The behaviour of the workers

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Part (a)

Read the short extract from the classic study of Donald Roy and discuss the following statements:

  • The behaviour of the workers was unethical.
  • The behaviour of the management staff was unethical.

The first statement set forth to discuss is true to say in most aspects of the article but there are some points made in the article which disproves the statement ‘The behaviour of the workers was unethical‘. The system of the work at the Chicago machine shop was unfair to the workers and so it must have been difficult for the workers behave in an ethical manner with the managerial hierarchy at the workshop. I myself worked in a company where there was a welding workshop and the men completed the work for their own benefit and not as help to the company. The industrial relation issues were mainly caused by the workers but it was because of previous bad management that let the workers

The article first describes the workshop's men resistance to the managers' control over the workshop men. There was clearly a highly unethical motivation for work. Unlike in a good work force where workers are motivated by there managers and communication is good, instead the men worked with and for each other to amass the most intelligent plan against their managers and beat the system in place, ‘relationships that provide support to the operator group in its resistance to and subversion of formally instituted managerial controls on production'. Clearly managerial skills were not properly used to control this conspiring and conniving. The workers were still acting highly unethical to be causing such control at their level.

The workers, as stated, could work really hard but often laid back on certain jobs they were deemed impossible and unfair. The workers should have been working to the best of their ability all the time as part of their loyalty to the company and managers. Alternatively they played with the system until the reached their most lucrative solution. ‘Machine operators not only held back effort; sometimes they worked hard.' Evidently the workers were well skilled and they were not being utilised to the best of their ability by their managers but this still does not accommodate their incentive for work ‘the variation in work effort'. Another example from the extract about their unfair and “hopeless prices” was the Gus Schmidt case where he was “given a price of $1.00 per 100 for reaming one hole, chamfering both sides of three holes, and filing burrs on one end of one hole.” This is just one example from the extract which helps us try to accept the reasons for the workers unethical behaviour. These kinds of rates for work are obviously very disheartening for skilled craftsmen.

The conduct of the workers in relation to the jobs they had to perform was highly unethical. For the “stinkers” of jobs the workers would have no respect or regard to the company property. They also had no regard for the quality of products they were producing. As a result, the devious actions of the workers could cause long term damage the company's reputation and provide customers with faulty unsafe products. ‘Many “stinkers” would not yield before the whitest heat of intelligence or the most cavalier disregard for company property” The reasons for their actions were clear and the manager as a leader to the workforce should have corrected this misconduct there and then. But any consideration for the company was disregarded by the workers. Communication with management rather than each other in the planning of malicious actions at work would be a much more ethical solution and could save the companies reputation.

Donald Roy's use of language in the extract and response to his time as part of the workforce help to emphasise the workers mischievous and unethical behaviour. Donald Roy describes the personalities and actions of the men in the workshop as ‘malicious', ‘vindictive', ‘cultivating', flouters, ‘prestidigitation', ‘cavalier' and that's just to name a view. All of these characteristics of the workers can only lead to the determination of unethical workforce. On my work placement one could also describe some of the fitters in this way. And by saying some, I mean some because all workers don't behave this way unless enticed to behave this way by a few crooked leaders. This seems to be the same sort of work environment at the piece making workshop. Although saying this, people have their own mind to make their own choices in life.

As an overall my conclusion of the workshop men in this article is that the behaved highly unethical. In the 1940's job climate jobs were scarce and so one would think they would be looking after their job rather than jeopardising it. I could see where the workers were coming from in some of their actions but instead of all the conniving and scheming they should have been more committed to their company as an employee responsibility. Simple communication could have possibly solved most of their difficulties.

In comparison to the workers the managers behaved reasonably ethical manner. Although as a manager it was their responsibility to be trained in how deal with this unethical behaviour. The ethical standards of the business should have been included in staff training. The managers at this workshop seemed to almost turn a blind eye to the goings on of the workers. It was unethical for them to think that just because the quotas were being reached that it was alright for the workers to control how they work themselves. Also knowing that the quota for the production of products was realistically unattainable meant they themselves were crooks as well as the workshop men. Also the managers' willingness to turn a blind eye to the quality of product being manufactured for the public is socially unethical.

Communication is vital in any company and from reading this extract there is no communication between management and workers evident in this Chicago machine shop. From Donald Roy's perspective it seemed as though the management did nothing to improve this faulty communication

‘It will show that the relevant constituents of problematic production situations may include “lateral” lines of interaction between subgroups of he work force as well as “vertical” connections between managerial and worker groups.”

