Basic approaches that have evolved over time to improve productivity

Human Relations Contributors

Chris Argyris

Widespread worker apathy

In examining the widespread worker apathy and lack of effort in industry, Argyris questions whether these problems are simply the result of individual laziness. He suggests that this is not the case.

Argyris contends that, in many cases, when people join the workforce, they are kept from maturing by the management practices utilized in their organizations.

In these organizations, they are given minimal control over their environment and are encouraged to be passive, dependent, and subordinate; therefore, they behave immaturely. The worker in many organizations is expected to act in immature ways rather than as a mature adult.

This does not occur only in industrial settings. In fact, one can even see it happening in many school systems, where most high school students are subject to more rules and restrictions and generally treated less maturely than their younger counterparts in elementary school.

Design of the Formal Organization

According to Argyris, keeping people immature is built into the very nature of the formal organization. He argues that because organizations are usually created to achieve goals or objectives that can best be met collectively, the formal organization is often the architect's conception of how these objectives may be achieved.

In this sense the individual is fitted to the job. Job design comes first.

This design is based upon four concepts of scientific management:

  • task specialization,
  • chain of command,
  • unity of direction, and
  • span of control.

Management tries to increase and enhance organizational and administrative efficiency and productivity by making workers "interchangeable parts."

Leadership Style and Management Control

Basic to these concepts is that power and authority should rest in the hands of a few at the top of the organization, and thus those at the lower end of the chain of command are strictly controlled by their superiors or the system itself. Task specialization often results in the oversimplification of the job so that it becomes repetitive, routine, and unchallenging.

This implies directive, task oriented leadership where decisions about the work are made by the superior, with the workers only carrying out those decisions. This type of leadership evokes managerial controls such as budgets, some incentive systems, time and motion studies, and standard operating procedures, which can restrict the initiative and creativity of workers. (Related Work Organization and Job Design)

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