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Self-Management

Entry 1967, on 2019-02-26 at 12:03:15 (Rating 4, Comments)

According to research, one of the greatest sources of stress and unhappiness in the workplace is workers' feeling of lack of control. They feel as if their working lives are directed by others, and that they cannot work to their full potential or fully enjoy their work as a result.

Is this important? Well, yes, I think it clearly is, for two main reasons: first, people spend a large proportion of their lives at work so the experience should be as pleasant as possible; and second, if we want companies and other organisations to work efficiently why not try to encourage people to want to be there, and then perform at their best as a result.

So the next question is what is the cause of this lack of control? Well, it will be no surprise to anyone that I blame it squarely on modern management. I have made no secret of my total contempt for the so-called profession of management, and I often believe we would be a lot better off without them. But sometimes I have a more moderate view and think there might be some need for them, but that the role should be a lot different than the way it is generally seen today.

So instead of simply saying we should get rid of the lot of them, I will try to present a more nuanced, and maybe realistic reimagining of what a manager's role should really be, and how they should fit into a properly functional work environment.

First, we need to get away from the idea that a manager is a higher role than others. To do this, most of their authority needs to be stripped away, and their rate of pay should be no higher than similar professional positions in other areas.

I often see really competent people take "promotions" into management simply to get extra pay (and also most likely get a lot more perks and do a lot less work). Why should they need to do this? If someone is really good at a non-management role they should get paid as much as, or maybe more than, someone in management. Management shouldn't be a higher status position, it should be just a different one.

And often a person who does get a "promotion" into management is terrible at it (let's ignore the fact that I believe there are almost no actual good ones), as well as their skills in their previous job being lost.

So in my ideal work environment the actual core workers would have a high level of control over how they work, and the managers would simply be there to ensure that the tedious administration tasks needed to support them are carried out.

There are two obvious weaknesses in my system of course. The first is that workers who aren't motivated to work might use the extra control they have to avoid doing anything useful, or they might be so incompetent at organising their time that they are horribly inefficient. And the second is that in a large work environment, where people need to work together, creating a coordinated team might be difficult without top-down control.

I fully understand these problems are real, but I think the benefits of my suggested system would outweigh the problems, because the workers in my scheme would feel they have control and would both be happier and generally more productive as a result.

Even if productivity was lower after implementing my scheme (and note that I don't believe it would be) there would still be benefits in happier workers, with less stress, and less mental health issues, so society as a whole would be better. Unpleasant work conditions, especially in regards to lack of control as a result of overbearing (and mostly incompetent) management, is a leading cause of high suicide rates in many western countries today.

And I think I do have some ways to minimise the disadvantages I mentioned above.

I'm fairly sure that in most workplaces people know very well which of their colleagues get a lot done and which don't. So I think peer pressure might be enough to overcome a lot of the poor performance issues I listed above. I think many people would respond more to their colleagues comments regarding their work than comments from a manager who the worker might see as being out of touch.

Some form of performance pay might also be useful. I have spoken against this idea in the past, but that was because performance is often based on bureaucratic and ultimately counterproductive measures invented by managers. If the workers themselves could agree on more meaningful measures then this idea might have more merit.

If the number of managers was decreased it might also be possible to redirect their pay to the people who actually do the work. When people are paid more, especially in relation to people in other workplaces who are not enjoying the benefits of my new system, they might feel motivated to work more effectively.

Finally, it might be possible for the workers to nominate one person amongst them to have a controlling role when their is no obvious consensus amongst them. It might seem that this is just replacing one manager with another, but this person would still be a worker but with extra authority for a small number of situations, plus this person would still be in touch with what the workplace really needs.

Superficially it seems like a really good system, and you might wonder why it isn't being used everywhere. Well it's possible that I am truly delusional and it could never work. It's also possible that he people in charge have too much to lose by implementing it. It's the managers who are currently in charge who would be negatively affected yet they are the people who need to initiate the change. That's not very likely to happen, is it?

But for numerous reasons, current work practices do need to change, and I would like to see something along the lines of what I have discussed here implemented. Will it ever happen? Who knows, but I'm just not expecting it any day soon!

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Contact: OJB, OJB@mac.com. Features: Blog, RSS Feeds, Podcasts, Feedback, Log. Modified: 03 Mar 2007. Hits: 29,854,565.