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MODERNIST AND NEO-MODERNIST THEORIES OF MOTIVATION

Summary of a case:

Modernist neo-modernist theories motivation is about an American company running its gas plant in Latin America, where it had hired two Senor Payroll, Junior engineers whose job was to put into effect the rules and orders sent by the downtown office.  Moreover, they had to manage the Mexican workers who worked at the plant. These Mexican were greater workmen who worked 8-hrs shifts in the fierce heat of the retorts.  They were paid only twice a month, on the fifth and on the twentieth. This rule was not fine-tuned according to the Mexican worker’s life and customs, and hence they used to appear every third or fourth day to draw the money due to them. However, later on, the company changed the rule and informed them that without genuine emergency no advances against paychecks would be made. The workers started making lame and some genuine excuses of having health issues with their families to get advance payments. The company again had to change the rule and it informed that workers would be paid advance only in the cases employees the service of the company. The workers then started to resign and get hired every three days to get advances, which made created too many problems for downtown and payroll engineers. And again rule was changed and it read as hereafter, no employee who resigns may be rehired within a period of 30 days. This rule forced workers to appear every three days with anonymous and fake names to get hired at the plant. At last, the company said no rules anymore in order to reduce its office work and problems for stokers at the plant. For the first time, the workers became happy and smile appeared at their faces. This case reveals how the authoritative style of the management affects the jobs of payroll officers and stokers working at the gas plant. (See appendix for details)

2 Modernist Perspective:

The modernist management perspective not only emphasizes the economic rationality of management and organization but also situational context.  The economic rationality of the individual employee at workplace assumes that the reward maximization determines the course of action that an employee chooses. In other words, economic incentives motivated the employees to work hard and make choices that yield greater monetary benefits. Thus, managers by giving higher monetary desires can get employees to work hard. Moreover, this school of thought resulted in the specialization of labor, profit maximization, and centralized decision making while ignoring the social needs for job satisfaction of employees. The pessimistic view of human nature forced the management thinkers to take these assumptions, however, they are true to some extent. Human emotions were recognized in the modernist perspective however it was assumed that human emotions could be controlled by forming a logical and rational structuring of the job (McAuley, Duberley&Johnson, 2007).

The classical school of thought was developed using deductive evidence and descriptive research. It followed organizational-centered as well as process and functional approaches to the emphasis on efficiency. The person-centric approach was used in the neo-modernist management perspective with increasingly experimental, descriptive and highly deductive approaches. On the other hand, revisionist remained more inductive, experimental, and rigorous by using behavioral and quantitative tools. According to the modern management school, it is a logical exercise and it applies itself to situations that can be reduced to unitized measurements and quantitative methods  (Harold,1961).

In the modern perspective of management, the thinkers have taken into consideration the complex nature of the organizations as well as the individuals and the diversity of their needs, motives, and aspirations. Thus, it is meaningless to think the practicability of one-time status or universal management principals. These complexities have induced the management to have intricate managerial strategies for dealing with people and organization.  As against the rational economic man and the social person thoughts of the classic and neo-modernist theories respectively, the modernist views the complex employee, which form the basis of modern management theory (McAuley,  Duberley& Johnson, 2007).

The complex employees’ view holds that people vary from one another based on their personal motives, aspirations, and needs. In addition to it, they also learn new motives through experiences, which also vary from organization to organization and department to department.  The employee and the organization form the basis of complex interactions. Thus to have a single managerial strategy that can work all the times for all peoples is impossible to think. Thus different managerial strategies were developed which can be applied at different times and for different persons. This modernist perspective gave birth to system theory and contingency theory, and structural functionalism etc.

The classical management perspective especially scientific management, bureaucratic management theories are much related to organizational structure, management control, and design. It has been extensively argued in these theories that management control is a natural strategy as it is the management’s responsibility to ensure that the all the processes and the production operations are stabilized and problems resolutions are subject to management decisions.  This managerial perspective also proposed the managers to see that everything inside the organization is in their proper order and positioning. Moreover, it is the management’s role and task to formulate guidelines, rules and decide about the process of decision making within the organization (Harold,1961).

The management supervision should maintain control over the resources, production processes, and employees’ welfare. Basically, the scientific management principal along with bureaucracy suggests this set-up in an organizational structure and design.

3 Neo-modernist Management Perspective:

The neo-modernist management thought was developed by applying a more human-oriented approach and emphasizing on time needs, drives, behaviors, and attitudes of individuals. It also emphasized the mechanical and physiological characters of the management in order to add the knowledge to the existing management knowledge comprising administrative, scientific and system approaches of management. Moreover, the concepts of industrial psychology that were developed at the same time proved impetus to the neo-modernist perspective (Hodgett& Altman, 1981).

The authoritarian structure of classical theory gave rise to the human relations movements. The aim of these movements was to address the problems inherent in classical theory that were over conformity and rigidity. In fact, neo-modernist perspective displayed concern for human need by considering individual human factors such as creativity, individual growth, and motivation (McAuley,  Duberley& Johnson, 2007).

