What Councils Want from Managers.But Do Not Tell Them

By Mathis, R. William | Public Management, September 1993 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

What Councils Want from Managers.But Do Not Tell Them


Mathis, R. William, Public Management


Often before election, elected officials have formed opinions and beliefs about managers and their staffs. Based on their attitudes about what government ought to do, elected officials may harbor perceptions that make working relationships difficult.

This article, based on personal research and experience, attempts to shed candid light on concerns and beliefs often held by the governing body (referred to as the council here) that interfere with the development of trust and meaningful partnership in governing.

As in any relationship, trust must be a resource from which cooperation may be derived. The following are seven unspoken assumptions that councils do not tell their managers.

#1 Managers hide Money.

Theme. Councilmembers generally believe that managers stash money away for various reasons. Rationalizations and tolerance for this activity seem to vary with how important the money issue is to that councilmember. Council wants to know how much discretionary money really is available.

Comments by council

* "The finances of our city so complex [that they are] not easily explainable to a nonfinancial person."

* "It's not really that he hides money; it's just not in plain sight. He's protecting us."

* "My city manager would not purposely hide money, some is just less visible."

* "The complexity of city budgets requires the various pockets and reserves. Why? So we won't all want our own program and will share more!"

* "My major job is to uncover where staff hides the money. Auditor role, or mole digging around."

* "Managers think they are Robin Hoods who are in a noble cause to rescue the funds from dishonest or bungling elected officials."

* "Every time I want money, I feel I have to go to Mother for permission."

* "What really upsets me is that he squirrels the money away without my agreement, then encourages me to spend what I don't understand."

* "My city manager does not mean to be dishonest. He keeps saying it's all in the budget document. Dishonesty of that kind is a public thing, but it's not really lying."

Discussion. Managers are not believed about money. It has become commonplace to talk in circular or vernacular terms of which only insiders understand the meaning. This practice may continue because of the belief that councils are nonfinancial or budget-ignorant. Some budgeters feel that public finance is so complex that the average person lacks the background to understand it, so they make it "staff-friendly." Clearly, the pervading feeling is that managers do not want to fund a certain program, so they hide the money.

The perceived practice of hiding money is taken by council crusaders as an excuse to "expose" the practice, whether it exists or not, simply because councilmembers believed that it does.

#2 Most managers have their own agendas.

Theme. Most councils assume that their managers have personal agendas that get played out over time. Where a council is divided or highly political, the council perceives the manager as putting forth his or her own agendas, thereby taking unfair advantage of the council's dilemmas.

Comments by council.

* "Why is the funding path so much easier when the manager agrees with me? Because it's his agenda."

* "If you watch who on the council a manager likes and socialize with, you can figure out [who has] similar agendas."

* "Our manager can get what she wants; it's just a matter of framing. She has a whole studio of frames."

* "Our manager is to controlling, manipulative."

* "His agenda is to keep everyone employed. Mine is to reduce government! It's why a strong mayor form of government is becoming popular."

* "Managers are preoccupied with staying in charge of us, rather than listening to our ideas."

* "My manager's agenda is zero.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

What Councils Want from Managers.But Do Not Tell Them
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.