The ‘reality’ of work and how this is similar to or differs from the conventional image portrayed in management texts The core of management texts are concerned with efficiency, both bureaucratic and post bureaucratic organisations. The limitation is that it concerns itself with how, and not why the organising is done in a particular way. I will introduce some of the early theorists, looking at how they apply to organisations today and reflecting on employees work experience through weblogs. Seminar discussion points will be portrayed in this paper to further emphasise reality.
As time progresses, peoples attitudes to work changes and I will show how people now strive for motivation, responsibility, and quality of life rather than having money as their only objective in their job. The idea of making the production process as efficient as possible was first publicised by Frederick Taylor in the late 19th and early 20th century with his time-motion study. It involved stream lining the process to remove all unnecessary movements, along with the standardisation of tools and processes.
The results were astonishing, with the employees producing much more than ever before. The organisation benefitted with increased profits, some of which was passed on to the employees as a reward. This kept morale and productivity high at all times. Later, ‘Taylor was hired by a large number of firms to rationalise work and employ his methods to their workforce’ (Ritzer, 2000). This is known as scientific management and is regarded as a dehumanising system in which humans are considered as expendable.
This theory is still evident nowadays in call centres and fast food outlets such as McDonalds. The problem is that rational systems serve to deny human reason; and are often unreasonable. For example, in order to grow uniform potatoes from which predictable French Fries can be cut, the use of nitrates and chemicals are used in production which have lead to the underground water supply being affected in certain areas, not to mention the forests felled to produce paper wrappings.
The most dehumanising aspect of McDonalds is perhaps the ‘drive-through’ where customers wait in line, whilst workers prepare the food; it is very similar to that of an assembly line and Fordism. The assembly line was basically the first move of transforming humans into robots. Henry Ford was the pioneer and got the idea from the ‘overhead trolley system used by Chicago meat packers to butcher cattle. A line of highly specialised butchers performed specific tasks as the cattle were propelled along the trolley’ (Braverman, 1974).
The system worked and more importantly saved time, energy and money. The greater efficiency achieved meant lower prices and higher profits. The Japanese were instrumental in heightening efficiency. Their “just-in-time” system meant parts arrived just as they were to be placed in the car; in effect the Japanese company’s suppliers became part of the assembly line process. This had a lot of benefits such as savings on storage costs; although a slight delay in the shipping of the parts could have caused a large delay at the manufacturing plant hindering progress.
The German sociologist Max Weber describes how the western world managed to become increasingly more rational ‘that is dominated by efficiency, predictability, calculability, and nonhuman technologies that control people (Ritzer, 2000). A recent advertisement by Citroen Picasso, make use of mechanical robots to paint their cars on an assembly line which shows how modern technology has replaced and is continuing to replace humans in repetitive, tedious work (CitroenTV, 2008). Douglas McGregor’s theories were based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
He groups Maslow’s lower order (Theory X) and higher order (Theory Y) needs. An employee at Call Centre Confidential is an example of Theory X. She describes her job as being: ‘stuck on a roundabout with no left turn’. She tells how it is always the same with ‘the staff still trying their damnedest to get off the phones at whatever cost’ whilst the ‘team leaders’ are ‘trying their hardest to keep their staff on the phones whilst hopping from one meaningless meeting to the next’. Her interest in the job stops at money and has no desire to take on any responsibility.
The more up to date Theory Y has a total different aspect and believes worker motivation leads to job satisfaction which benefits the organisation as a whole. I can understand why the orthodox theory would work, as it looks to identify what triggers people into behaving in a certain way which is quite realistic, given that if I were told I could captain the rugby team next year so long as I kept training with such a high level of professionalism, then this would give me the motivation to improve my game and earn the captaincy of the team.
The post Fordist future perhaps lay in the Japanese style of management and organisation. Lifetime employment, seniority-based wage systems and enterprise unions make up what is known as the ‘three pillars’ of Japan. ‘Offering lifetime employment secures a loyal and secure workforce in Japan’ but later studies show that this was for a small percentage of people, the majority being males. Less than 30% of the Japanese workforce worked for the same company all their lives (Smith and Misumi, 1994), one reason for this is the increased usage of subcontractors.
