CSR in Context:   Chapter 4

What about the workers? (Job satisfaction etc)

                                                                                                                                        Links:             Chapter 1 introduction and definitions

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Chapter 2 history (part i)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Chapter 3 (Recent History)


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Chapter 5 The Consumer                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Chapter 6 - the environment

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    (see also: Protecting the Planet                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Chapter 7 - the 'third world'

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Chapter 8 - inequality                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Chapter 8 - updates

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Chapter 9 - remedies/conclusion


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    CSR in Context Contents Page

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Imagining Other Index Page

Topic Links/Bookmarks:

alienation                    alternative technology                      asbestos          #asbestos        autonomy                  

Blauner                      Bravermann 

Centre for Alternative Technology             for co-operatives etc see Chapter 1

Daily Mail (and Rothermere)

General Motors         GM model and the service sector

Hawthorne                             health and safety   Human Relations management theory                       

job dissatisfaction                  job enrichment

Lucas Aerospace (alternative plan)             Luddites

management key skills          management theories            managerialism           (Douglas) McGregor             Marx               Maslow           (Elton) Mayo 

            MBAs and CSR        McClelland, Grigor               modern management - the myth of flat organisations 

Taylorism                   TQM               trade unions


#workingtime - myths (compare EU directives)


Aims and Learning outcomes:


To explore, from several different perspectives, the “social responsibility” of employers and managers towards their employees, focussing on satisfaction at work, and noting differences of definition, explanation and solutions proposed.


Students should be able to say how (i) socially-concerned managers, (ii) (a) liberal/radical critics and (ii) (b) Marxist critics differ in their viewpoints on:

- the extent and nature of job dissatisfaction,

- the explanation of workers’ and managers’ attitudes to the problem

- the different solutions proposed by representatives of each of the three viewpoints


Chapter outline:


1. Background:


1.1 “Social” and “ethical” issues. We will focus here on an issue that seems most central to workers as workers, that is: satisfaction/dissatisfaction at work. This is because I want to draw a distinction between, on the one hand, problems that arise concerning an individual worker (usually a management or an ethical issue) and, on the other hand, issues that we might call “social”  - that is, raising questions of the managers’ social responsibilities, of which the most important seems to me the question of satisfaction.


1.2 Other issues could have been dealt with here, perhaps, but will not be gone into in any depth: at this stage only brief notes are given on: Civil liberties and privacy. Bullying and sexual harassment. Whistle blowing. Personnel policies and procedures. Discrimination. Unions. Health and Safety. Working conditions. Redesigning work.


2.  Work: satisfaction and dissatisfaction at work:


(i) Job dissatisfaction – the managerial viewpoint

(a) Extent and content of job dissatisfaction (as seen by e.g. Luthans and Hodgetts): job content or design; job context; participation, autonomy, personal development etc.

(b) Management theories on job satisfaction.

From Taylorism, through job enrichment, to human relations and TQM. Adjustment of job context: MBO, OB etc. But is this just “fitting the worker to the job”?


(ii) Alienation.

 Contrasting definitions of alienation:

(a) Blauner: meaninglessness, powerlessness, isolation, self-estrangement

(b) Marx: exclusion from ownership and control of materials, products, labour; isolation due to competition, production not for social purpose


3. What is the cause of the problem?


Different definitions of the problem and its causes:

(i) Changing attitudes, education and expectations of workers; changing social context

(ii) (a) increasing automation,

(ii) (b) structural crisis of capitalism


4. Why are managers concerned?


Different explanations for managers’ concern:

(i) Need for greater productivity and competitiveness: need motivated workforce

(ii) (a) unfairness to workers

(ii) (b) Increased global competition, and workers’ growing resistance


5. A further word on technology.


Humanising work and technology


6. Hay and Gray’s table of changing management attitudes (for discussion)


7. Conclusion.


8. Updates 



Chapter Four.


1. Background:


1.1 Is there a difference between ethical and “social” issues?


There is a whole range of issues that could be covered here (see below, taken from Shaw and Barry 2004; Hoffman et al 2001), but:


(i) distinctions need to be drawn (as far as possible!) between: (a) individual, mainly ethical or managerial issues (b) legal issues and (c) “social responsibilities”. 


(a) Ethical problems concerning the workforce frequently involve individual workers first and foremost (e.g. privacy, bullying, whistle blowing). They are also most likely to involve the worker as a person, rather than as a worker. Also, whilst there may be socially-agreed general rules or principles that should be brought into play, each case will stand on its own as far as deciding rights and wrongs or solving a conflict.


(b) For many of the issues identified below there are laws in place e.g. over industrial relations disputes, Health and Safety, Unfair Dismissal. Of course a socially responsible company will obey the law, but (as Adam Smith argued!) simply obeying the law does not make a company moral – nor will it always make it socially responsible!


(c) Hence we will focus on the issue that seems most central to society and to workers as workers, that is, in their social role viz: satisfaction or dissatisfaction at work.


1.2 Overview of issues concerning the worker, which we simply note and pass over here.


On some topics notes can be found elsewhere as indicated:


Bullying and sexual harassment: amongst workers – how should management intervene? By managers – how can workers deal with this?


Civil liberties and privacy: how much information about an employee does an employer/manager have a right to get? (AIDS, other health issues, e.g. drink; family life problems). The employee’s right to a private life.


Discrimination: In recruitment and at work – race, sex, disability etc.


