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Studies related to management and organisations have evolved through many stages over the years. Since the first break-through into the efficient operation of the organisations the management literature has changed dramatically but the aspiration always has been to find or create a system which ensures the smooth and efficient running of the organisations so that they can achieve their targets. According to the management terminology, the organisations of today are known as post fordist or post bureaucratic organisations and are said to be rational, with agreement on decisions, empowerment, team working and individual recognition. Organisational theory mentioned in the management texts is elaborated and supported by many renowned and illustrious authors of management. The aim of this essay is to enquire about the conventional image of the so called perfect or ideal organisation portrayed in the management texts by keeping in mind the reality in workplaces supported by the points discussed in the seminars and critically analysing these organisations in order to portray the image of real organisations of today and show how the situation portrayed in the texts is just a myth.
The journey of events leading to the conception of post bureaucratic or post modern organisations of today has been long and complicated one. To thoroughly understand the conventional image of the organisations of today it is important for one to look back at these series of events. If examined carefully the timeline can be considered to have started from the era of Fredrick Taylor (1856-1915), the begetter of scientific management and Weber’s (1864-1920) theory of bureaucratic management. (Boddy, 2005) Their aim was to contrive an organisation which follows set of rules in order to attain maximum efficiency and where money was the main motivational factor for the workers. Henry Ford was one of the first entrepreneurs to have applied these theories in his organisation by introducing assembly line production. Along with assembly line mass production, division of labour and specialisation were the salient features of bureaucratic management. (Pugh & Hickson, 2007) Scientific and bureaucratic management was followed by the Human Relation theories which were based on the Hawthorne studies. The concept which was set out in the Human relation theories was that the workers should be given a social status in the organisation environment instead of treating them as “cogs in a machine”. (Knight & Willmott, 2007) The Hawthorne studies which were headed by Elton Mayo in fact tried to provide an environment to the workers in the organisation so that they can perform better. Then came the contingency theory which tried to carve up organisations into formal structure again trying to ensure that the organisation can perform proficiently and efficiently. (Boddy, 2005) The long and complex journey has now reached to the organisations known as post fordist. These organisations of today believe that bureaucratic management has become outdated and regard it as dead and they themselves are completely opposite to it, but the reality seems to be different from the conventional image these organisations portray.
It is important to find out why people actually work before the reality of work can be discussed. Noon and Blyton (2002) after researching concluded that people do not only work for financial reason and states this in their book, “The majority of people say that they would continue to work even if there was no economic compulsion to do so, which suggests that work may also be fulfilling other needs.” There exists a feeling of accomplishment which only comes from working there is also a moral obligation to work. Another question which arises here is that are people in the right line of work? According to a research carried out in UK 41% of the working population in UK is currently in the “wrong job” and is not satisfied by it. (BBC, 2008) So if organisations of today are trying to ensure the high level of motivation and empowerment of employees and if people are willing to work for other than economic reasons and yet it is being claimed that most of the people are not satisfied with their line of work then there is something that is not right. There might be many reasons that may be resulting in this problem, but yet it cannot be denied that there is gap existing between reality and the conventional images portrayed in the management texts.
An in-depth view into the bureaucratic and post bureaucratic structures and the management theory discussed above bring out that none of these organisational frameworks have been contrived to benefit the employees. These management theories are authored by people whose aim is to ensure that organisations run without any kind of hindrances. The conventional image maybe stated to motivate and empower the employees, but there is always a string attached to efficient running of the organisation which is mostly the core objective for organisations. So it can be said that interests of the employees will always be superseded by the interests of the organisation and employees are just provided with a better image of bureaucracy. The post modern structures are as Grey (2009) states “All this talk of a new era and new organisation forms conceals or forgets the way that such claims are recurring so that it is possible to find out, throughout organisation theory, almost identical models of future.” This statement also refers to the change management which is being talked about by the new structure and which will be discussed later. In simple words, employees are being decived into working. Organisations of today are just deciving the workers to work indirectly in order to achieve thier objectives and do not care about the suffering workers go through in acheving them.
