Management span and management satisfaction

In Evovia we work with Crown Prince Frederik's Centre for Public Management on research into management.

By Poul Langagergaard

In Evovia we work with Crown Prince Frederik's Centre for Public Management on research into management.

This means that all customers of Evovia allow us to send completely anonymised data for use in management research at Aarhus University. This is clearly stated in our terms of use, which customers are made familiar with when signing up for Evovia.

We are passionate about good management, which is why we want to contribute to research that can help support decision-making processes and day-to-day management around the country's organisations.

Our latest collaboration has resulted in an article in the journal Politica written by Louise Ladegaard Bro, Joachim Langagergaard and Christian Bøtcher Jacobsen.

In this blog post, we outline the important points of the study so that you can get a quick overview of the conclusions.


Necessary to find the balance

According to earlier management research, a large span of control may hamper the actual execution of the management tasks – simply because it reduces the manager's ability to interact with individual employees and maintain good relations with the individual.

Conversely, small spans of control may also be a challenge, as the relationship becomes too familiar, making it difficult for the manager to step into character as a ”leader”.

It can, therefore, be argued that management works best when the span of control is small, but that management is easiest to exercise when the span of control is neither too small nor too big.

Therefore, according to earlier management research, it may be necessary to strike the right balance.


Span of control and satisfaction are related

The new study makes it possible to use actual data to substantiate the claims concerning span of control and satisfaction with the manager.

The study shows that there is generally less satisfaction with the manager in public institutions as compared to private organisations, that women are generally more satisfied with their managers than men, and that employees are generally most satisfied with female managers.

The results confirm that a large span of control is associated with lower manager satisfaction and that there is generally a somewhat lower level of satisfaction with managers in public institutions.

The results also show that larger spans of control seem to be associated with lower manager satisfaction up to spans of control of 36. At even higher numbers, the span of control is not associated with greater or smaller satisfaction with the manager.

However, caution should be taken when trying to identify the optimal span of control. The span of control may have implications for a lot of other factors, some of which may be positive, some negative.

So, based on this study, should you add more managers to reduce the spans of control? Not necessarily. According to literature, there may also be disadvantages associated with small spans of control – it may, to take an example, be more difficult to actually manage.

If you add more managers to the organisation, it may create more distance between the employees and the top management. This may lead to a lack of authority among managers at the lower positions in the hierarchy, while the employees may feel that the decision-making processes are far away from them during their daily work.

As mentioned initially, it may, therefore, be necessary to strike a balance between small and large spans of control. It also suggests that further research is needed in this area.