Health and Safety: HASAWA. (Health and Safety At Work Act), procedures (union involvement) etc. For general comments on the importance of Health and Safety see csr8inequality.htm#healthandsafety. .


An ongoing Health and Safety struggle concerns asbestos, which is a dangerous material that was used extensively in building for insulation and fire-proofing. It is now banned, but many workers suffer from ill-health – and many have died, and are still dying, from asbestosis. According to The Observer 06.05.07 (article by Jon Robins), every year 2,000 people die of mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung that arises from exposure to asbestos. Mesothelioma is nearly always terminal. Since the effects of exposure take a long time to manifest, the numbers of people dying from it are expected to peak in 2011 – 2015. The fight is over treatment and compensation.  See the Updates below: link.


Personnel policies and procedures: screening before hiring, fair recruitment policies, interviews, promotion, discipline and grievance procedures, wages etc.


Unions: For notes on: recognition, value of unions to managers, difficulties over militancy etc. see:


            CSR Chapter 8 inequality: unions


            Labour movement history - up to 1945


            Labour movement - history since 1945


            Article on Business Ethics


Whistle blowing:        a crucial issue when dealing with SRB: the workers’ right to publicise misdemeanours etc. (see the brief overview in Frederick (1992) ch 13, and more thorough discussion by Davis in Shaw and Barry (2004) ch 8)

Worker representation on boards: see csr3 history part 2



2.  Work and working conditions: satisfaction and dissatisfaction at work:


(i) Job dissatisfaction – the managerial viewpoint


(a) content and extent of job dissatisfaction:


The nature of work: most people do want to “work”, i.e. to expend energy doing some activity, and in doing so we often benefit not only ourselves, but others, or society as a whole (the latter especially at “work”). Note that even amateur sportspeople, artists, entertainers, still give pleasure to, and therefore benefit, others. Or to put it another way: what kind of a society would this be, if no one “worked” and we were all passive (consumers) all the time? Note also that we put a lot of “work” i.e. energy into “leisure” and “hobbies”…


But the defining features of work are:


- that it is not done for ourselves, but for another/others


- it is not voluntary – i.e., with some exceptions, we would not choose to do, without pay, what we do at work


- and therefore when we work, we expect to get something in return (i.e. pay).


Many observers acknowledge that there is widespread dissatisfaction at work. Luthans and Hodgetts (1976) quote a US survey in the 1970s which suggested that 15 - 20% of the workforce (= 13 - 17 million) were dissatisfied!


They then categorise these feelings under the following headings:

- job content or design;

- job context, i.e.: health and safety, hours, pay/rewards, security, extras.


However, when the same authors list what workers seem to want:


- feedback                               - opportunities for growth, personal development, challenge etc

- participation                          - discretionary time.

- control                                   - autonomy


- there are some new elements, especially around participation and autonomy. I will return to this below.


But first we must note that there is widespread disagreement over what exactly is “the problem” – and if you have a different definition of the problem, you are bound to come up with a different solution.


By the way, this works in many areas of life – from the most trivial practical example (“I can’t open this box” – but what precisely is the problem? You may be going about it the wrong way, or not be strong enough, or it may be impossible to open the box) to the most subtle or complex (“I can’t achieve what I want to achieve in my studies” – is it because you aren’t working hard enough, or not efficiently enough, or you aren’t motivated, or you have expectations that are unrealistic?)…


Since managers, and management writers, disagree over the nature of the problem, it is possible to survey the history of management philosophies, and to see them as constantly searching for a solution. This could mean that a constantly shifting set of tactics has been proposed, each we might say representing a more subtle, and more desperate attempt to solve an ill-defined problem?


(b) Management theories on job satisfaction.


There have been many explanations and proposals that managers have considered.  The common feature, I would argue, is that they have all focussed on the “job”, or work process itself – sometimes on the immediate context – hardly ever on the wider social and economic context. This is a narrow definition of the problem: workers are not working as well or efficiently as they could; and this leads to a narrow solution: what can we do about the work process to improve the situation?  However, if we consider that managers are primarily concerned about productivity, because of the competition from other businesses, we can understand that the main aim will be to get workers to work more efficiently. (See Cole 1990 for a straightforward summary of these theories).


Taylorism: One of the first to observe workers and to try to help them to work better (sic!) was F.W. Taylor.  He worked in steel manufacture, starting as an apprentice and rising to be a supervisor, in late 19th century America. At the Bethlehem Steel Company he observed that (a) workers were “soldiering” as he called it – that is, taking things easy, or even deliberately slowing down the pace of work, and (b) they were using their own favourite tools and their own favourite techniques or “rules of thumb” (using the thumb to measure lengths).


He believed that if the tasks were examined closely, an optimum method could be devised for each operation; then if workers were trained in the best method, they would work more efficiently. Since piece-rate was a common method of payment at the time, they would then earn more. This led to what is called “time and motion” study, or “work study”, which is still used today.


The idea was a success, up to a point, for a number of reasons: the new methods could be described as “scientific”, and gained workers’ respect for this – more than if they were simply told what to do (“slave-driving”). Managers could, however, as it were hide behind the scientific work study to get workers to work harder. It also has to be said that more ergonomically designed methods are better (safer) for the worker. Some workers did increase their rate of pay by up to 60%!


Still, workers were being treated here just as accessories to the machines, their “autonomy” was being removed (they had their own favourite ways of doing things), and the belief that they were only motivated by pay was wrong. Taylorism also ignored such factors as job fragmentation (which makes the work meaningless) and it treated workers in isolation from each other, not as teams.


