Reporting: Synthesis

Exercise 33

Read the articles below and, in a paragraph of not more than 250 words, discuss how managers encourage people to work.

Text 1

INDUSTRIALISATION AND THE CAPITAL-LABOUR RELATIONSHIP

General features

Capitalism means that much of the productive system is privately owned, usually concentrated in relatively few hands, and organised for profit. Work has the status of wage-labour, and jobs are located within a labour market, where prospective workers must find employers willing to pay a wage or salary in return for the use of their skills, knowledge or physical strength. We shall argue that it is the capitalist, and not merely the industrial, nature of Western society that is primarily responsible for the way the organisation of work has developed.

Industrialisation involves basic changes in the structure of a society. A fundamental change is that, in industrial societies, most people become employees. This is in marked contrast to non-industrial societies, where three-quarters or more of the occupied population are either employers, self-employed, or family workers. The change to a society dominated by wage-labour is a relatively recent one which is associated with the emergence of the factory system of production, which became dominant in Britain as late as the 19th century.

The factory system developed alongside craft and domestic systems of production and took some time to supersede them - never replacing them entirely. There was, nevertheless, a difference in the nature of the relationship which existed between craft employers and employees, in that it was a personal relationship in which both employer and employee had mutual obligations much broader than anything expected today. Furthermore, the craftworkers owned their own tools and place of work, bought their raw materials and sold the finished product direct to the consumer. Much more important, though,  was the skill and knowledge that they controlled.

However, factory production was to involve basic changes in the social situation of all workers with far-reaching implications for craft skills and employment relations. It meant the concentration of labour in one workshop or factory and the separation of home and work. Workers were subject to the discipline of employers who required that they worked regular hours with regular intensity. Although legally free, they were subordinate and dependent both economically and socially.

The factory system also made possible much greater division of labour and specialisation as machine power was introduced. The introduction of the machine meant that greater amounts of fixed capital were required for manufacture, and that much factory work came to involve the performing of semi-skilled or unskilled tasks, fragments of the total process, in which the intrinsic satisfactions derived from the task itself and from the completion of a finished product were diminished. Increasingly employees lost a good deal of contact with their employer - sometimes all personal contact was severed. Finally, workers lost most of their rights over materials, tools, and the product of their labour.

The development of the factory system represents a division of labour between agriculture and manufacture which allows food and goods to be produced more efficiently. The technical division of labour and the development of new technologies are potentially liberating, in that both permit greater control over the environment and the possibility of producing a surplus. However, the technical division of labour - which separates work into specific tasks and which can create greater efficiency - is also accompanied by a crucial social division of labour between factory owners and those who work for them, and by the intellectual division of labour between manual labourers and clerks and administrators.

Moreover, the technical efficiency of the division of labour and its rational organisation does not necessarily work to the benefit of all workers. Under capitalism, production is organised for the benefit of the owners of private property, for the few, and control over production is enforced downwards by the owners’ managerial agents and functionaries. The labour force is not just co-ordinated by the division of labour and rational production processes, it is also controlled. People at work have power exercised over them.

The reduction of labour power to the status of a commodity under capitalism has two very important implications for the nature of this control. The wages and conditions forming the basis of the employees’ existence are a cost to the employer to be taken out of profits; consequently it is in employers’ interests to resist improvements in these, just as employees are bound to press for them. Because employers must regard labour as a cost to be minimised, they will only employ people while it is profitable to do so. Therefore, workers are always at the mercy of economic and technological developments and constantly threatened by unemployment. Consequently, technological developments which cause redundancies are not always welcomed with enthusiasm.

Furthermore, when marketable skill becomes the basis of reward, it is imperative that those who possess such skills attempt to control the conditions under which they are offered for sale. They must strive to maintain the scarcity and utility of their skills. Conversely, it is in the interests of capital to reduce its reliance upon skilled personnel, for skill is expensive. The simplest way of cheapening labour power is to break it up into its simplest elements and to divorce the labour process from special knowledge and training. In fact, the history of manual labour may be seen as a process in which workers have gradually lost control or possession of their knowledge and skills.

The same principle which breaks down work into routine and meaningless tasks means that management, by organising and co-ordinating the fragments, can gain a virtual monopoly of knowledge and therefore control over the work process itself.

Let us examine, then, some of the theories of management consultants, industrial psychologists and sociologists which have been used to explain and justify strategies of management control over labour.

