Understanding administrative behavior – Focus on these skills
Organizational behavior researcher, Dill (1984, 1999) provides a framework for understanding administrative behavior by focusing on the kinds of skills which are important in this type of activity. Specifically, he refers to categories of human relations skills, conceptual skills and technical skills and then illustrates these using observed behaviors of executives.
In his attempt to more fully describe administrative behavior, Dill (1984) follows the model of Anderson, which links the managerial skill categories of Katz with the empirically based behavior categories of Mintzberg. (See Table 1)
In this way, general categories are linked with specific, empirically supported and observed managerial behaviors.
The three categories of skills identified by Katz can be described as follows:
1) Human Relations Skills - interpersonal skills applied when a manager relates to superiors, peers and subordinates
2) Conceptual Skills - manager’s ability to think through the coordination and integration of the organization’s diverse activities (i.e. strategic planning) and use information appropriately in ambiguous situations
3) Technical Skills - technique and expertise of management and specific skill area
The specific associated managerial behaviors as theorized by Mintzberg and their relevance to administrative positions can be described as follows:
A) Human Relations Skills
1) Peer-related Behavior - actions which facilitate the maintenance of effective horizontal relationships; constitute critical and significant relationships (especially with regard to networking opportunities) requiring concerted effort to maintain; example - collegial special assistants
2) Leadership Behavior - actions which facilitate effective vertical relationships (i.e. between a supervisor/manager and a subordinate; represents the most time-consuming area of managerial behavior; high potential for affecting morale, and subsequently productivity, positively or negatively
3) Conflict-resolution Behavior - actions which represent interventions and mediation between individuals or groups in conflict or regarding controversial decisions; compromise, bargaining, mediation are endemic in the role of administrators; typical interventions occur in response to crisis and involve a judging role with subsequent establishment of policies to avoid future issues
B) Conceptual Skills
1) Information-related Behavior - monitoring networks for obtaining information, extracting and assimilating information and communicating the conclusions and ramifications; complex; high degree of disparity between theoretical and practical use of information
2) Decision-making Behavior - resolving choices in ambiguous situations; location of decision making, sources of influence, process; garbage can model and overload are realities; matching of problems, choices and decision makers is determined by problem content, problem relevance and competence of decision maker
3) Resource Allocation Behavior - disbursement of the organization’s critical assets among competing demands; tendency toward present oriented reactivity and responsiveness toward demands; lack of core system of planned distribution; volatile; often based on perceptions of influence and power
4) Entrepreneurial Behavior - discovering problems and opportunities for focus of attention; analogous to project management; constant involvement in improvement projects which often lead to minimal results; notion of manager as a change agent
5) Introspective Behavior - insight, sensitivity and understanding of the nuances of interactions and the impact of personality and manner; reflection upon the impact of actions
C) Technical Skills
1) Profession-related Behaviors - less emphasis as administrator assumes a more broad range of responsibility; academic environment blurs boundaries of managerial and profession-related activities
Taken together, these paradignms form a foundation for understnading the complex and interactive behaviors and functions of administrative positions.
Anderson, K. (1984). Management: Skills, function and organizational performance. Dubuque, IA: W.C. Brown. In Peterson, M. W. (Ed). (1991). ASHE reader on organization and governance in higher education. Neeham Heights, MA: Simon & Schuster. p. 371.
Dill D. D. (1984). The Nature of Administrative Behavior in Higher Education. Educational Administration Quarterly. 20(3):69-99. doi:10.1177/0013161X84020003005
Dill, D. D. (1999). Academic accountability and university adaptation: The architecture of an academic learning organization. Higher Education 38, 127–154. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1003762420723