Scientists With and Without Managerial Responsibilities: How Managerial Training Affects the Perception of Job Satisfaction
Date of Award
Executive Doctorate in Business (EDB)
Pamela Scholder Ellen
Frequently scientists are promoted into positions that require them to assume management responsibilities without preparative training for a successful transition into management or other leadership roles. The movement into non-scientific roles may adversely affect the satisfaction of scientifically trained members of the organization, especially if they lack prior managerial training. Undergraduate science curricula do not introduce the basics of leadership skills, and therefore, scientists are first introduced to the concepts of management when delegated management responsibilities. Few scientifically focused organizations provide management training before the individual's transition to their first management role. Those organizations providing training seldom introduce appropriate levels of instruction for employees not accustomed to managerial tasks (Biddle & Roberts, 1994). Thus, scientists find themselves responsible for acquiring the needed training to develop and enhance their management skills. Scientists seeking to fill the gap in knowledge may pursue training through professional associations, conferences, self-teaching, and formal education such as graduate level coursework. These endeavors may or may not be formally supported by their organizational leadership or human resources department. Therefore, conflicting organizational expectations and employee efforts may occur, which may decrease overall job satisfaction. Herzberg states that organizations that fail to develop role structures that allow for advancement of knowledge for new roles dramatically increase the chances for job dissatisfaction and turnover in the initial leadership ranks.
According to Roberts and Biddle, approximately thirty percent of those who transition from technically oriented roles to the first levels of leadership transition back to technical roles for a period. Most often such transitions involve leaving the organization that promoted them to the initial management roles. Biddle and Roberts apply the fundamental tenet of the Job Characteristics Theory and find that fundamental job characteristics such as Skill Variety, Task Identity, and Task Significance are reported at high levels by individuals retained by their organizations.
The creation of conflicting role expectations could be avoided by appropriately characterizing the elements of the work and inherent variety of skills needed by the individuals selected for advancement. This process would then inform both the individual and the organization of the types of training to pursue and the appropriate level of support from the organization to ensure the attainment of goals by each party.
The use of the Job Characteristics Theory allows organizations to identify the components of roles that scientists hold high in value. The identified components may be used to develop roles that include elements that scientists find meaningful. Also, organizations can structure managerial training programs that bring meaningfulness to managerial tasks.
This study contributes to the literature by studying an understudied group of workers (scientists) and by using Job Characteristics Theory as a tool to measure employee perceptions of specific components of the job, how those translate into motivations or job satisfaction, and thus providing specific insight into the scientific world. The existing literature on dissatisfaction concerning managerial responsibilities comprised of older studies focusing primarily on engineers. Though engineers and scientists share many similarities in innovation creation, a critical difference in scientists is that they occupy knowledge creation and interpretation roles. Engineers create tools which can be used to improve processes or to enhance the functioning of other tools. Applied engineers in many aspects focus their work on improving process, troubleshooting, and repair of devices. A large number of studies found in the literature review focus on engineers and scientists concerning research and development activities. In this context, scientists and engineers typically work hand in hand. Therefore their usefulness as analogs is correct. However, applied scientists utilize the tools developed by engineers and the data collected to produce empirical results that might be deeply meaningful. The difference in the applied areas of science and engineering leads to the need to study each individually as the tasks and focus of work differ. This study addresses the gap in the literature by focusing specifically on scientists using a robust theoretical approach.
The cited works primarily focus on elements of Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory. None have utilized the Job Characteristics Theory to characterize job satisfaction in engineers or scientists. This author’s study applies a more precise theory to investigate the influences of specific job characteristics on the job satisfaction and the role of managerial training to overall job satisfaction.
The results of the study found that scientists in managerial roles perceive lower overall job characteristics than scientists in technical roles. However, among scientists in managerial roles, managerial training had a significant positive influence on the perception of Skill Variety, Task Identity, and Task Significance. The study revealed evidence that managerial training had a positive effect on the job satisfaction of scientists in managerial roles through indirect effects in job characteristics. Moreover, we observed a higher number of scientists returning to technical roles from management roles than reported in previous literature.
Humphries, Jamie, "Scientists With and Without Managerial Responsibilities: How Managerial Training Affects the Perception of Job Satisfaction." Dissertation, Georgia State University, 2018.