Scientific management

The move towards deskilling the labour force and establishing control over the knowledge necessary for production was well under way by the end of the nineteenth century, but reached its modern form in the work of F. W. Taylor and the school of thought known as ‘scientific management’.

Taylor, a management consultant, was initially concerned with achieving higher productivity in the steel industry, and furthered this end by introducing what has become known as ‘work study’. The techniques he developed included the methodical study of work to devise the quickest, most efficient way of doing a job, and an emphasis on piecework - linking an individual’s pay directly to his output - so that workers had incentives to produce as much as possible in a given period. More significantly, he insisted that management should assume responsibility for deciding how work was to be performed, leaving to workers the task of obeying orders to the letter.

In 1899 Taylor’s methods were utilised at the Bethlehem steel works where they were responsible for raising pig-iron production by almost 400 per cent per day. This was accomplished by offering financial incentives to workers and then specifying every detail of their work: when to load, when to rest, when to walk, the size of the shovel, and the arc of the swing. Most of the scientific management studies initiated during the 1920s and 1930s were concerned with finding the ‘best’ way of doing a job - the best pattern of rest periods, the best level of heating and lighting for indoor work, and so on. Taylor maintained that if workers could be brought to a level where they were operating at optimum efficiency, they would find this intrinsically satisfying.

In Principles of Scientific Management Taylor (1911) argues that, left to their own devices, workers will do as little as possible and engage in ‘soldiering’ - working more slowly together in order to keep management ignorant of their potential. Similarly, left to plan their own work, workers’ output is further lowered. They will do things in the customary way rather than the most efficient way. The solution is for management to ‘relieve’ workers of the necessity of planning their own tasks, particularly those with a mental component. Workers will learn from management how best to increase their output to the benefit of both. The best inducement, he believed, is money or economic reward. People are primarily interested in achieving a level of pay commensurate with the effort they have expended and expect a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work; and piecework ensures that individual effort is rewarded.

Many of Taylor’s assumptions - especially that people are primarily motivated by economic rewards - have since been questioned as oversimplifying the complex nature of human motivation. Similarly, exactly what constitutes a ‘fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work’ is subject to a continuous process of formal and informal negotiation between management and workers. Also, within a capitalist market, the price of labour depends upon a variety of factors such as scarcity, demand, economic conditions, and so on. However, the assumption most severely criticised was that people seek individual satisfactions in work, and necessarily value these above the satisfactions of solidarity with work-mates.

The human-relations school

The human-relations school attempted to use the ability of work-groups to establish their own norms and values as a way of integrating employees into the industrial enterprise without basically altering the structure of capitalist social relations. The school’s ideas are often presented as a radical alternative to Taylorism, but they share Taylor’s emphasis on controlling the worker. The informal work group was to be turned back upon its creators.

The approach is most closely associated with the name of Elton Mayo, who publicised the ideas of the school after the ‘success’ of a series of industrial studies carried out at the Western Electric Company in Chicago in the 1920s and 1930s - the famous ‘Hawthorne Experiments’. The experimenters were attempting to test some of Taylor’s principles by investigating the effects of temperature, lighting, humidity, restbreaks, incentive schemes, and so on, upon worker productivity. They had been experimenting with illumination, expecting production to rise with increased levels. Unexpectedly, they found that output went up, or remained relatively stable, both when lighting was improved and when it was drastically reduced. Upon redesigning their experiments, the researchers reassessed their preconceptions of the importance of economic and physical conditions, concluding that the attitudes of the workers and their feelings about their work were of strategic importance. Good relations with supervisors, and the positive atmosphere inadvertently introduced into the experimental situation by seeking the workers’ cooperation, were deemed responsible for the high morale that helped maintain output despite worsening conditions. Thus, the researchers rejected a largely physiological interpretation of worker behaviour for a more psychological one.

Moreover, another study of a small group engaged in assembling switches for telephone switchboards - the Bank Wiring Room Experiment - revealed that the workers shared a set of ‘unofficial’ norms which ran counter to the rules and expectations of management. Management had established as a normal day’s output the figure of 6600 wiring connections, while the workers defined a reasonable day’s work as only 6000 connections. It was expected that no one should work too hard and become a ‘rate-buster’, even though the group as a whole might profit by the increased output through the operation of group piecework.