Job enrichment: Some managers appreciated that part of the problem was the excessive division of labour, and fragmentation of the work. Thus, in Sweden the car manufacturers Volvo had a problem of rapid turnover of workers, absenteeism etc which indicated an unhappy workforce. This was not surprising in the 1960s, as Sweden’s education system was quite advanced, and better-educated or trained workers would resent unchallenging work. “Job enrichment” meant changing the nature of the work to make it more challenging, e.g. assembling a whole engine rather than just parts of it.


Again, this had some limited success, but not in the long term, since it was ignoring other key aspects of the work process.


Human Relations: The next development in management thinking about job satisfaction came with the realisation that workers had a need for communication with each other, and with management, and to be treated as “human beings” not simply as machine operators, or adjuncts to machines. Interestingly, the most important discovery here came about almost by accident. At Western Electric, between 1924 and 1936, Elton Mayo and others carried out experiments and observations. At first they thought that levels of lighting were affecting morale, so after consulting the workers, the lighting was changed to give more light. Output increased – for a while. Then it began to decline. When the lighting was reduced, surprisingly there was again an initial surge in workers’ productivity, but again it did not last.


Only when a small group of workers were allowed to make their own decisions about the working environment (including some quite fundamental issues such as shift patterns) then productivity went up substantially, and workers seemed much more satisfied.


Two conclusions were drawn from the study:


(i) that the effect of someone showing an interest in the workers’ conditions in itself helped improve their work; this has come to be known as the Hawthorne effect, and applies in various walks of life e.g. in teaching (where it has been shown that a teachers’ expectations will affect the achievements of the pupils: higher expectations will lead to more positive, encouraging communication with the pupils, which leads to better performance on their part).


It might be worth noting here that part of Douglas McGregor’s theory could be seen in this light also: his view was that managers have two different expectations of workers – theory X, that workers are mainly motivated by money and don’t like responsibility; and theory Y that they do welcome responsibility and self-fulfilment. If the Hawthorne effect is as powerful as some say it is, then these theories will simply become self-fulfilling!


(ii) some researchers concluded that the key factor was the workers’ being able to make decisions for themselves. We will return to this when looking at some more radical views.


Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs”: coming from a background in psychology, Abraham Maslow (1964) proposed that we all have “needs” which we act to fulfil. However, some needs are more pressing than others – for example, until we have had at least something to eat we cannot turn our minds to anything else! He drew up a “hierarchy of needs”, at the bottom of which were physical essentials, then security, next love or belonging, then esteem or respect, and at the top what he called “self-actualisation”. We will not be able, he argued, to satisfy a higher need until we have first satisfied the lower needs below it.


Whilst Maslow’s theory was originally applied to individuals, in a social context, D. McGregor argued that it could be applied in work situations. Managers, then, should seek to provide opportunities for workers to move up the hierarchy of needs. We can see how this theory incorporates aspects of Taylorism (people do need enough pay to provide enough to eat!) and of “Human Relations” (we also need each others’ respect etc). The other useful implication of Maslow’s theory is that we need to work out what are the barriers (organisational especially) to workers’ moving up to the highest levels in terms of satisfaction of their needs.


However, critics have raised the question of how many people ever reach “self-actualisation”.  If we were to argue that everyone can do this, given the chance, then the theory has radical in its implications. Of course, it is easier to say that only a few (e.g. the managers!) will reach the highest level.


Other techniques: More recently there have been other approaches, and there is no time to go into them all! It seems to me that techniques such as MBO (management by objectives) and TQM (total quality management) together with the so-called “Theory Z” and other Japanese management techniques are all, in the end, just “fitting the worker to the job”.


This is because they focus, at the worst, only on the work process itself, or at best they take into account the organisation (OB, or organisational behaviour). Yet work does not take place, I would argue, in isolation form the wider social, economic and political context. In fact, one of the weaknesses of writers who praise the Japanese system is that they ignore or misrepresent the social context and the history of Japan (see David Binns’ (1992) papers on TQM etc).


Finally, it is important to restate the crucial point that different definitions of “needs” can lead to different “solutions” to the problem of fulfilling them. Thus, if each need is taken as referring only to the work process, to the tasks themselves, then it is fairly straightforward to give a worker more “participation”, or “autonomy” (going back to Luthans and Hodgetts list given earlier) or even perhaps “self-fulfilment” in regard to how he/she carries out a set task. But if by “participation” is meant having some say over major decisions concerning the direction of the business, or if “autonomy” means control over the whole production process – what is produced, how and for whom etc – then this is a different situation altogether! Likewise, “self-actualisation” is a problematic term: if I have been convinced that all I am worth is fitting bolts to a wheel, then presumably I feel self-actualised doing this. Again, we need to go beyond the immediate situation, and identify underlying causes which most likely are to be found in the wider context.


(ii) Alienation.


Ever since the philosopher Hegel, and then Karl Marx (first half of the nineteenth century) some have suggested that in the “modern” world we – especially workers – suffer from “alienation”. Something “alien” is something foreign, outside ourselves, different from ourselves – to be alienated can mean to feel as if we ourselves are not real, and/or it can mean that we feel as if we are excluded by others or from society. If when at work we are alienated, and not just dissatisfied, then, again, more fundamental issues are raised.


There are however, contrasting definitions of alienation, and it is important to separate out the non-Marxist (typified by Blauner 1964) from Marx’s distinctive definition. Whereas the former focuses on the work process itself, and the individual worker’s subjective reactions, (Barry et al 2000, p 61) the latter questions the wider economic and social relationships within which work takes place.


