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Investigating the Optimum Manager-Subordinate Relationship of a Discontinuity Theory of Managerial Organizations: An Exploratory Study of a General Theory of Managerial Hierarchy

By Sergey Ivanov


This research explores the requisite relationship between managers and their subordinates in managerial hierarchies as stipulated by a general theory of managerial hierarchy (GTMH) developed by Dr. Elliott Jaques. Dr. Jaques writes, “When managers and immediate subordinates are in roles in adjacent layers, things can work well; if within same layer, the manager is “breathing down the necks” of the subordinates; if more than one layer apart, the manager is “pulled down in the weeds”. Jaques’ empirical finding of the Manager-Subordinate Relationship (MSR) describes how a subordinate, in a managerial hierarchy, feels towards the manager, and how the manager feels towards the subordinate. Optimum MSR is achieved when the subordinate feels just right towards the manager. In Optimum MSR, the manager also feels just right towards the subordinate and that the subordinate does not “pull the manager into the weeds.” In the non-Optimal Manager-Subordinate Relationship (non-effective management according to Dr. Jaques’ theory), the subordinate reports either that the manager is too close (breathing down the necks), or too far (pulled down into the weeds). The manager in non-Optimum MSR also reports either of the two conditions: that the subordinate is either too close or too far. The relationship between the working stratum of managers and subordinates and Jaques’ manager-subordinate relationship-types has not been tested. This study is the first attempt to test these specific theoretical propositions developed by Jaques, and possibly advance general theory of managerial hierarchy. The study’s primary research question is whether there is a relationship between the working roles of the managers and subordinates, and Jaques’ MSR. The study’s exploratory secondary research question attempts to discover the effects of the current potential capability of manager and subordinate on the MSR as defined by Jaques and Cason. The effects of current potential capability on the MSR are not described by general theory of managerial hierarchy, though Dr. Jaques discussed privately with the author the possibility that capabilities may play a significant part (in addition to the working stratum), impacting the manager-subordinate relationship. The exploratory proposition of the secondary question is whether MSR correlates strongly when the manager’s role is one stratum higher than the subordinate’s role and the manager’s current potential capability (CPC) corresponds with the manager’s role stratum, and the subordinate’s current potential capability corresponds with the subordinate’s role stratum. The author believes it is possible to test the primary research question, and thus, test this aspect of the theory (this proposition has not been tested). Furthermore, the secondary question could potentially advance the theory relating capabilities of managers and subordinates to their working strata.


  1. Introduction


  1. Literature Review


  1. Methodology


  1. Results


  1. Conclusions and Recommendations




About Author

Dr. Ivanov is Professor of Management at the School of Business and Public Administration, University of the District of Columbia, Washington, DC, USA. His professional practice and scholarly interests are in the field of scientific organizational research in government, multinationals, and military organizations. He received Ph.D. from The George Washington University’s School of Business, working under the leadership of Dr. Elliott Jaques on dynamic theories in organizational science. Professor Ivanov has taught management and organizational courses at the University of the District of Columbia, as well as The George Washington University, for over a decade, and provided consultancy services to a wide variety of organizations, including the U.S. Department of Defense, Fortune 1000 Corporations, and others clients.



Date of Publication

July 15, 2018

File Size: 1616 KB
Length: xi + 102 pages

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