From my time on my work placement, I can see how these vertical connections can form and how difficult they are to remedy. The manager of the oil terminal was continuously holding meetings to mend the bad communication and industrial relation issues. This sort of effort does not seem to be present at the work shop.

The management are not making the company as efficient and productive as they are able to. The workers are able to “make-out” which reflects badly on both managers and workers. Some of the workers are clearly intelligent people bearing in mind they are able to “figure the angles” for optimum return for themselves. Although all the intelligence used by the workers is purely vindictive to fight the systems set in place by management it could be utilised for a greater benefit to the company.

Not only were the workers damaging the company's reputation but the managers were also. The managers should have a sufficient system in place to check the quality of the pieces being produces for the customers. The system at the workshop encouraged unethical behaviour by awarding bonuses to quantity over quality. There is no evidence from this extract for promotion of quality in the workshop and such managerial behaviour should be regarded as unethical in my opinion.

Having made my points for the managers unethical I also believe they were trying to defeat the corrupt work shop. They were just looking at it from their own perspectives and did not get the input of the workers.

‘The “syndicate” also proved inadequate in circumventing each of a series of “new rules” and “new systems” introduced by management to expurgate all modifications and improvisations and force a strict adherence to the rules'

This example illustrates the managers' willingness to implement change. The methods of amending the workers system did not offer an economic advantage to the worker and so would not suffice as a solution to the corrupt working system.

Throughout the extract the moral values and rules of the management vary. The managers do attempt to change the current corrupt system but they are also single minded in thinking they have the best solution which they evidently do not. They furthermore do not seem to follow up on the illegal actions of “making-out” performed by the operators. To conclude on whether management behaved unethical this extract I will say, one cannot have unethical workers without some influence from unethical managers'.

Part (b)

Describe any changes to the operation of the machine shop that you would make if you were appointed manager.

I know that in the 1940's industrial relations were nothing like they are now but the most important things for the managers to change is the level of communication between the manager and the workers. Managers are the people specifically responsible for achieving the objectives for the company. [2] The managers of the Chicago piece making company do not with hold the essential management activities (planning, organising and controlling) or the management skills (leading, communicating and motivating). Managers' must also be capable of change and I would encourage change both with the workers and managers. Although possibly not appropriate for the 1940's, I would hire a human resource manager to deal with the escalating trouble in industrial relation issues. The issue of unattainable bonuses should be resolved by either eliminating that method of productivity or a fair limit should be agreed upon.

Communication as stated in the article is not present in the company and is an important issue. Communication would greatly improve the ethical behaviour and the efficiency of the workshop. The extract states on many occasions that communication is not present, one such example is;
    ‘The process that is reputedly in need of attention: communication'

The managers need to be trained in communication skills. This involves verbal, written and visual communication. For effective communication the managers need to allow feed back from the workers. As a manager I would allow the workers to voice their opinions. Feedback would help solve the issue with the bonuses because as a result a fair limit could be established by both parties. A third party who is non-biased should be introduced initially until trust has developed between management and workers. A third party could make the fairest decision in this hostile environment.

A quote from Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Group, on motivation, which sums up the company in question;
    “If you have happy highly motivated staff you can achieve anything.
    If you have demoralised staff your company will soon disappear.”

I think a better method of motivation for the workshop would be using the Maslow's theory of motivation rather the bonus system in being used by the managers. This theory is aimed at improving the morale and incentive of the workers. Self-actualisation is the most important of human needs, as stated in Maslow's theory, and is achieved by promotion. I think if the workers are motivated by job opportunities such as a managerial position of supervisor they will be more dedicated to the company. More dedication would result in better quality products and more efficient productivity. Being a manager of the workshop I would focus on this managerial skill just as much as communication.

Introducing a human resource manager would help to gradually repair the problems of the workshop. The duties of a human resource manager include, managing industrial relations, rewarding, protecting, human resource planning, appraising, training and recruitment. [1] Managing the industrial relations at the workshop would resolve the conflict between workers and the managers. The HR manager could reward the workers appropriately for work done in replacement of the bonus system or they could improve the current system in the extract. Workers who feel they are being treated unjustly could avail of protection from the HR manager when communicating with managers. Performance appraisal in the workshop would help supervisors monitor more specifically what workers are doing and workers would have goals and targets to work for. The HR manager would ensure all safety, communication and any other relevant training was being carried out. All of these issues being addressed by a human resource manager would get the company closer to an ethically conscious work place.

I, as a manager, would have highly developed planning, motivating and communication skills. I would be willing for change and insist that the workers were too. I conclude that I would eliminate the bonus system and instead implement the Maslow's theory of motivation. I finally think employing a human resource manager would be of the utmost importance.