- the general character of management's approach to INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS. The starting point for considering management style is usually the contrast between two frames of reference (i.e. perspectives) concerning industrial relations:
- unitary frame of reference, where employee and managerial interests are believed to be the same, and hence TRADE UNIONS are viewed as illegitimate. They are seen as troublemakers who provoke CONFLICT where no real conflict exists. Those subscribing to this philosophy often portray the organization as a team where each member is dependent on the others in the team. There is also usually a strong emphasis on management's prerogative of taking decisions, justified on the basis that they are working for the good of all in the organization;
- pluralist frame of reference, where it is accepted that employees' interests may differ from those of management or the organization on occasion, and that trade unions are a legitimate expression of this. It is necessary to create procedures for resolving these differences so that conflict, which is damaging to all, can be avoided.
Although the notion of industrial relations style can be criticized for a lack of clarity -it is an amalgam of philosophies, statements, policies and actions – it is useful as a shorthand term to designate clusters of attributes which can be found in reality.
- (in ORGANIZATIONAL ANALYSIS) the character of LEADERSHIP and MANAGEMENT. In the literature, management style refers to two different, though closely related phenomena: the leadership styles of individual managers and the prevailing style or CULTURE of the organization. In the former a basic distinction is made between concern for production and concern for people, exemplified on the one hand by the autocratic, task-centred approach of SCIENTIFIC MANAGEMENT and on the other by the concern for employee welfare found in HUMAN RELATIONS. In recent writing on leadership these concepts have been considered in relation to the situation in which leadership is exercised, the characteristics of those to be led, and the relationship to managerial effectiveness. The underlying distinction is also found in analysis of collective management style. The best known example is Douglas McGregor's (1906 – 64) THEORY X AND Y. In Theory X approaches, emphasis is placed on coercion to get the task done, whilst in Theory Y organizations, employees are allowed greater freedom on the grounds that this will lead to better job performance. A more sophisticated variant was developed by Rensis Likert (1903 – 81). He discerned four styles or systems of management:
- exploitative autocratic, where decisionmaking is autocratic and where employee compliance is achieved through coercion;
- benevolent authoritative, where decision-making is still largely centralized but managers appear to take some note of employee views and interests;
- consultative, where managers seek EMPLOYEE INVOLVEMENT but nevertheless still take the lead in policy formulation and decision-making;
- democratic, where there is some genuine devolution of decision-making to subordinates, especially in relation to job performance (see JOB DESIGN AND REDESIGN).
Likert believed that in the long run the democratic style would be most effective because it would reduce job dissatisfaction and build up employee commitment. As in industrial relations analysis, notions of style such as Likert's seem to correspond with distinct organizational types. Similarly, there is the problem that they can be somewhat imprecise in analytical terms. See NEO-HUMAN RELATIONS.