By Dorothy F. Olshfski

Reports how state-level public executives and bosses in Tennessee make a decision and enforce coverage.

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Having succeeded another manager in the same department who did not choose to define the work climate or interpersonal conflict as a problem, the manager identified the negative work environment as what she chose to handle. Another middle manager went against the advice of those around her. She took a chance on hiring an overeducated analyst who had negative evaluations in his personnel file. PROBLEM IDENTIFICATION 35 The person who was highest on the register was extremely overqualified for the job .

Regular duties are prescribed, and the job description limits discretion. Tasks within the job description usually are clearly stated and offer limited problem identification latitude. Going against the cultural expectation increases the manager’s risk. Assignments and opportunities coming from outside the agency may offer variety, and perhaps some problem identification discretion. Partisan politics was invisible in the middle managers’ problem identification activities. Politics is influenced by their clients’ perspectives and demands for service, but general public opinion does not influence middle managers’ selection of issues.

All of the previous situations landed on a middle manager’s desk by referral from peers, superiors, or subordinates. Position in the hierarchy largely dictated that the problem would land on that particular manager’s desk. Perspective Some middle managers discussed interpersonal office problems that they personally felt interfered with doing an effective job. These stories described personnel disagreements, interpersonal conflicts, unsupportive and uncooperative group relations, or high levels of mistrust in a work unit.

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