Today work is different, and jobs are certainly not for life anymore and in many cases are now organised on the basis of short-term contracts. The majority of people working in the oil industry are employed on short term contracts; this basically means they are losing out on holiday pay, pension, sickness, as well as unemployment benefits (BBC Online, 1997). The employer is the only real benefactor as they acquire employees for the amount of time taken to complete the task and have no obligations beyond this time.
Despite this, the Government are still offering some incentives for example; pregnant mothers can apply for a one-off, tax-free payment of ? 190. Also they are encouraging flexible working hours for both parents with children up to the age of 16 years. They believe this will build stronger relationships with their children, which is essentially the next generation and the future work force. It is in everyone’s interest that children have the best possible upbringing (BBC MMIX, 2009).
Another important feature of work today is job training and re-training. Because technology is changing so rapidly, people are finding that the skills they have quickly go out-of-date. A good example of where technology has changed is when we check in for a flight, the low cost air operator Ryanair plan to have everyone checking in for their flight online by the end of the year and are totally getting rid of check in desks at airports, a far cry from early aviation days when internet barely existed.
This is all in a bid to be as efficient as possible and cutting unnecessary costs (Thomson Reuters, 2009). Keeping up with the latest technology can be expensive but is essential to stay in the job market and progress in your chosen career path. Additionally, more and more companies are employing low paid migrant labour, some often illegally. This is adding to the high unemployment figures. This coupled with short term contracts by employers is their idea of maximising profits, but in reality this is crippling the economy.
Bertrand Russell’s essay ‘In Praise of Idleness’ is a very interesting viewpoint on how much we should work, his thoughts of working overtime and by saving money in government bonds is seen as greedy as it deprives someone else of earning. As his article was written in 1932, before women entered the work force, parents had fewer children and more efficient machinery came along he could have benefitted from further knowledge, however despite this the number of hours each wage earner must earn to support the family has remained constant.
He proposed that full time should be cut to four hours per day, and more people should be employed which would shrink the void between the rich and the poor. In modern day management this would be seen as irrational due to the large number of people on the payroll, but I agree that if more people were employed to work fewer hours, a lot of the country’s issues would be resolved such as the high unemployment figures and the amount of dole money collected from unemployment benefits. “In the past, there was a small leisure class and a larger working class” (Russell, 1932).
Now it is very different, perhaps a complete reversal where there is a small working class and a large leisure class, not by choice but perhaps by the economic crisis we find ourselves in. People now a day take as much as they legally can from the Government and in some cases are benefitting illegally as well. With many people choosing not to find employment as they can earn more by claiming, statistics from the government show that they are currently awarding the most they ever had in terms of unemployment benefits (UK National Statistics, 2009).
Where I live in Northern Ireland, it is well publicised that many people claim benefits on both sides of the border both in the North and Republic of Ireland, whilst working part time for cash in hand. They use relative’s addresses fraudulently and can earn up to €700 or €800 per week (Derry Journal, 2009) In the seventh seminar, Wilson (2004) All Change, there was a sense of resistance to change flowing throughout – as with established procedure; there is always a resistance to change.
Once people get used to something the idea of adjustment is a little scary perhaps, but a very interesting paragraph by Blyton and Turnbull (1994) states: “Nothing changes yet everything is different: as we twist around the spiral of capitalist economic development we experience progression and return, never a return to exactly the same point but always to a point that is familiar”. This is totally visible in the stock market for example the Wall Street crash of 1929, followed by Black Monday in 1987 and even as recently as last year in September/October 2008 due to subprime loans and redit default swaps, many banks had to be bought out and other chains of stores went into administration. We are still currently in this recession and could be for a further prediction until the fourth quarter of 2009. (Kelly, 2008) It is only inevitable that in my lifetime I will be sure to experience another period of recession or another stock market collapse, as it would be very unreasonable for the economy to keep growing year on year with out any setbacks for the next 50 years, if so we could be facing extremely high house prices as well as a lot of other consumables.
Globalisation has had an effect on almost everyone, but in particular the French car manufacturer Renault has had a shocking experience of it. I find a positive correlation between the American and British culture has had on the number of suicides within Renaults state of the art ? 700m Technocentre plant. French workers had many benefits such as a 35 hour working weeks, generous holidays and early retirement but goals such as the revival plan – to launch 26 cars in 3 years was just unrealistic. The amount of pressure and stress the employees found themselves under was just too much.
