Vested interest exists. This means an individual has a special interest in protecting or promoting that which is to their own personal advantage. Or, there are groups that seek to support or control an existing system or activity from which they derive private benefit.
A first line manager’s vested interest are in their functional area goals. A first line manager’s external business environment is also important. Effective first line managers must support a balance between their and others’ vested interest. A first line manager is like a fish in water; the fish contains water and is in water. There is internal business vested interests and external business vested interests. Let us consider these interests.
First consider, a business’s internal interest and the manager’s role in each. There are two types of first line managers; functional line managers and general managers. I was a functional line manager as a restaurant manager, an accounting manager, and a territory sales manager, in these roles, my success was dedicated to that function. I was a general manager of hotels and a Business Office Manager; in these roles, my interest was in accomplishing all the functional goals of the organization.
Functional first line mangers have to make sure their area of responsibility is accomplishing the assigned departmental goals. A functional manager’s is a success if their departmental goals are accomplished. Managers that are removed of not successful. Acceptable managers goals are within the acceptable range. Managers that consistency exceed their goals are considered for higher management. They are top performers. Here is the rub, functional managers must maintain a delicate balance between their department’s interest and other department’s vested interest.
As a District Accounting Manager I approved the credit on sales contracts for appliance sales, a marketing function. If I was too selective marketing did not make quota and the salesperson salary suffered. If I was too lenient, the marketing department made above quota and the salesperson was very happy. In my accounting function was responsible for the payment of the contracts. I reported to a Division Accounting Manager who expected me to collect the money for the appliances. I received my promotions and my bonus on how effective I was in collections not in sales. This is the conundrum of a first line manager; how do you carry out line goals while not alienating other departments.
Now think about this, if a first line manager wants to become a general manager, they must keep the other departments goals in perspective. Other first line managers must know, even though, you have departmental interest; you understand other departments have vested interest. You must be seen as cooperating with them to make every manager and the company successful. This is very important, and an extremely difficult balance.
If you want to progress to a mid-level manager within your functional area, cooperation with other departments vested interests is important. A mid-level functional manager most times reports to a middle level general manager and higher level functional manager. Progression to a functional middle manager is difficult, most times, you have to be on the top of the department’s functional goals. In addition, you must be acceptable to the mid- level general manager. A mid-level general manager will not want a line functional manager that creates problems for other functional areas as a mid-level functional manager.
Now, consider the first line manager as general manager. I was a first line business office manager and general manager, I was responsible for all the functions of the company. I had an interest in the accomplishing the goals of accounting, marketing, and operations. I had goals in each of these functional areas. I reported to a middle level general manager. I was given these positions because I was a successful first line manager. Also, I was chosen for these positions because of my expanded activities in the community and within the company. I achieved my functional goals and helped other departments make their goals; or, I would never been given these general management positions. As a general manager my energy was divided among the functional areas of the company. My success was based on my teams success in all the functional areas. I had a vested interest in all functional areas. Now, I had to deal with reporting to functional middle managers whose vested interest was in their area.
Second consider, a business’s external interest and the manager’s role. A couple examples are the vested interest of Labor unions, and the community.
Labor unions are an external vested interest. Unions present a unique problem for a first line manager.
I remember my Dad explaining mistletoe to me. Mistletoe gets it food from the tree. If the tree dies the mistletoe plant will die. I wondered if the mistletoe knew it could kill the tree. Labor unions have a vested interest in keeping the union alive. Do they care if the business survives? I think that to a great extent a union does.
As a first line and general manager, I had to contend with union concerns. This meant, I became an expert on the union contract. I realized the written comments in the contract did not always mean what they seemed to mean. This conundrum meant, I had to know the memorandum of understanding of the comments between the company and the union. Also, I made use of a company industrial relations person when there was confusion.
A union employee’s interest was not always in the best interest of the company; it was with the union. Seniority is a vested interest in unions. This means that seniority was a interest of union employees. Our contract gave certain entitlements for seniority. I had to know how to manage seniority. If I was not careful, union employees would use seniority entitlements to their advantage. For example, union employees that reported to me wanted all new vehicle to go to the senior employee. This entitlement was not in the contract and was not in the interest of the company. I refused to allow the senior employee to get the new vehicle. Why is knowledge of the contract contents important to a manager? If you are not careful, you will set a precedent in your department that will be used against the company in negotiations or arbitrations.
First line managers must understand community interest. First line managers must at times place these community interest ahead of company and personal interests. This is very important today because of social media. A manager must always be aware of risk management and ethics in their decisions. Some decisions may seem correct for your department or company; but, will not for the interest of the community. Your decision could become a risk management issue for your company.
Consider, General Motors, because it did not consider the interest of the community when it did not recall the cars because of the starter problem in their cars. This decision had a tremendous negative impact on the image of General Motors with the public.
I will not continue with other examples of invested interest first line managers must consider.