A manager practices social work

Wikipedia defines social work as follows: ’Social work is professional activity that aims to the welfare of individuals and communities and to prevent, reduce and erase social problems.’ I don’t really know a better place to practice social work than managing people in companies, public sector and third sector. The situation can also be the opposite, if the boss aims to increase the problems of individuals and communities, but this kind of person doesn’t really belong to management and he needs professional help.

I am not only talking now about how good leadership provides prerequisites of making a living and income (both of which prevent malaise), although that is also very true and a good subject for a blog article itself. So what is this about? It’s about this: the effects of leadership and management, whether they are good or bad, will show straight in the way how an employee acts at home as a parent, a partner or a friend.

Harvard professor Clayton Christensen describes the effects of management on the whole life of a person in an interesting way in his book How Will You Measure Your Life? (other authors James Allworth & Karen Dillon). Once upon a time Christensen had an employee, a scientist called Diana. Christensen realized that Diana wasn’t just a scientist but also a wife and a mother, whose happiness and state of mind reflected greatly on her family. If some day Diana returned home from work underrated, frustrated and degraded, it would affect negatively on her interactions with her husband and children. On the contrary, on days when Diana’s confidence has flourished and she has been receiving recognition for her important work, she would give her best in the interactions with her husband and children.

Christensen says that he used to think that if you cared for other people, you had to study sociology or something like that. However, his thoughts of what would happen at Diana’s home after different kind of work days changed his conclusion: if you really want to help other people, be a business manager. A manager has the opportunity to plan his employees’ work the way that they will go home every day feeling like Diana did on her good days. Management well done is one of the most noble tasks that can be found.

Managers create jobs that help people to make their living and contribute to people’s dreams. Companies produce products and services that improve people’s quality of life. Of course all this requires good leadership and management. However, results should not be acquired at any price. One can get to the same destination many ways, and other ways are simply better than others.  It’s not just about winning. It’s not just about the result. Winning is important. The result is important. However, also the journey matters.

Of course even a manager can’t influence on everything. Individuals will sometimes suffer from malaise, no matter what the boss might do. If the employee’s ways of life are very bad, not even the best manager can necessarily save him. But the truth is, that one spends a big part of his life at work, so the manager does influence greatly on an employee’s state of mind and happiness. There are homes where the employee arrives from work full of energy and enthusiasm. There is enough energy for kids and family life is nice. In other homes parents arrive home from work discouraged and vexed. After a bad day at work one probably doesn’t have the energy or enthusiasm to play pairs with kids anymore. The significant difference in the atmosphere at home, whether it’s good or bad, might very well result from management style at workplace. Luckily there are also managers that have realized that they are actually practicing social work. These managers aim to the welfare of people, and often business goes well alongside, too. Their employees have the energy and enthusiasm to play pairs with kids at home as well. I truly hope there will be even more of these ‘social worker bosses’ in the future.


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