(a) For Blauner, alienation at work was the result of technological changes, and he identified four dimensions:


- powerlessness: when workers are not in control of their work process or activity


- meaninglessness: when workers do not see the function, purpose, or meaning of their activity in the context of the whole organization


 - isolation: when workers do not see themselves as part of a social group or community in the workplace


- self-estrangement: when workers are not involved in their work as a means for self-expression.


However, as with the “managerial” approach to the removal of dissatisfaction at work, we can envisage workplaces being adapted in such a way that the above kinds of alienation are reduced - by giving the worker more control over the process, by explaining the organisational context, and organising into groups. It is even possible to convince workers, by praising and involving them emotionally, that they are expressing themselves at work! But the fundamental nature of the workplace relationship (doing something not for oneself, and which one would probably not have done voluntarily, and having to be compensated therefore) is not then changed.


Moreover, Blauner’s approach is in danger of being “deterministic” – that is, he implies that we are the victims of technology, which does things to us, or makes us behave in certain ways. It is my view that we should, rather, acknowledge that it is we who create technology: different societies create different technologies according to their values, their culture, and their social goals. It is pessimistic to forget or deny this, and I believe we should take responsibility for the kind of technology that we produce! (See below on alternative technology etc)


(b) Marx defined alienation in a very precise and specific way. For him, humans are naturally creative beings, changing the world around them and thereby changing themselves. However, under capitalism the workers are placed in a social role that fundamentally affects the work they do. Because the means of production are owned by capitalists and not by workers, then the worker is obliged to sell his/her ability to work. Because production is aimed at making a profit on the market (by exchange) it does not directly satisfy social needs. So, the worker does not work freely, nor are the conditions under which he/she works, or the products, under his/her control.


Marx’s account of alienation is rather philosophical perhaps, but it is important to note the contrast with non-Marxist views, especially in terms of the implications for social change.


For Marx, alienation has five basic forms:


- alienation of human beings from the products of their work.  The products of the workers' labour are not their own. When we choose to work on something that belongs to us, we put something of ourselves into it. When we do not own the products of our labour, then something of ourselves is taken away.


- alienation of human beings from the act of producing.  Workers do not produce willingly, but their labour is coerced. They can only "be" themselves after work.  They would not work if they did not have to. 


- alienation of human beings from their own social (species or universal)  nature.  Human beings, unlike animals, do not create merely in order to satisfy their individual needs, but to make a contribution to the species in the form of cultural creation. Industrial production frustrates this universal need, and reduces the individual's work to satisfying immediate and personal needs.


- alienation of human beings from their fellow humans. Workers are competitors to one another.


- alienation of human beings from physical nature (objects of nature). Human workers use objects of nature (material) which they do not own to make objects of production (products) which they also do not own.


It is clear that to remove alienation, if the above is correct, would mean:


- workers owning the means of production and the products;


- production, undertaken freely, for social needs, and


- production through co-operation not competition.


In other words, Marxism is a radical and revolutionary theory, that proposes a very different society to the current one under capitalism.


Moreover, the fifth dimension above suggests a new relationship to nature and the physical world, though it is my view that Marx and his followers were very slow to work out what this might mean – socialism/communism in practice has almost always meant the exploitation of nature! We may explore this further when we deal with the environment.


3. What is the cause of the problem?


To reiterate: it should be noted how these different definitions arise from different explanations of the origin of the problem(s) that workers have at work.


(i) Luthans and Hodgetts specifically mention that changing expectations of workers, resulting from better education, have meant that workers are dissatisfied. It was suggested above (and by Donaldson 1973) that the better educated workers in Sweden were the first to show their discontent with the advanced division of labour in car manufacture, i.e. at Volvo; hence it was here that the first experiments in “job enrichment” took place.


This is fair enough, as far as it goes, but does it mean that educating the workers is dangerous!? 

(ii) (a) Other more radical critics (e.g. Mike Cooley) have, like Blauner, blamed increasing automation, but then gone on to say that technology itself should be adapted. Various theories of “soft, appropriate, or alternative” technology spring from this way of thinking.  (see 5. below)


(ii) (b) Marxists argue, first, that alienation is inevitable given the class structure of capitalism. Moreover, it can only worsen as capitalism moves (as it must) towards a structural crisis (since the over-application of technology will mean that capitalists can not keep on increasing the rate of profit).


4. Why are managers concerned?


The different points of view identified have also come up with different explanations for managers’ concern over worker dissatisfaction (managers are not likely to agree with Marx that the problem goes deeper and is in fact alienation!):


(i) The concern of many managers is simply that productivity suffers when the workers are not happy; a motivated workforce is needed to be competitive.


(ii) (a) Non-Marxist critics argue from the workers’ point of view, and stress that it is simply unfair for workers to be unhappy at work. (See Studs Terkel, 1975!).


(ii) (b) By contrast, Marxists would say that increased global competition (a by-product of capitalism), has led to increased exploitation, and that the real problem is that workers are becoming aware and restless – protesting and resisting their condition. This must be bought off to avoid revolution!


