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...
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