The Role of the Manager
in Child Care Work
Management is about getting things done through other
people. Managers strive to achieve organisational goals by arranging for
others to perform whatever tasks may be necessary – not by performing
themselves. Graphically, this can be represented as follows:
Managing is thus about people, activities, and meeting
goals. Stoner defines management as: “... the process of planning, organising,
leading and controlling the efforts of the organisation’s members and of using
all other organisational resources to achieve stated organisational goals”
(1982). Our definition tells us that the manager’s task is to plan, organise,
lead and monitor. These are not distinct/separate activities, but occur at the
Plans are needed to give the organisation its goals and to set up
procedures for achieving them. Plans permit:
the organisation to obtain and commit resources required
to achieve goals;
members of the organisation to carry on activities
consistent with objectives and procedures;
the progress towards objectives to be monitored and
The first task of the manager is to select goals and
objectives for the organisation and to select programmes to achieve these
goals and objectives.
Once the goals and objectives are established and the plans developed, the
manager must organise for them to be carried out successfully. Organising
involves co-ordination of the human and material resources of the organisation.
Systems and structures will need to be established to obtain goals and
objectives. This could involve arranging a meeting system, for example, or
schedules for child care workers.
After plans have been drawn up and the structure, systems and procedures
determined, the next step is to arrange for movement towards objectives. This
involves getting members of the organisation to perform in ways that will help
it to achieve the established objectives. It involves directing and
influencing those accountable to the manager.
Having planned, organised and provided leadership, the manager must ensure
that the actions of the personnel do, in fact, move towards the organisation’s
goals. This is the monitoring function of the manager and involves three
establishing standards of performance;
measuring current performance and comparing against
taking action to correct performance which is not
meeting standards (or rewarding performance which is exceeding standards).
Through the monitoring task the manager can keep the
organisation on the right track and not let it deviate from agreed upon
objectives. Given that these are the four main functions of the manager, what
is expected of him/her?
Managers are expected to accomplish more than other
employees because they have subordinates and resources to use in getting the
job done. * Managers are expected to achieve goals and objectives with
available resources and set priorities for use of resources.
Managers are expected to think analytically, creatively
and globally. The manager’s task is to problem-solve. In order to do this
problems must be broken down into component parts, be analysed and solutions
Managers are expected to mediate. Because child care is
a labour intensive field, conflicts will arise, either between staff or
between staff and individual children. Because conflicts impinge on
productivity and goal attainment, the mediating skills of the manager are
vital. This requires skill, tact, understanding, persuasion and compromise.
Managers are expected to represent the organisation
publicly. This calls for diplomacy, professionalism and being informed.
Managers are accountable. They are responsible for
seeing that tasks are carried out in accordance with objectives. They are
accountable for their own work and the work of others.
Managers are dependent on people. They work with and
through other persons at various levels within the organisation. Managers
are expected to be people-oriented.
Finally, managers need to make difficult decisions.
Perhaps the most unenviable task of the manager is to make difficult
decisions, particularly those impacting on staff members’ and children’s
lives. Because of powers vested in the manager, difficult and sometimes
unpopular decisions need to be made and carried out, for example, resource
allocation or a staff dismissal. This is where the buck stops. How well an
organisation does depends on how well the managers perform. Managers are
thus vital links in achieving goals.
How is a manager’s performance evaluated?
A manager’s performance is measured by two yardsticks: efficiency and
effectiveness. Efficiency is doing things right, that is, on time with minimum
use of resources. Effectiveness is doing right things, that is, the ability to
choose appropriate objectives, selecting the correct tasks to get done.
It is important to remember that efficiency does not
compensate for lack of effectiveness. For example, in treating a child, it is
no use having regular individual counselling sessions in a nice environment on
time, etc., if individual counselling is not the appropriate treatment method
and group work would actually be more effective and beneficial.
I would like to pick up on a few management concepts where
managers often go wrong, and discuss them in turn. They are: time management;
participation in organisation decision-making; decision-making styles;
In different roles, time is allocated differently. The manager’s time is
spent carrying out the four functions mentioned earlier. If any function is
neglected, this impacts on the other functions. For example, too little time
spent on planning asks for problems, as does no time allocated for monitoring
of activities. A balance is needed.
Participation in decision-making
Involve people in the decision-making process. This is what democracy is
all about. Everyone has something to contribute. I’m not saying that one must
consult on the ‘colour of the paper clips’, but policy and major decisions
should emanate from below. Encourage participation and sharing of ideas. The
manager must, however, retain the right to choose another path.
Some problems come to managers, others they must locate themselves. No
manager can handle all the problems coming his/her way. It is important to
learn how to set priorities among problems and to give subordinates
When confronted by a problem the following should be
asked: “Is the problem easy to deal with? Might the problem resolve itself? Is
this my decision to make?”
Decisions can be referred up or down and can be made by
the manager as follows:
he can solve the problem with no information;
he can hear information from individuals and then decide
he can share the problem with a group of others and then
decide by himself;
he can share the problem with the group and take a group
may be contrary to his own desire.
I would always advocate listening to others, sharing ideas
but would reserve the right to make a decision.
Delegation involves assigning to others formal authority and
responsibility for carrying out certain activities. This is often necessary
for the efficient functioning of an organisation. The manager should delegate
as much as possible but have a report-back system to ensure that correct
action was taken.
A major part of the manager’s job is to motivate others. His ability to
motivate, influence, direct and communicate with subordinates will determine
his effectiveness. Motivation produces, channels and sustains individual
behaviour. In motivating people it helps if:
The manager’s task is not an easy one. He/she is expected to perform, be
available and produce miracles from people who account to him and those to
whom he is accountable. Numerous people impact on and interact with the
manager each day. At the end of the day, however, it is the efficiency and
effectiveness of the manager which determines the organisation’s success.
Stoner, J.A.F. Management. Prentice-Hall International, Inc. Englewood
Cliffs, N.J. 1982.
This feature: Atmore, E. The
role of the manager in child care work. In Biderman-Pam, M. and
Gannon, B. (1989). Competent Care, Competent Kids. Claremont: National Association of
Child Care Workers, pp. 14-18