5. A further word on technology.


Early – or classical – Marxists tended to believe that with the new social structure all problems of alienation would disappear. Lenin was in fact quite keen on “advanced” capitalist management techniques such as Taylorism! However, workers in the former Soviet Union showed no sign of being free of the problems of boredom or alienation or even low pay, of the western counterparts. Although it was largely hidden by the authorities, there was much unrest amongst workers in the communist world. Very soon after the 1917 communist revolution in Russia, workers demanded more say in running the factories – Lenin refused this, and set about destroying the independent workers’ councils so that his Bolshevik party could retain complete control. There have been widespread strikes in the mines in former USSR, and it is to be noted that it was organised workers who led the revolts in Hungary (1956), Czechoslovakia (1968) and Poland (1970s) that contributed to the downfall of communism. See also: Russian Revolution


However, and perhaps consequently, writers such as Bravermann (1974) and Gorz (1976) realised that the technology that capitalism produced was designed for “its” purposes, and that a different and presumably socialist technology was needed (and not just a change of ownership) that would avoid the boredom etc of work in capitalism. I am not aware of any detailed work that has been done on this, in theory or in practice (I may be wrong!). Of course, with the collapse of most of communism, the reality has changed, as has Marxist theorising!  Many Marxists gave up trying to adapt Marxism and fill in its shortcomings, and abandoned it as a theory altogether. (See for example Castoriadis 1991 and 1997 – and Recommencing Revolution).


One promising line of thought can be identified by the terms “alternative, appropriate, or soft technology”. Briefly, if we try to find kinds of technology that make the best use of human as well as material resources in our immediate environment, and if we strive to avoid environmental damage, we should be able to make work both more satisfying and less harmful to society and to the environment.


Mike Cooley (see 1987), formerly at Lucas Aerospace, then at the GLC, was one such advocate of a new approach to technology: as a computer and systems specialist, he argued, for example, that instead of replacing human workers with robots, we could use computerised technology in remote control, as an extension of human skills. Other advocates of alternative technology - see e.g. the websites listed below connected with the Centre for Alternative technology (CAT) - such as David Dickson would stress the environmental-friendly nature of e.g. wind power rather than oil-fired or coal-fired (let alone nuclear!) generators. The latter have been developed, it is argued, mainly because big business profits most from them. Nuclear power especially, it seems to me, has been developed because of the military spin-offs (check out the concern about Iran at present!), and its true cost has been hidden.


Whereas it was once argued that it was practically energy for free, we now realise the costs of cleaning up redundant power stations and disposing safely of the waste are not only extraordinarily high, but will be borne by future generations for maybe hundreds of years!!! The resistance of the motor industry to replacing the internal combustion engine with something cleaner also illustrates how commercial interests take priority over social responsibility: the idea of alternative fuels or engines has been around for at least thirty years, but it is only as oil gets really scarce that the motor industry is beginning to do something about it!


These approaches can be seen in two ways: either as an extension of Blauner’s theory – simply proposing that we should change the kind of technology we use, whilst leaving society as it is; or you can argue that there are radical implications, since to design appropriate technology means changing social structures and priorities: the rich and powerful will always support the development of technology that furthers their interests. To produce technology that works in the interests of the many and the powerless requires substantial political change!


There are several web addresses on the reading list that you can investigate for yourselves if you are interested in these alternative approaches. We may return to them when we deal with the environment: Chapter 6: The Environment. Everything is interconnected after all!



6. Hay and Gray (from Luthans and Hodgetts 1976) – for discussion.


The article by Hay and Gray suggests another, more optimistic explanation: managers are changing their outlook altogether, as time goes on. They identify three phases: profit-maximisation; trusteeship; quality of life, and argue that managers nowadays are mostly concerned with “quality of life” issues. These include a better quality of life for workers. The question is, are they right about these new management attitudes?


And, even if they are right, will this solve the problem of worker dissatisfaction or alienation – especially if the root of the problem is managerial control and lack of worker autonomy?


Here is a summary of Hay and Gray’s “three phases” of management thinkng:


a. Profit-maximising;


1. environment; to be dominated


2. let the buyer beware


3. third world: profitable!


4. labour: a commodity


5. accountability: to owners


b. Trusteeship:


1. damaged environment hurts us (enlightened self-interest)


2. wrong to cheat customer


3. charity begins at home


4. labour has some rights


5. accountability: to "stakeholders"


c. Quality of life


1. environment has intrinsic value


2. we are here to serve the customer and improve quality of life (let the seller



3. we should help the third world (trade not aid?)


4. workers are people and need respect


5. accountability: to society


Some Readings on “The worker”:


Barry, J. et al (2000), Organization and Management, a critical text, Business Press/Thomson Learning.


Binns, D. (1992), Administration, Domination and Organisation Theory: the Political Foundations of Surveillance at Work,

UEL, ELBS Occasional Papers No. 4


Blauner, D (1964) Alienation and Freedom, University of Chicago


Braverman, H. (1974), Labour and Monopoly Capital, Monthly Review Press.


Bunting, M (2004): Willing Slaves: How the Overwork Culture is Ruling Our Lives, HarperCollins.


Castoriadis, C (1991) Philosophy politics and Autonomy, OUP , and (1997) World in Fragments, Stanford University Press


Clark, H et al (1994), Organisation and Identities. Text and readings in OB. Chapman & Hall


Cole, G.A. (1990), Management, Theory and Practice, DP Publications.


Cooley, M (1995) The Myth of the Moral Neutrality of Technology, AI and Soc, 9 (1) 10-17


Cooley, M (1987), Human Centred Systems, AI Soc 1 (1) 37-46 (cited at


Dickson, D. (1974), Alternative Technology and the Politics of technical Change, Fontana/Collins


Centre for Alternative Technology, Machynlleth, Wales, see: also: and


Donaldson, P. (1973): Economics of the Real World. Penguin.


