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…on style of management

Some employers have a very limited and old-fashioned view of “the boss” as someone who took orders from the Directors, shareholders or CEO and then basically bullied people into obeying - a military style of management, you might call it. Perhaps it was popularised by the entry into management of ex-officers after the Second World War…

Films about the workplace in the 50’s and 60’s - the classic being “I’m all right Jack” - often showed the boss as a benign (or otherwise) leader who weilded power by means of diktat. Peter Sellers’ portrayal of a legalistic and fearsomely awkward union leader confirmed this: how else could you deal with troublesome unions?

Twenty-five years later a real-life strike pitched Ian MacGregor in place of Richard Attenborough as the boss and Arthur Scargill reprising Peter Sellers’ role. This time, however, the bosses won a famous victory - and even more famously secured Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s “Iron Lady” reputation.

It did nothing to improve management, though, harking back to a period when the boss’s word was holy writ and you disobeyed at your peril.

Perhaps it was the rise of Japanese industry and its success, notably in motor manufacture and consumer electronics, which made employers think again about management. Japanese bosses, it was said, were more “hands-on” and companies were less hierarchical. Management was seen less as a force or position of power and more as a role in the process of production. Co-operation began to be seen as key; strikes became a symbol of failure; profit-sharing schemes were talked about.

9GNL come to the issue of management also with a psychological insight. The trouble with those old-fashioned dictatorial bosses is that they not only provoked opposition from workers and unions; they also did little to make the workplace efficient - by which we mean happy, relaxed and productive. When workers are annoyed with their managers, they think and talk about them and they consider leaving for another job. More to the point, they don’t give of their best to the task in hand. If so, managers have become part of the problem instead of part of the solution.

When managers, on the other hand, understand themselves (and their own style of management, whatever it is) as well as gain some insight into the people “under” them, then great things can happen. The simple step of showing you want to understand - even asking a few questions -demonstrates that you value people. Increased awareness brings more interest and opens up the possibility of improved working methods and raised motivation - which is crucial to better productivity.

Today’s complex problems in industry, healthcare, residential care, marketing and elsewhere require today’s solutions. These, increasingly, are solutions based not on dogma or outdated views of power and rights, but rather on understanding and valuing the people with whom and for whom we work.

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