Human-relations theory rested upon the recognition that the influence of group norms and values on individual attitudes and behaviour was a resource which management could turn to its own advantage, if the allegiance and leadership of the informal work-group could be diverted into management hands. The possibility of achieving this required an alternative model to that used by the scientific management school. ‘Economically’ motivated workers were replaced by ‘socially’ motivated workers to accommodate the existence of the informal group. This group fulfilled social needs for ‘belonging’ and engagement in worthwhile activities that management neglected, and hence embraced norms and values different from those of management.

Proponents of human relations believed that the development of more efficient communication and the training of front-line management in the art of winning workers’ allegiance could break down the ‘artificial’ barriers between managers and workers. The skilful manager, having generated the commitment and identification that workers need and wish to offer, could use this in the service of the formal organisation.

The human-relations approach has been heavily criticised, most notably for its assumption that ‘normal’ organisation involves consensus in the work-place, with management and workers sharing the same end. The essential rationality of industrial conflict is denied (Mayo himself described workers who criticised management as ‘neurotic’ and ‘obsessive’), while unions are depicted as essentially mischievous agencies with an institutional interest in sowing and aggravating distrust. Conflict is defined as pathological, and may be attributed to failures in communication which can be overcome by enlightened management.

Critics have pointed out, however, that far from exacerbating industrial conflict, poor communications have probably contributed a major part in its alleviation. Allen, for example, in drawing attention to the way in which information about job changes, planned redundancies, profit ratios and directors’ salaries is not communicated to workers, comments: ‘for those who believe that there is a correlation between communications and industrial unrest, perhaps it is well that communications are faulty’ (1966, p. 109).

The human-relations approach has been accused of seeing the work process purely from the viewpoint of management and of regarding workers as pawns to be manipulated in pursuit of managerial goals. It is seen as an attempt by management to retain the benefits of hierarchy, extreme division of labour and elaborate authority structures, while at the same time attempting to avoid their ‘costs’, such as the indifference or outright hostility of the people exposed to them. It tried to use the ‘social’ needs of workers to involve them in an integrated community of purpose without altering the basic structure of reward, decision-making or job design within which they were situated.

Thus the theories of scientific management and human relations are not only inadequate as explanations of the experience of work but are ideologically slanted in their uncritical justification of the capital/wage labour relationship.

References

Allen, V. L. (1966). Militant trade unionism. London: Merlin Press

Taylor, F. W. (1911). Principles of scientific management. New York: Harper & Row

(From a book called Introductory Sociology. It was written by Tony Bilton, Kevin Bonnett, Philip Jones, Michelle Stanworth, Ken Sheard & Andrew Webster. The book was published by Macmillan in London in 1981 and the extract is from pages 446-448)

Text 2

Motives

There is a multitude of psychological theories about what motivates man. Is the force inside man, outside man, conditioned or not conditioned, goal directed or not goal directed? These are all very controversial issues in academic research into what gets people to want to work. Most people in organizations are not concerned with academic controversies and rely on their commonsense view of behaviour.

The simplest motivation theory suggests that man is motivated by a series of needs or motives. This theory argues that some of the motives are inherited and some learnt: that some are primarily physiological, while others are primarily psychological. Other theories deny the existence of needs or motives. Therefore, at one extreme the behaviourists argue that behaviour is a series of learned responses to stimuli, and at the other extreme systems theorists talk about all systems - individuals, groups, and organizations - having needs.

Motivation can be either a conscious or an unconscious process: the allocation of time and energy to work in return for rewards. Both internal and external stimuli lead to action. Internalized values, hopes, expectations, and goals affect the decision process of the individual, and thereby affect the resultant behaviour. Motivation is not an 'engine' built inside an individual - as so many training managers believe. It is the individual responding to a whole range of experiences, and responding as a totality, not as 'a need'. If we are threatened by physical force, the stimulus for activity is external. If the hormone secretions in our bodies operate effectively then we will wish to behave in physically satisfying ways. In both examples, some of the force is inside the individual, while some of the stimulus is external. How the individual will respond, how much energy he will expend, and how important are the consequences (rewards) are all factors which moderate his motivation.

There have been many attempts to classify personal moderators in the decision process. The most popular construct is the need, and categories of needs (e.g., body needs, safety needs, social needs, achievement needs) dominate the literature. Goal categories, remarkably like need categories, are also popular (e.g., money, status, power, friendship). Satisfaction theories are a variation of goal theories, but have produced even more controversial classifications (e.g., implicit and explicit rewards).

