Keys to Management Style, Communication, and Workplace Efficiency

Management plays a key role in the engendering productivity and guiding a group of workers towards a clear and common goal.

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Theories To Capture The Workplace

The extent to which workplace efficiencies and objectives are fulfilled relate strongly to the method of communication that each type of management style entails in terms of its characterization of the employer-employee or manager-subordinate relationship.

The clearest delineation between major categories of management styles are described by Theory X and Theory Y, first coined by the management theorist Douglas McGregor.

The distinctions of these theories actually act as an indicator for the increasing shifts in workplace management philosophies with respect to the role and needs of the individual employee across different generations.

  • Consider how Theory X’s strong control and use of external incentives such as a stable job and a paycheck emphasize the career over the individual.
  • Meanwhile, Theory Y takes an opposing approach to management, making an attempt to reconcile control with individual freedoms with the hope that this freedom increases productivity through changes in the employee’s personal perception of their place in a company (Lehman and Dufrene 46).

Let’s examine the most significant differences between autocratic or persuasive management styles with consultative ones, and to discuss how each management style has particular merits or disadvantages with respect to specific job requirements.


The Concept

Management styles that agree with Theory Y represent the best to implement because of the increasing need for creativity in a modern economy fueled by technological advances, which implies that the role of the individual employee now requires greater emphasis.

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Primarily, Theories X and Y are a way to model and explain the relationship between the authoritarian and consultative management styles with respect to a changing market and advancing times. Theories X and Y first are proposed in 1960 by Douglas McGregor in his book The Human Side of Enterprise.

The title of the McGregor’s work already provides an inkling of insight into the changing spheres and attitudes towards how to mobilize employees, showing that management philosophies that considered the needs of the individual employee apparently began as early as the mid 20th century.


X

An article from The Economist spells out McGregor’s concerns and concisely summarizes what each theory implies:

“Theory X is an authoritarian style where the emphasis is on ‘productivity, on the concept of a fair day’s work, on the evils of feather bedding and the restriction of output, on rewards for performance… [it] reflects an underlying belief that management must counteract an inherent human tendency to avoid work” (The Economist Staff, 2008).

Theory X is depicted here as workplace philosophy that directly focuses on subverting the individual in order to further the efficiency of tasks that are to be completed by an individual or team of individuals. The ends of the company or employer are primary to the interests of the individual in a hierarchical relationship.

The principles of Theory X find themselves most embedded in those who choose to employ autocratic management styles in their control over employees.

In countries where the rights of the individuals are not as prominent as the rights granted to citizens of the United States, companies employing an autocratic style of management that prizes the ends of that company such as output and profit over the welfare of the employees are more likely to exist.


Y

Meanwhile, Theory Y takes a completely contradictory position in comparison to the tenets of Theory X because of how it gives a much greater emphasis towards the needs of the employee and factors in the human variable associated with workplace productivity in certain management styles, such as the consultative management style. In the same article by The Economist, Theory Y is described as a sort of antithesis to Theory X in its bearings on management styles:

“Theory Y is a participative style of management which ‘assumes that people will exercise self-direction and self-control in the achievement of organizational objectives to the degree that they are committed to those objectives’. It is management’s main task in such a system to maximize that commitment” (The Economist Staff, 2008).

In other words, management styles drawing on the philosophy of Theory Y deal more closely with the notion of inspiring and galvanizing employees to self-action by respecting them and allowing them a degree of freedom in their work.

Moreover, the main weaknesses of Theory Y manifest in the fact that the motivation of a large number of different groups of people towards a common objective is usually incredibly difficult. The idea itself borders on the ludicrous, as it expects people to voluntarily put the objectives of the company ahead of their own self-interests in a way that these people begin to believe that their self-interest coincides with the goals of the company.

Theory X assumes individuals are inherently incapable of such self-motivation and thus require external motivation, while Theory Y takes a more optimistic stance towards the motivations of individuals:

“Theory Y, however, assumes that individuals go to work of their own accord, because work is the only way in which they have chance of satisfying their (high-level) need for achievement and self-respect” (The Economist Staff, 2008).

In Practice

Management styles that derive from both of these theories have their respective strengths and weaknesses, but consultative management styles deriving from the Theory Y philosophy are more suited to the modern technological economy and its increasing dependence on technological innovation as the progress of such innovation depends on the individual employee rather than the company.

To better illustrate the shortcomings and quickening obsolescence of autocratic management styles deriving from the philosophy of Theory X regarding the self-interested nature of employees, consider how autocratic management styles often lead to decreased productivity and lower employee satisfaction as a result of stringent corporate requirements, deadlines, and goals.

One prime example of the disastrous impact of employing an autocratic management style traces to the Chinese company Foxconn, which is responsible for manufacturing a wide majority of Apple’s popular iPhone products, including the recent iPhone 6.