Referring back to the conventional image, post bureaucratic organisations are known to be rational. According to Grey (2009) there are two types of rationality known as instrumental rationality and substantive rationality. Substantive rationality is about doing the right things while instrumental rationality is about doing the things right way. It can be said that the post bureaucratic organisations are not morally rational but instrumentally rational. Grey (2009) in his book says that organisations today only consider instrumental rationality and also calls it “organisational rationality”. Organisations use instrumental rationality as veil of disguise so that they can manipulate the employees into obtaining its targets. Work holism is considered a virtue. Employees are given blackberries in many organisations around the world these days as a fringe benefit but the employees do not understand that this is in fact a way to stay in touch after the office hours. In simple words employees are made to work round the clock by making them to bring work at home for which they are even not paid. Morgan (2006) in his book ‘Images of Organization’ refers to the metaphor “psychic prison” where the employees are imprisoned unconsciously. Organisations today are doing the same thing, therefore we are made to work hard, accept things as they are, work hard to earn living considering it normal and the way it should be. But in reality the situation is different as Grey (2009) says we are imprisoned in an “iron cage of rationality”. To question these concepts or enquiring about them is considered blasphemy; whereas no one queries about the operations of organisations that do not include value judgement in their concept of rationality. Hence the lining difference can easily be viewed and identified if we put the orthodox organisational behaviour alongside the reality.
Moreover, the conventional image of the current organisations as mentioned by Knights and Willmott (2007) is that they are, based on empowerment, shared responsibility, trust and personal treatment. However the reality seems to be quite different if viewed from a radical perspective. The existence of sweat shops in today’s world where even the animals rihts are so closely monitored uncovers the shocking truth of how current organisations operate. Organisations are paying very low wages to the workers and in return making them work for shifts which are sometimes even lasting more than a day. But the truth which is even more shocking then this is that these organisations are using their powers to even control and dominate the governments of today. Pilger (2002) in his documentary and book “The new rulers of the world” clearly present the nature of dirty politics that organisations can play in order to gain their interests. Setting up sweat shops in Indonesia after over throwing the government clearly exemplified organisations as an ‘instrument of domination’ as referred by Morgan (2006). Furthermore Perkins (2004) in his book ‘Confessions of an economic Hitman’ also elaborates the tactics large organisations use which can enable them to even take over an entire country. This might sometimes result in employee stress which can even lead to employees committing suicides, as this is what happened in the case of Renault, a leading auto-mobile manufacturer.
Another important statement which post modern organisations make is that bureaucracy is now dead, it was the thing of past which is irrelevant in the today’s world. However the reality check brings out something different. Bureaucracies are still as relevant as they were before. Du Gay (2000) also discuss about the relevance of bureaucracies in his book. According to Du Gay (2000) the original form of bureaucracy which was introduced by Weber is different from how bureaucracy is portrayed these days as he feels that bureaucracies have been interpreted wrongly. Du Gay (2000) elaborates that Weber introduced the bureaucracy which is a substantially ethical organisation and in its purest form it assures efficiency, but nonetheless in the organisational world of today bureaucratic organisations still exist. Moreover, call centres providing customer service throughout the world are still not giving importance to the motivation and satisfaction level of employees which should be the focal point for how organizations of today should work. People working in the call centres are facing sexual harassment and abuses from callers, being threatened to be fired unless they met their quota and are paid low salaries. One of the employees working in a call centre confessed that, “The bottom line is, this is a crap job. It’s a phone factory and unless we met quota, we suffer.” (http://www.weblab.org)
So to conclude, this essay tried to analyse the features of the organisations of today as presented in the management text books. Organisational theory was compared with the reality of what really goes on in an organisation in order to show that the so called perfect organisations are not better than the previous models which are disregarded today and organisations of today are just the extensions in disguise of the previous models. An insight was provided with the help a radical view on how the organisations of today are actually operating to benefit themselves. Arguments were presented portraying how a large number of employees working in these organisations are unmotivated and unsatisfied which are based on the philosophy of providing empowerment and employee motivation. The reality also reveals that employees are actually suffering from ill treatment and stress in the organisations of today which are pretending to exhibit the image of a perfect organisation. The essay also set forth that the organisations are being used as ‘instrument of domination’ and ‘psychic prisons’ inside the ‘iron cage of rationality’. Case of Renault suicides, working diaries of workers and the existence of sweat shops in Indonesia exemplified that the main concern for the organisations is not to satisfy its employees but to make them work as efficiently as possible.
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