Frederick, W.C. et al (7th edn. 1992) Business and Society, McGraw-Hill, ch 13.


Gorz, A. (1976), The Division of Labour, Harvester Press.


Hoffman, W.M. et al (4th edn 2001) Business Ethics, McGraw-Hill, Part 3.


Luthans, F and Hodgetts, R.M. (2nd edition 1976), Social Issues in Business, Macmillan, New York


McGregor, D (1960): The Human Side of Enterprise, McGraw-Hill.


Nichols, T., Beynon, H. (1977), Living with Capitalism, Routledge & Kegan Paul


Shaw, W.H. & Barry, V., (9th edn 2004) Moral Issues in Business, Wadsworth, Part 3. On whistleblowing: Davis, M, p 444 –



Terkel, Studs(1975), Working (people talking about what they do all day and how they feel about what they do), Wildwood



Thompson, P., McHugh, D., (2002), Work Organisations, a Critical Introduction, Macmillan.


Toynbee, P. (2003) Hard Work: life in low-pay Britain, Bloomsbury.


Watson, T.J., (1980), Sociology, Work and Industry, Routledge.


Ziniewicz, G, (2004) Notes retrieved from the web, entitled: Discussion of Marx and Blauner. See: 



Additional Reading: Two books reviewed in the New Statesman for 14th March 2005 (!).  I would like to quote from both reviews:


Svendson, L.F. (2005), A Philosophy of Boredom, Reaktion Books.


Suggests that the concept of boredom only originated with the industrial revolution, when the distinction between work and leisure became blurred, (as pointed out by E.P Thompson in the Making of the English Working Class) and individualism arose. The reviewer Tom Hodgkinson (editor of the Idler) says: “Capitalism brought a drive for quantity rather than quality, which also destroyed our sense of the beautiful. To become less bored, shouldn’t we attempt to reclaim our lives from work, and live them freely and creatively?”


Layard, R, (2005) Happiness: lessons from a new science, Allen Lane. 


Here the reviewer, Barbara Gunnell, points out that the dominant way of thinking nowadays is “individualism”, and writes of “the decline of social responsibility that it brought in its wake [which] has left a moral vacuum. Thus, the two dominant ideas in the west are Charles Darwin’s “natural selection” and Adam Smith’s “invisible hand”. We think it is progressive to be selfish and that, if we are, things will turn out for the best. Layard’s book is intended to challenge both these ideas.”


Updates (alphabetical order):

#asbestos        #Daily Mail (and Rothermere)         #General Motors       #GM model and the service sector               #Lucas Aerospace (alternative plan)

#Luddites       #management key skills        #managerialism         #modern management - the myth of flat organisations #MBAs and CSR      #McClelland, Grigor

#workingtime - myths (compare EU directives)



Update: 06.05.07 (Jon Robins, The Observer)


The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, Nice, is likely to withdraw approval for Alimta, a life-extending chemotherapy drug to be available on the NHS. Private treatment using the drug can cost £24,000 or even more (including hospital costs). On the NHS the cost is said by Prof. Nick Thatcher to be £7,000 for the complete course, and he describes the Nice decision as “crazy”. Nice claims there are other similar less costly treatments, an argument which Nick Thatcher disputes.


Compensation for families of those who die of mesothelioma differs in different parts of the country: the trade union law firm Thompsons has launched a campaign on this. In England and Wales the level of bereavement compensation is fixed at £10,000, whilst in Scotland payments of up to £30,000 have been made to widows, and additional payments to other family members.


On the dispute with insurers (see earlier update below), Robins reports that:


            - five years ago insurers tried to argue that responsibility could not be shared if more than one employer exposed a worker, but the Lords overruled this. Then, in the Silvia Barker case last year the insurers changed their position and argued that costs should be shared between employers. However this meant that if some employers could not be traced, victims’ families would receive no compensation. Government stepped in and extended the Compensation Bill: now employers are “jointly and severally liable” so sufferers can recover full compensation from any employer or insurer.


            - John Hutton, Sec. of State for Work and Pensions, has promised everyone (and not just those exposed at work) should get a state benefit within six weeks of making a claim.


            - on average, sufferers die within 12 to 18 months of diagnosis.


Update: 13/11/2005 

Landmark test case to be heard in Court of Appeal on 14th Nov.  From report by Jon Robins, Observer Cash 13/11/2005, and Nov 14th, Clare Dyer in Guardian Law pages:


Insurance Industry does not wish to compensate people who have been exposed to asbestos, but are still well, even though they have “pleural plaques” (i.e. scarring of the lungs, which could lead to lung cancer, but which otherwise produces no symptoms). Because it does not always lead to cancer, insurers are contesting the need for compensation.


There are as many as 100,000 such people in UK.  They suffer anxiety that they may develop mesothelioma, i.e. the “invariably terminal cancer” which results from exposure to asbestos. Many of these people are widows of men who have died of asbestosis. 


Norwich Union challenges the notion of compensating people for anxiety. They ask: where would it stop?


The argument has also been put forward in the past that tests should not be carried out on people who have been exposed to asbestosis unless they are actually ill…


So far, insurers (backed by the DTI on behalf of British shipbuilders!) have not convinced the courts of their case, though they have managed to get compensation sums reduced, from between £12,500 and £20,000 to between £5,000 and £7,000. Tens of thousands of claimants have been compensated since several high court rulings in the mid-80s. Last February the high court rejected the insurers’ arguments but also cut the level of compensation.