There is no space here to go into what is primarily an academic debate on theories of behaviour. I will contend that people are motivated to realize the outcome of ends or goals. Where I use the term 'need', I do so in the sense of ends or goals desired by the individual. I have difficulty in accepting a 'need' as a personality construct. However, desiring or wanting an outcome does reveal something about a person, and 'need' can be used to refer to that wanting. To many psychologists this view will be heresy, but I doubt if managers care what the energy force is called (need, want, goal, etc.).

Organizational psychologists adopt hierarchies of goals or needs, along the lines suggested by Maslow, McClelland, Ghiselli, and Likert. Maslow's need classifications are the most extensively used, mainly because they seem to fit organizations rather than because they have been empirically verified. We have little data to support the concept of a hierarchy of needs in which lower order needs are satisfied before higher (hierarchically) order needs. However, while need hierarchies may be difficult to accept, there is a great deal of data on the relevance of these needs or ends or goals for individuals working in organizations, and it is these data which are of value to managers.

The managers' dilemma is that, while they must accept the individual differences that exist among their staff, organizational (and particularly personnel) practices assume that such differences do not exist. The field of organization theory has been - and still is - plagued by the conflict between the individual and the organization. As the orientation of this book is towards organizations, it is important to deal with sameness or similarities between people, while acknowledging differences within groups.

 

(From Managing people at work by John Hunt, published in London by Pan in 1979. This extract is from page 14)

Text 3

Wage Labor, Money, and the Affluent Society

Increased population densities and higher technoenvironmental efficiency coupled with class control over access to land and technology yield more and more precise control over the time, quantity, quality, and place of labor input. As previously indicated, the industrial wage earner works longer and harder than most prestate hunters or farmers. Lacking access both to land and to the tools of production, wage workers pay for the privilege of staying alive by selling their labor. The modern wage laborer is relatively free to change jobs (provided there is little unemployment, few travel restrictions, and no educational qualifications). Once on the job, however, tasks are rigorously defined and work schedules are closely supervised. The degree of supervision and control exerted over industrial work rhythms has been exceeded only in such labor systems as plantation and galley slavery.

The saving grace of wage-labor systems, of course, is that the producers are paid in money that can be used to purchase subsistence requirements and luxury items in a relatively sporadic, intermittent, and impulsive fashion. Markets and stores filled with dazzling varie­ties of products offer the wage earner (capitalist and communist) an exciting and unparalleled range of usable products. Perhaps the shopping expedition restores some of the zest and freedom that have been drained from the wage worker's daily life as a result of the routinization of work. This at least is the theory of "consumerism" - the belief that people find happiness in proportion to the amount of goods they buy and consume. The only problem is that unless one is very rich, shopping expeditions will frustrate as often as they will satisfy a consumer's desire to consume. This problem is especially acute in capitalist economies. The rate of capitalist production depends upon the rate at which people purchase, use, wear out, and destroy goods and services. Hence an enormous effort is expended on extolling the virtues and benefits of products in order to convince consumers that they should make additional purchases. Prestige is awarded not to the person who works hardest or gives away the greatest amount of wealth, but rather to the person with the highest standard of living. For the average wage earner, consumerism is thus a lifelong burden, an insatiable hunger and thirst, a mighty itching that has no remedy. Is it possible, therefore, that scarcity is never so great as in a culture that sets no limits to the desire to consume?

(From: Marvin Harris, Culture, people, nature. New York: Harper and Row, 1975, pp. 308-309.)

Text 4

The concept that man has two sets of needs, his need as an animal to avoid pain and his need as a human to grow psychologically, were tested Two hundred engineers and accountants, who represented a cross-section of Pittsburgh industry, were interviewed. They were asked about events they had experienced at work which either had resulted in a marked improvement in their job satisfaction or had led to a marked reduction in job satisfaction.

The interviewers began by asking the engineers and accountants to recall a time when they had felt exceptionally good about their jobs. Keeping in mind the time that had brought about the good feelings, the interviewers proceeded to probe for the reasons why the engineers and accountants felt as they did. The workers were asked also if the feelings of satisfaction in regard to their work had affected their performance, their personal relationships and their well-being.

Finally, the nature of the sequence of events that served to return the workers’ attitudes to ‘normal’ was elicited. Following the narration of a sequence of events, the interview was repeated, but this time the subjects were asked to describe a sequence of events that resulted in negative feelings about their jobs. As many sequences as the respondents were able to give were recorded within the criteria of an acceptable sequence

The major findings of this study showed that five factors stand out as strong determiners of job satisfaction - achievement, recognition, work itself, responsibility and advancement - the last three being of greater importance for lasting change of attitudes. These five factors appeared very infrequently when the respondents described events that paralleled job dissatisfaction feelings. A further word on recognition: when it appeared in a ‘high’ sequence of events, it referred to recognition for achievement rather than to recognition as a human-relations tool divorced from any accomplishment. The latter type of recognition does not serve as a ‘satisfier’.