Foxconn plans US display making plant for over $10 billion, scouting for location. Caption text and image full credit to CNBC

Since the work of laborers who are creating these parts requires little creativity or innovation and is mostly manual, coupled with the more lax human rights situation in China, Apple has recently attracted much controversy over its continued purchasing from Foxconn after reports of severe worker abuse at Foxconn factories was recounted. In a report by the BBC, the egregious working conditions of Foxconn as well as their impact on human lives are explained lucidly:

“The poor conditions in Chinese factories were highlighted in 2010 when 14 workers killed themselves at Apple’s biggest supplier, Foxconn… In addition to the excessive hours, one reporter had to attend unpaid meetings before and after work. Another reporter was housed in a dormitory where 12 workers shared a cramped room” (Bilton 1).

The company heads and its managers at Foxconn clearly were complicit in this abuse of workers, and this shows the extreme side of an autocratic management style. While efficient, it is also unnecessarily cruel to workers driving some to the point of suicide. Granted, not all company-centric management styles will have such drastic consequences, but the unhappiness of employees and the impact of production is an undeniable detriment when considering the autocratic style of management and its unilateral decision making process that harms the welfare of employees.

In stark contrast, Theory Y produces a number of management styles — such as the consultative style — that focus more closely on the role of the individual, seeking to align the goals of the individual with the goals of the company in an ideal scenario. If such an alignment occurs, then individual employees will willingly and voluntarily expand greater amounts of efforts to further the goals of the company, which they have adopted as their own in the frame of a consultative management that values the individual to a greater degree.

Of course, this is a double-edged sword as the obvious shortcoming of the consultative management style and Theory Y lies in the concept that employees will not always be guaranteed to be incredibly loyal and motivated towards working together and achieving a common corporate goal.

If one is too lax in their management of employees while placing too much emphasis on the unique value of the contribution of individual employees, the company will lose a sense of coherence and the employees will not be motivated or directed efficiently.


The Creative Market

Despite this shortcoming, the companies that arouse such feelings of loyalty and achieve an alignment of interests with their employees reap massive benefits in terms of increases in productivity. Consider the expansive growth of Tesla as well as its mission as an example of a company successful managed in accordance with the principles of Theory Y and its emphasis on the individual. In an article by the Wall Street Journal, it is documented that the CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk publicly took to social media platforms to seek motivated talent:

“A few weeks ago, Elon Musk put out a call on Twitter for ‘hard-core software engineers’ to work on Tesla Motors Inc.’s autonomous car program” (Ramsey 1).
Picture Credit: Porsche 914e — Blogspot

Musk’s methods of recruitment aim at individuals who share similar passions and drives as himself and who have the talent to further his goals of expanding the electric car marketplace.

Google and a number of similar Silicon Valley technological firms also capitalize on this laissez-faire philosophy when pursuing creativity and productivity from their employees, with the Wall Street Journal reporting employees living in workspaces of luxurious leisure:

“The offices of Alterra LLC house an NCAA-regulation-size basketball court, a TruGolf Simulation and a 90-inch television…” (Feintzeig 1).

It takes very little effort to see the difference between the lives of employees producing creative products and services under a company embracing Theory Y and those suffering abuses at Foxconn as a result of an overbearing autocratic management style.


Ultimately, the styles of management that is more desirable, and that is more in line with the modern economy are any styles that derive from Theory Y, which value the individual and seek to motivate that individual through shared purpose between the self and the company.

Besides the better living conditions and environments afforded to most employees at companies that utilize consultative management styles and subscribe the to philosophy of Theory Y, employees working in companies with managers that use autocratic management techniques are more likely to suffer abuse, less likely to contribute creatively, and are participating in an enterprise that is increasingly furthering itself from the progress of the economy.

Since the future of the economy and progress hinges greatly on technological advancements, creativity will become a commodity that is considerably more desired, and Theory Y-derived management styles best promote the cultivation and development of that creativity.

While the discipline and organization that accompany autocratic management styles comprise its most advantageous qualities, there must be suitable balance between organization and creative progress in order for a company to be successful in the modern era, and this is why consultative management styles are preferable.


Citations, References, and Further Readings

Bilton, Richard. “Apple ‘failing to Protect Chinese Factory Workers’.” BBC News. BBC, 18 Dec. 2014. Web. 17 Mar. 2017. <http://www.bbc.com/news/business-30532463>.

Feintzeig, Rachel. “Google-Style Office Perks Go Mainstream.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, 04 Aug. 2015. Web. 17 Mar. 2017. <https://www.wsj.com/articles/google-style-office-perks-go-mainstream-1438680780>.

Lehman, Carol M., and Debbie D. Dufrene. Business Communications. Cincinnnati: South-Western, 2002. Print.

McGregor, Douglas, and Joel E. Cutcher-Gershenfeld. The Human Side of Enterprise. Place of Publication Not Identified: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2008. Print.

Ramsey, Mike. “Tesla Ramps Up Hiring as Rivals Loom.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, 28 Dec. 2015. Web. 17 Mar. 2017. <https://www.wsj.com/articles/tesla-ramps-up-hiring-as-rivals-loom-1451350702>.

“Theories X and Y.” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 06 Oct. 2008. Web. 17 Mar. 2017. <http://www.economist.com/node/12370445>.

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