Theories on the Role of a Modern Industrial Manager


The modern industrial manager is mainly in charge of the overlooking management operations along with the management of people and technology in the industry. Whilst, generally, as a manager, he needs to know what motivates employees to go to work every morning; why some of the employees get great satisfaction from their work and several even take pride in it while others may hate their jobs. In this essay, some of the theories may explain the phenomenon and present the accurate role of a modern industrial manager.

In order to manage human beings, the requirement of employees should be known as a manager. Maslow believed that the human beings have five ascending types of needs that they seek to satisfy or fulfill within different environments (Maslow 1999,39-40). At the bottom of Maslow's hierarchy of human needs is the basic physiological need for food, shelter and clothing. This kind of need is the minimum standards for human beings. Before a person turns his attention to the higher order need, these requirements should be "reasonably satisfied".

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Whilst a person feels certain that the basic necessities such as food and shelter were reasonably enough and he can ensure that these items will not be taken away, he will come up to the need for security, which refers to personal safety and guarantee for health care. After the two fundamental needs are satisfied, he will then turn his attention to a high level requirement that is social relationships such as social intercourse, friendship, love and belonging. Human have a requirement of a sense of belonging and a requirement to share personal experiences with others. However, this kind of need is only pursued while the lower needs have been achieved.

Above the need of belonging, Maslow presents two forms of "esteem" need. The first esteem is the lower esteem that is the need for respect from one's friends, or status (1998,23; Rowan 1998). In addition, the other esteem, higher esteem is self-esteem that is a kind of confidence and independent in which a person may not concern as much other's opinions as the person with lower esteem.

At the top of Maslow's hierarchy of needs is self-actualization. It is a very complicated need, however, it includes the conception of reaching one's exhaustive potential. Moreover, self-actualization provides a sense of creative satisfaction. When a person reached this level of Maslow's hierarchy, the primary characteristic was innovativeness. Hence, the self-actualization people were far more likely to be creative, to search the new answers of problems than people at lower level of the hierarchy (Maslow 1790,170-71). As a result of these, the self-actualization represented the peak of human's creative optional.

Among all these five levels of human needs, the intensity of the needs is in adverse to the level of the requirement, which means the higher the level of requirements is the less intensive human's wish would be.

When a modern industrial manager comprehends the needs of the employees, there are some important implications for management. According to the Maslow's theory, there are opportunities to inspire employees through management method, company event, etc.

For those employees who are seeking for the bottom physiological needs, it is effective to provide them a free lunch and reasonable wages that are sufficient to purchase the essentials of daily life. While the manger can provide a safe working environment, retirement benefit and job security to satisfy those employees at the second lowest level of the hierarchy. After the employees feel safety about what they already have, it is essentially important for the manager to create a sense of community due to team-based projects and some social events. In addition, the manager should recognize the employees' achievements to make employees feel appreciated and valued. Moreover, in order to let the employee reach the highest level of Maslow's theory, sorts of challenges and opportunities need to be provided.

However, not all the employees are satisfied with the same needs, different people may be motivated by entirely different aspects. It is important to understand the requirement being sought. To motivate an employee, the manager must be able to acknowledge the level that the employee is operating, and use corresponding methods as motivation.

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While Maslow's hierarchy makes sense of the majority people, there exist some specific models. For example, some cultures appear to seek social needs before any others. In addition, the Maslow's hierarchy hardly can explain the case such as the "starving artist" that a person only pursuit the highest ones. To clarify the problems of Maslow's hierarchy, Clayton Alderfer developed the ERG theory. Unlike Maslow's theory, managers must recognize that an employee has multiple requirements to satisfy synchronous. Furthermore, the ERG theory illustrate that if a higher level need remain unfulfilled, the person may revert to lower level needs that appear easier to satisfy. As a result, if the manager recognizes the situation, then some steps can be done to focus on related needs until the employees are able to seek growth again.

In order to manage the whole modern industry, the manager should be also familiar with the McGregor's theory X-Y. According to the theory X, the average person is lazy, unwilling to work and attempts to avoid it as much as possible, while the average people also have no ambition and no responsibility, and nor care about the performance of the organization. Therefore, they will attempt to resist any organizational changes and not to be particularly innovative or intelligent. They work only because they must work to get money and security. On the other hand, it also appears that they are quite gullible and easy to manipulate. If the manager operates the company based on the theory-X, he could choose either a hard, controlling approach or a soft persuasive approach.