When the factors involved in the job dissatisfaction events were coded, an entirely different set of factors evolved. These factors were similar to the satisfiers in their unidimensional effect. This time, however, they served only to bring about job dissatisfaction and were rarely involved in events that led to positive job attitudes. Also, unlike the ‘satisfiers’, the ‘dissatisfiers’ consistently produced short-term changes in job attitudes. The major dissatisfiers were company policy and administration, supervision, salary, interpersonal relations and working conditions.

(From F. Herzberg. Work and the Nature of Man, World Publishing Co., 1966, pp. 71-72. London)

Text 5

Theory X: the traditional view of direction and control

Behind every managerial decision or action are assumptions about human nature and human behavior. A few of these are remarkably pervasive. They are implicit in most of the literature of organization and in much current managerial policy and practice.

1. The average human being has an inherent dislike of work and will avoid it if he can. The stress that management places on productivity, on the concept of ‘a fair day’s work’, on the evils of overhiring and restriction of output, on rewards for performance - while it has a logic in terms of the objectives of enterprise - reflects an underlying belief that management must counteract an inherent human tendency to avoid work. The evidence for the correctness of this assumption would seem to most managers to be incontrovertible.

2. Because of this human characteristic of dislike of work, most people must be coerced, controlled, directed, threatened with punishment to get them to put forth adequate effort toward, the achievement of organizational objectives. The dislike of work is so strong that even the promise of rewards is not generally enough to overcome it. People will accept the rewards and demand continually higher ones, but these alone will not produce the necessary effort. Only the threat of punishment will do the trick.

3. The average human being prefers to be directed, wishes to avoid responsibility, has relatively little ambition, wants security above all. This assumption is rarely expressed so bluntly. In fact, a good deal of lip service is given to the ideal of the worth of the average human being. Nevertheless, a great many managers will give private support to this assumption, and it is easy to see it reflected in policy and practice.

I have suggested elsewhere the name Theory X for this set of assumptions. Theory X provides an explanation of some human behavior in industry. These assumptions would not have persisted if there were not a considerable body of evidence to support them. Nevertheless, there are many readily observable phenomena in industry and elsewhere which are not consistent with this view of human nature.

Theory Y: the integration of individual and organizational goals

There have been few dramatic breakthroughs in social science theory like those which have occurred in the physical sciences during the past half century. Nevertheless, the accumulation of knowledge about human behavior in many specialized fields has made possible the formulation of a number of generalizations which provide a modest beginning for new theory with respect to the management of human resources. Some of these assumptions, which will hereafter be referred to as Theory Y, are as follows:

1. The expenditure of physical and mental effort in work is as natural as play or rest. The average human being does not inherently dislike work. Depending upon controllable conditions, work may be a source of satisfaction (and will be voluntarily performed) or a source of punishment (and will be avoided if possible).

2. External control and the threat of punishment are not the only means for bringing about effort toward organizational objectives. Man will exercise self-direction and self-control in the service of objectives to which he is committed.

3. Commitment to objectives is a function of the rewards associated with their achievement. The most significant of such rewards, e.g. satisfaction and self-actualization needs, can be direct products of effort directed toward organizational objectives.

4. The average human being learns, under proper conditions, not only to accept but to seek responsibility. Avoidance of responsibility, lack of ambition and emphasis on security are generally consequences of experience, not inherent human characteristics.

5. The capacity to exercise a relatively high degree of imagination, ingenuity and creativity in the solution of organizational problems is widely, not narrowly, distributed in the population.

6. Under the conditions of modern industrial life, the intellectual potentialities of the average human being are only partially utilized.

These assumptions involve sharply different implications for managerial strategy than do those of Theory X. They are dynamic rather than static: they indicate the possibility of human growth, and development; they stress the ‘necessity for selective adaptation rather than for a single absolute form of control. Above all, the assumptions of Theory Y point up the fact that the limits on human collaboration in the organizational setting are not limits of human nature but of management’s ingenuity in discovering how to realize the potential represented by its human resources.

(From D. McGregor, The human side of enterprise, McGraw-Hill, 1960, pp. 35-6. New York.)


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