the job of the middle leader is to properly input data and reporting claims, but he or she may not actually have to meet with higher-ups very often.
The upper tiers, while more prestigious, are often a lot smaller and tend to involve less hands-on work. These executives are usually tasked with overseeing and guiding the business to success by making strategic long-term decisions based on analyzing data and extrapolating plans of action that address relevant issues while improving the bottom line.
Commercial Stores and Franchises
In commercial franchises like fast food restaurants, a retail manager ensures that daily business functions smoothly. If an employee calls in sick, if there is a problem with stock or deliveries, or if a customer has an issue, a good manager will take care of the problem quickly by assigning someone to it or by addressing it personally. Decisions made at this level are normally short-term and geared towards basic operational needs.
In the case of a small, family-owned business there may be a “low-level” office manager that reports directly to the owner of the company. This person might be responsible for a variety of duties commonly divided into individual departments in larger companies. These duties might include accounting, shipping, and customer service, where more junior employees carry out most of these tasks. This person might also double as accountant, head sales representative or buyer, for example.
It is also common to find office managers in large companies, though in this context the job is mostly secretarial. Large-scale office managers are usually in charge of secretarial pools, and oversee assignments and productivity concerns of administrative staff. These jobs are often quite competitive, and typically pay well when compared to other administrative positions.
Selection and Hiring Criteria
There is not usually any sort of formula for what it takes to become a manager. It is often the cases that managers are promoted from within — that is, they are selected based on their proven aptitude as a member of a certain team — but not always. Particularly in larger corporations, managers may be selected based on their leadership potential or proven ability. A number of business schools offer management tracks to educate people to fill upper-level positions even in industries that they otherwise have no experience with. Much depends on the needs of the company, the potential of the candidate, and the specifics of the position.