Professional employee and manager

What distinguishes the professional employee from the managers? It is not that he does not work with other people. A market research man, for instance, may well have no one to manage but his secretary. Though his job requires high technical skill, it may be a genuine managerial job, and should be organized on the basis of functional de-centralization. The head of a metallurgical laboratory may have fifty people working under him; and yet his job is of an individual professional specialist.

Like the manager the professional has both “work’ and “team work” responsibilities in other words.

The difference lies elsewhere. The manager is responsible for the result of a component. He is therefore of necessity accountable for the work of other people.

The individual professional contributor, whether he works by himself or as member of a team, is responsible for his own contribution.

Because the manager is responsible for the results of a component, he has to be able to place, move, and guide the other people working in the component; he has to plan their jobs for them; he has to organize their efforts; he has to integrate them into a team; and he has to ensure their results.

The individual contributor is also responsible for results but for the results of his own work. This work will be effective however only if other people understand it and if other people become capable of using it. This means that the individual contributor also has responsibility and authority in respect to others. But it is not the manager’s responsibility and authority. It is the responsibility and authority of the teacher.

The second dividing line is the relationship of the job to the company’s objectives of business performance and business results. Any job whose objectives can be set in the main as focusing directly on the business objectives of the enterprise is a managerial one. Its performance can be measured directly in terms of the contribution it makes to the success of the enterprise. If organized on the right structure principles, it will satisfy the demands to be made on organization in the name of the spirit. But the job whose objectives cannot be organized as a managerial job, its objectives will be professional objectives rather than the success of the enterprise. Its performance will be, measured against professional standards rather than against its contribution to business performance and business results.

A manager, too, has professional standards. But they do not determine what he does – the objectives of the business do that. The professional standards shape only how we operate to attain his objectives and how we does not operate. The professional employee, on the other hand, derives his objectives from his professional goals. The objectives of the business influence only what he stresses, how he adapts his professional work to the needs of the company, what priorities he sets for himself. It makes little sense to say of a sales department that it does a splendid selling job, if the company goes bankrupt. But it is perfectly possible to say that a chemist, a geologist, a tax lawyer, a patent attorney or a cost accountant does a splendid professional job regardless of the performance of the company.

And what distinguishes the professional employee from the non professional worker, whether skilled or unskilled? It is primarily that he is a professional, that his work, its standards, its goals, its vision are set by the standards, the goals, the vision of a profession, that in other words, they are determined outside the enterprise. The professional must always determine himself what his work should be and what good work is. Neither what he should do nor what standards should be applied can be set for him. Moreover, the professional employee cannot be “supervised”. He can be guided, taught, helped just as a manager can be guided, taught helped. But he cannot be directed or controlled.