Organisational Control and Power

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An underlying feature of organisational behaviour is the concept of control and power. Control systems exist in all spheres of the operations of the organisation and are a necessary part of the process of management. Work organisations are complex systems of social relationships, status and power, and attention should be given to the manager–subordinate relationships. The manager needs to understand the nature of power and control in order to improve work behaviour and organisational performance.

Learning outcomes
After completing this chapter you should be able to:
■ explain the nature and importance of control in work organisations, and the essential elements in a management control system;
■ detail different forms of control and characteristics of an effective control system;
■ explain the nature of power and management control, and review perspectives of organisational power;
■ assess the nature and impact of financial and accounting systems of control;
■ explore the concept of empowerment and the manager–subordinate relationship;
■ examine the process of delegation, and the benefits and art of delegation; ■ recognise the human and social factors that influence people’s patterns of behaviour.
ORGANISATIONAL CONTROL AND
POWER
Critical reflection
17
‘The controversial nature of control means that some writers prefer to use alternative terms such as monitoring or evaluating. But whatever term is used, the process of maintaining order is an integral part of the individual and organisational relationship, and a necessary feature of regulating work behaviour and effective management.’

Do you agree? What term would you favour for this process, and why? CHAPTER 17 ORGANISATIONAL CONTROL AND POWER
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THE CONTROVERSIAL NATURE OF CONTROL
In the discussion on the role of the manager (Chapter 11) attention was drawn to the motivation of staff and the importance of direction and control over the performance of other people’s work. By their very nature, control systems are concerned with the regulation of behaviour. This concern for the regulation of behaviour and improvement in performance raises questions as to the ethical nature of control. (Ethical behaviour in business is discussed in Chapter 18.) Unfortunately ‘control’ often has an emotive connotation and is interpreted in a negative manner to suggest direction or command by the giving of orders. People may be suspicious of control systems and see them as emphasising punishment, an indication of authoritarian management, and a means of exerting pressure and maintaining discipline. Some writers seem to take this view, and even to suggest that organisational control is exploitation of employees.1

This, however, is clearly too narrow an interpretation. There is far more to control than simply a means of restricting behaviour or the exercise of authority over others. Control is not only a function of the formal organisation and a hierarchical structure of authority, it is also a feature of organisational behaviour and a function of interpersonal influence.2 Tannenbaum, for example, sees control as an inherent characteristic of the nature of organisations. The process of control is at the centre of the exchange between the benefits that the individual derives from membership of an organisation and the costs of such benefits. Organization implies control. A social organization is an ordered arrangement of individual human interactions. Control processes help circumscribe idiosyncratic behaviors and keep them conformant to the rational plan of the organization. Organizations require a certain amount of conformity as well as the integration of diverse activities. It is the function of control to bring about conformance to organizational requirements and achievement of the ultimate purposes of the organization.3 Control is, therefore, a general concept that is applied to both individual behaviour and organisational performance. Nevertheless, we should note, for...
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