The hard approach depends on the tight managerial controls, coercion, implicit threats and close supervision such as an environment of command and control. In contrast, the soft approach is to manipulate employees with money and low level of supervision, in an attempt to acquire employee cooperation and reasonable levels of productivity. However, neither of these extremes is optimal. The hard approach results in hostility and resistance, whilst the soft approach will lead to the ever-increasing requests for rewards while working as little as possible. The optimal management approach under theory-X probably would be the middle point of these extremes, which weighs the advantages and disadvantages and make an appropriate choice. However, McGregor insists that the saying "neither approach is optimal due to the assumption of theory-X" not correct. He asserts that a command and control environment is not effective because it relies on lower requirement as levels of motivation, however, in modern society, the abundant and cheap food and much better social safety nets, have already satisfied most of the physiological and security needs of people. In the result, providing monetary rewards and bringing even punishments would not motivate employees as their irritation while being controlled. In consequence, employee under theory-X will tend to be unwilling to work and to have no interest in the achievements of the organization. As such, McGregor argued that theory-X was a self-fulfilling prophecy. From this attitude, McGregor proposed an alternative theory of management, theory-Y.

In contrast to theory-X, theory-Y assumes that work can be as nature as play and rest. As such, the employees are never completely satisfied due to continue require the higher-level needs of esteem and self-actualization. Hence, they will motivate them to accomplish their work tasks, even more, they feel they will achieve higher needs by conquer them. Furthermore, the employees will find additional challenges and try to solve them by the naturally creative and innovative.

It is an important circumstance that the McGregor's theory-Y made such a cycle to make sense, which the managers provides employee fascinating work, which motivate them to accomplish, which allows managers to give them more fascinating challenges, therefore fulfilling the higher level esteem needs. Consequently, this cycle allows the employees to approach the self-actualization during the work. In addition, as the self-actualization is a continually evolving need, the employees will be motivated continuously throughout their period. Accordingly, the managers can align employee's personal goals with the goals of the company that can motivate them to maxima innovation. If such a system can be properly preformed, it would lead to very high level of motivation. Furthermore, employees work even harder as the development of both personal needs and work satisfaction.

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Nevertheless, McGregor stressed that Theory-Y management cannot be seen as a soft approach as it is easy for people to manipulate the system by different ways like pretending to be demotivate or hiding the true motivation. McGregor also claimed that some employees may not reach the well-developed stage assumed by theory-Y, as such, it may need tighter controls as well as relax while the employee develops.

It is important that McGregor did not insist that the theory Y was preferable to theory X. He held that both theories had merit and management approaches should not to be such a narrow view of motivation.

In the same period when McGregor published the book The Human Sides of Enterprise, Frederick Herzberg published his findings that were which factors caused satisfaction or dissatisfaction in an employee's work environment in the book The Motivation to Work. He developed the motivation-hygiene theory to explain what he found. Herzberg held that company policy, supervision, relationship with boss and peers, work conditions and salary would lead employees to dissatisfaction. In an aspect, achievement, recognition, work itself, responsibility, advancement and growth would essentially satisfy them. Herzberg mentioned that due to the different of factors that caused dissatisfaction or satisfaction, these two cannot simply be treated as opposite of one another. Therefore, the opposite of satisfaction is no satisfaction, but not dissatisfaction. Theoretically, Herzberg's idea was that the two sets of factors are independent. Therefore, an employee possibly feel satisfied in a poor working environment along with the highly recognition. However, these two sets of factors cannot be regarded as totally separated. It is very common like an employee always bothered and unmotivated while working in an uncomfortable place. Moreover, if the employee loves the job, he may put all his efforts in that even in poor working conditions. The complaints of employees cannot be taken literally. With providing a good external factor such as a delightful working condition, it is even more important to step ahead to find some other way to recognize their efforts.

In conclusion, McGregor believed that the scientific management approaches could benefit from focusing on the need to motivate employees and also from greater managerial control. He argued that both theory-X and theory-Y just represented different ends of a continuum of approaches. As a result of this, managers should not fix themselves to one end of the continuum.

Maslow's hierarchy, theory X-Y, motivation-hygiene theory and other related management theories, all of these can help managers to take responsible for assembling and organizing the various aspects of production, including the employees, with the goal to achieve maximum economic benefit.