When stress from the workplace starts to affect mental health then the issue has gone too far, and psychiatrists may need to be consulted as there is a strong link between stress in the workplace and heart disease (BBC MMIX, 2006). It went from a philosophy of ‘We like people, we use objects’ to ‘We use people, we like objects’ (Willsher, 2007). This sums up Renault and their attitude towards their employees since globalisation has come into play. It is a paradox that while the French appear to have a better quality of life than Britons in terms of hours worked and healthier lifestyle it does not seem to make them any happier.
The UK holds the record for the longest working hours in Europe (Eurostat, 2000). Richard Nixon wrote, “With its 100 million people and its 300 mile arc of islands containing the region’s richest hoard of natural resources, Indonesia is the greatest prize in Southeast Asia. ” The sportswear firms flocked to Indonesia for cheap labour which they found, in abundance. They later came under investigation about exploitation of young children working long hours and the unsuitable working conditions. The other side of Indonesia was what General Suharto was often congratulated for, the ‘miracle economy’ that had been established.
This was what the western world witnessed with the majority of problems laying hidden. Exploiting young children is still an issue today with firms such as Primark, Asda and Tesco all guilty of paying Bangladeshi kids as little as 7p an hour (BBC MMIX, 2008). There have been many crackdowns to ensure they receive a fair wage, but as long as a third world exists I believe these multinational companies will always find the cheap labour they crave. Today, work is very different and is transforming all the time.
Job security is at an all time low, robots are being used more in production, technology has advanced so much that in some cases we now deal with computers instead of human beings, people choose to claim benefits rather than finding employment, globalisation has caused suicides in France, and exploits young children in third world countries for cheap labour. This, I feel, is the reality of work. Word Count: 2179 References: BBC Online (1997) On the record – Debate on the Economy http://www. bbc. co. uk/otr/intext/Economy. html accessed on BBC MMIX, (2006) Work stress ‘heart disease link’, http://www. news. bbc. co. uk/1/hi/health/4629202. tm accessed on BBC MMIX, (2008) UK clothes chains ‘abuse workers’ http://www. news. bbc. co. uk/1/hi/business/7767106. stm accessed on BBC MMIX, (2009) More parents to get flexible work, http://news. bbc. co. uk/1/hi/uk/7984202. stm accessed on Blyton, P. , and Turnbull, P. (1994), The Dynamics of Employee Relations, London: Macmillan Braverman, H. (1974), Labour and Monopoly Capitalism: the Degradation of Work in the 20th Century. Monthly Review Press CitroenTV (2008) Citroen Xsara Picasso Turkiye Reklam? , http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=7cJZHtMED5Q accessed on Derry Journal, (2009) Cross Border dole fraud thriving, http://www. erryjournal. com/inishowen/Cross-Border-dole-fraud-thriving. 4893188. jp accessed on Kelly, B. (2008) When Will the Recession End? http://seekingalpha. com/article/104394-when-will-the-recession-end accessed on Ritzer, G. (2000) The McDonaldization of Society, Pine Forge Press, Russel, B. (1932) In praise of Idleness Smith, P. B. , and Misumi, J. (1994), ‘Japanese Management: A Sun Rising in the West? ’, ch. 4 in C. L. Cooper and I. T. Robertson (eds. ), Key Reviews in Managerial Psychology, Concepts and Research for Practice, Chichester: John Wiley Sportswear firms to investigate Oxfam sweatshop claims http://www. uardian. co. uk/globalisation/story/0,7369,1161734,00. html Thomson Reuters, 2009) Ryanair to cut all airport check-in desks http://uk. reuters. com/article/allBreakingNews/idUKLL53874020090221 accessed on UK National Statistics, (2009). Unemployment, http://www. statistics. gov. uk/hub/labour-market/people-not-in-work/unemployment/index. html accessed on Willsher, K. , (2007), Heading for a Breakdown, The Guardian, 10th March, 2007 (http://www. guardian. co. uk/money/2007/mar/10/careers. workplacestress/print) Wilson, F. M. (2004), Organizational Behaviour and Work, 2nd Edition, Oxford