Thompsons, a law firm advising potential claimants, argues that the objective behind the insurers’ appeal is to save the industry money.  At stake is more than £1bn in compensation over the next few decades. Actuaries have estimated that the total figure for all claims for asbestos-related illness, will be up to £10bn over the next 40 years.


There are on average 14,000 claims per year, that would be affected by the expected ruling, according to Amicus.


Each year around 1,8000 people die of asbestos-related disease in the UK.


Daily Mail and Lord Rothermere:

Two leading corporate governance consultancies have criticised Daily Mail & General Trust for its dual share structure which allows chairman Lord Rothermere to control the company, and recommended that shareholders reject its remuneration report in protest. Editor Paul Dacre has a £1.3m salary – while the Mail is always complaining about ‘fat cats’.


General Motors:

07.06.09 (Simon Caulkin?): the bankruptcy of General Motors: this company was the embodiment of ‘the visible hand’ (Alfred Chandler’s expression) i.e. management. Contrasting with Ford, GM had rational administrative co-ordination, a multidivisional structure, with separate divisions corresponding to each market segment (Chevrolet, Cadillac etc). This model was highly influential on other firms. Peter Drucker wrote The Concept of the Corporation after observing them in the 1950s.


However, Ford adopted GM’s management model and succeeded in producing so many cars so cheaply that it undercut GM (though it had to use more advertising and make cut-price offers to overcome consumer resistance…) – then the Japanese found how to produce cars cheaply but of better quality, and were more in tune with what customers wanted.


Since the 1980s GM has been in difficulty, outdone by Ford, and it tried changing brands, management, etc. to no avail.


GM model and the service sector: the GM management model has not been discredited though, and is popular in the service sector: financial and communications companies have been developing global low-cost supply chains, and mass-produced services – the emphasis is on economies of scale and low transaction costs achieved through specialisation and standardization – result: white-collar factories (HM Revenue, DWP etc) which are inflexible, error-prone and customer unfriendly just like car assembly plants. But we can’t use the mass production approach in services – the ‘standardise-specialise-automate’ formula doesn’t work where there is a variety of service demand… Services need well-organised humans, not computers to produce effective (and cost-effective) results.


Services need to develop a post-industrial management model: more sensitive to customers (than mass production is), more responsible (than the financial sector is), and less wasteful – by dismantling the GM model.


Lucas Aerospace lives! Anne Karpf wrote in Guardian:                                                                                                                                                                                                                       


The Luddites – article from Post-16 Educator 68, July - Sep 2012, by David King, former molecular biologist who has written on issues relating to genetics and society since 1990. He is involved with (email Nov 2011 – Jan 2013 is the 200th anniversary of the Luddite uprisings.


They opposed - not all technology but - technology ‘hurtful to Commonality’ (i.e. the common good). They only destroyed those machines that would destroy jobs. In Feb 2012 the government passed the Frame Breaking Act introducing the death penalty for machine breaking. They were also opposed by the owners of larger mills, magistrates and troops. Riots destroyed two mills in Lancashire. In Oct 2012 George Mellor, a key leader, was arrested – he and 16 others were hanged at York in Jan 2013. By the end of the uprising thousands of looms had been destroyed – although they are seen to have failed, many master hosiers did not bring in the new machines for some time, and wage levels were considerably restored – in the 1830s there were further riots, the Captain Swing riots. (Davis cites Kirkpatrick Sale: this was an uprising against The Machine, not against machines.


David King argues – as do I (in Chapter 4 and Chapter 6) – that technology is not neutral, but works within a system. Also that science grew up with capitalism and with a desire to dominate nature.

See also: the Frankfurt school, eco-feminists such as Carolyn Merchant, and Brian Easlea: Science (The Enlightenment) these notes to be added to...


‘The story of science is normally told as if it developed independently from society, yet in reality science could only happen in a society [with the same values]: pragmatism, empiricism, materialism etc. The liberal view that science follows its own internal dynamic, driven only by curiosity, is designed to mask the fundamental intertwining of science and capitalism... even in its purest form scientific discovery serves capitalism by creating a more and more accurate map of nature, creating opportunities for manipulation.


Marxists have tended to believe in the myth of progress through technology, and have abandoned their own method of examining the social context when thinking about science and technology.


Since the 17th century the ruling concept of Western society has been the smoothly functioning, efficient machine. This has underpinned the division of labour, and led to the obsession with ‘management’ of society etc. A recent paper for a conference on Earth System Governance said: ‘You cannot manage what you cannot measure.’ Taylorism, eugenics, Technocracy all follow. Taylor said: ‘In the past, the man was first: in the future, the system must be first.’


Above the 1933 Chicago World Fair proclaimed: ‘Science Discovers, Technology Executes, Man Conforms.’


Capitalist technologies empower the powerful and marginalize the weak.


The idea that science/technology can be used to manipulate the climate – is ‘entirely out of touch with reality... simply insane’!!


See also notes on the labour movement (social movements notes).


Management key skills:

Study by The Work Foundation, published 16.01.2010 (see G) by Penny Tamkin, leaders who remain focused on numbers and targets - and tasks - need a paradigm shift, to focus on people…  Based on 250 in-depth interviews, six high-profile organisations. Separated good from outstanding leaders: latter always show best behaviour – no tantrums; use selves as facilitator of better performance from others; careful to be consistent (merely good leaders adopt ‘WYSIWYG’); see things holistically; don’t just delegate but stay in touch with staff afterwards asking how they got on, rewarding them etc. Institute of Leadership and Management found (‘Index of Leadership Trust’) similar in recent study – and that almost a third of employees have low or no trust in senior mgt teams, but trust is cornerstone of good leadership. Key is not expertise, knowing the answers, but ability to facilitate new solutions.

5 key skills: seeing the bigger picture, understanding that talk is work, giving time and space to others, encouraging growth learning and engagement, putting ‘we’ before ‘me’.


Managerialism (managers’ freedom, workers controlled):

31.05.09 (Simon Caulkin?): 40 years ago, markets were restrained by checks and balances, whilst individuals were fairly free – now the reverse is true, markets are free and individuals hemmed in (*). In management also, in the 1960s there was a more paternal management (and less of it!), and it was reined in by collective bargaining, stronger trade unions, and convention – so that management, in reaction, demanded its ‘right to manage’, and there were complaints about ‘workers’ demands’ (which all seems strange today!).


Since then, ‘risk’ has been passed down to the workers e.g. in terms of pensions, and there is more control of the individual through appraisal, targets and inspection – whilst manager have more freedom.


The results of all this were very bad: free financial markets destroyed pension pots and savings. Globally the share of income going to capital has risen at the expense of labour. See the TUC report – Life in the Middle: - which shows that middle Britain’s pay has gone down more than anyone else: median pay (£377 a week) has gone up by 60% whilst average pay has gone up by 78%. Britain is also more unequal than most other societies in Europe – whereas 30 years ago it was one of the most equal. See notes on inequality (link at top of page).


In The Puritan Gift by Will and Kenneth Hopper, it is argued that until the 1970s, management was based on Puritan values: the collective is more important than the individual (and idealism, skills, and the ability to organise behind a single aim were valued). But then ‘neo-Taylorism’ came into favour: quantitative techniques, ‘cult of the expert’, and consequently the worship of heroic CEOs and of business schools.  ‘Raging self-interest and the malign influence of shareholder value did the rest’.


However, the Hoppers suggest that now the most enlightened firms are looking to Japan to learn from the ‘human-centred tradition’ (introduced from America after the War, via Deming at el). To deal with our ‘sinking middle’ management should return to its ‘virtuous roots’. (TUC’s suggested remedy is a new tax and mobility agenda…).


(*) but of course individuals now have more ‘free choice’ in consumption of goods and leisure… though ‘you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time…’ see notes on the consumer, csr5 the consumer.htm. 


Modern management:

14.06.09: The myth of flat organisations, and the failure of modern management:

Simon Caulkin (notes from The Observer) is losing his column because of cost-cutting… In his last piece he writes: whenever people were asked about their view of management, there was a totally different picture to what management itself claimed: “the talk was of empowerment, shared destiny, pulling together: the walk was increasing work intensity, tight performance management, risk offloaded to the individual” – the talk was flat organisations: the reality, centralization and a yawning divide between other ranks, required to minimise their demands for the greater good, and a remote officer class whose rewards had to soar to motivate them… Employees were the most valuable asset – until costs had to be cut.” The customer wasn’t king: hence all the mis-selling scandals.


Shamefully this story reached its climax under a Labour government (*) that not only encouraged ethics-free market-led management principles in the private sector but even imposed them on the public sector. The credit-crunch is a management failure (not a market failure). Labour also oversaw: Soviet-style targets and inspection regimes, and locked government into lucrative contracts for IT with private suppliers that have “made the public sector systemically less capable than it was 12 years ago”.


The management model that has run us for the past 30 years – along with the economic model (rational expectations, efficient markets) is “bust, dead, finished – a mortal danger to us and the planet.” But there have been saner voices “at the margins” – e.g. John Lewis; and there should be more academics engaging with big issues (at risk of losing their jobs!); “courageous public-sector managers who find ways of circumventing the draconian targets regime to do what they know to be right” should also get more support now the old model is dead.


Norms matter – because as Michael Sandel said in the 2009 Reith lectures – “they so easily become self-fulfilling”. We need to be debating the norms that go with a “post-financial form of management.”


(*) See also Will Hutton in same issue – and see pp17 socialism since Marx.htm #Labour in thrall to finance


MBAs and CSR: Harvard Business School MBA graduates take an oath before their award ceremony to ‘serve the greater good’, ‘act with the utmost integrity’ and guard against ‘decisions and behaviour that advance my own narrow ambitions, but harm the enterprise and the societies it serves.’  Result of campaign by Max Anderson, and MBA student – got 400 signatures. Encouraged by a few faculty members only, e.g. Prof Rakesh Khurana. Part of larger effort to change management from a trade into a profession. This in opposition to the Friedmanite view that their aim/responsibility is to increase shareholder value. Campaign started at Thunderbird business school in Arizona, in 2004, under its president Angel Cabrera.

Limitations include fact that very few managers have MBAs, and it would prove very difficult to enforce a code for the whole ‘profession’.

But self-regulation, openness and constant feedback are features of internet: eBay, Wikipedia, open source…  (Economist 060609)


McClelland, Grigor – Quaker businessman and academic – obituary, Guardian 15.11.13: (did I encounter his work when teaching SRB?)


Working time myths:

The UK refuses to abandon its ‘opt-out’ of the European Working Time Directive, (to avoid maximum working hours for British workers). TUC has info on myths about work: 




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