The neo-modernist perspective revolves around human relations and behavioral approaches of management studies. In the human relations perspective, May and his colleagues arrived at two important conclusions using Hawthorne experiments: (1) existence of strong informal groups (2) non-economic factors have strong effects on employees’ behavior at work. Moreover, these studies of human relations revealed some inadequacies of the rational and structural approaches of classical theory and the fallacy of viewing all workers as rational and economic beings. Thus a social person view employees were evolved, which later on gave rise to organizational culture (Hodgett& Altman 1981).

The social person view is that social needs motivated the individuals; the interpersonal relationships give them sense of identity; the work has increasingly become dissatisfying for works due to industrial progress and routinization; the employees’ response level to the social forces of peer groups are stronger than to incentives and controls of management; the provision for social needs and acceptance gets more response from employees. This perspective necessitated that management should develop strategies for improving the human skills of the supervisors (Kiniki& Kreitner,2003).

The social person view also forced the management to formulate strategies for offering group incentive plans rather than individual incentive plans, focusing on employees feeling and attitudes and their effect on productivity rather than managerial functions. Here the social manager concept evolved as manager has to assume the role of helper and coach rather than a strict administrator and supervisor.  He also carries out human relations programs avoiding a stem and aloof attitude.

In fact, this human relation and behavioral perspective of neo-modernist school of thought aimed at conflict-free inter-relationships among the members of the organization and also went beyond traditional organizational factors such as environmental factors. Taking roots from social psychology and individual psychology, the manager is expected in this theory to be a leader and supervisor rather a democratic and participative type. He is also expected to maintain the uniqueness of each individual by considering every employee a unique social-psychological being. It was also learned from Hawthorne experiments that group performance is heavily influenced by the psychological needs of an individual and that their individual concerns are often miss-stated (Kiniki& Kreitner,2003).

The neo-modernist management thinkers preferred and suggested more flexible organization structures where capabilities and aptitudes of average employee determine the jobs nature and its specifications. On the contrary, specialized jobs, underutilized human efforts, strict control over employees with limited decision-making authorities, no or little concern for employees’ needs for recognition and self-fulfillment were preferred in modernist and classic management perspective.

4 Scientific Management:

The scientific management is one of the modernist perspectives and theories, which emphasized empirical research for developing a comprehensive management solution. The scientific management theory was initiated by Frederic WinslowTaylor, however later on Frank and Lillian Gilbreth made addition this management thought. Managers apply scientific management principles in a very specific fashion that is the manager is primarily responsible for increasing an organization’s productivity (Marvin, 2011).

In fact, Taylor had the fundamental belief that entrepreneurs were not only superior intellectually to the average employee but also to supervise and organize their employees’ work activities.

Frederick Taylor and his followers developed the principles and practices of scientific management that are characterized by concern for efficiency and systematization in management. Taylor developed four basic principles as follows:

 

  1. Managers should break down each person’s job into elements and also determine a scientific way to perform each element and replace the old rule of thumb-pay and other rewards linked to the achievement of optimum goals.
  2. Managers should scientifically select and train workers so that they work in a designed and trained manner.
  3. Management should maintain full cooperation with all the employees so that tasks are performed in the designed manner.
  4. Management should have a division of labor and responsibilities among all its workers and management, and also supervise and set up instruction and design the work so that workers can freely perform the work themselves (Marvin, 2011).

 

From an economic perspective, it has been acknowledged that the scientific theory of Taylor was met with extreme success. The productivity of many organizations small and large significantly improved with the application of these methods. For instance, with scientific principles of Taylor at Bethlehem Works, the management was able to increase the efficiency and resultantly the number of workers needed was reduced to shovel from 500 to 140.

 

Gilberth’s motion study made significant additions to Taylor’s scientific management theory. These studies also lead to the centrality of efficiency in the organization. He proposed a model to reduce the unnecessary motions resulting from bricklaying at a construction site and concluded that each worker should be involved in doing his or her own work. Then the worker should prepare for the next higher level and train their successors.

 

Scientific management suggested a system through which employees can be better supervised and working methods can be improved. It also gave a piece rate system for providing incentives to employees. While Taylor with the view of supervising employees sought the best way of performing a job for increasing productivity (Hodgetts& Altman,1981).

5 Theory X (Motivational Theory)

Douglas McGregor in his 1960 book, The Human Side of Enterprise, proposed two motivational theories in order to explore the motivation at a workplace. He called these theories Theory X and Theory Y avoiding descriptive labels. The basic premise of both of the theories is that it is management who has to decide about the factors of production, including people, for the long-term well-being of the organization. However, both theories motivation diverge beyond this point (Dejan, 1978).

Theory X:

This theory assumes the following:

  • An average human being hates work and tries to avoid it in order to remain relaxed and lazy.
  • He works without any ambition and responsibility and prefers to follow than lead.
  • He does not care about bigger organizational goals and remains self-centered.
  • He often shows resistance against change.
  • He is not particularly intelligent and thus remains gullible.

Most importantly it is assumed that money and job security motivate a worker to work at an organization.

The Hard and Soft Approach mixture:

The management under theory X has two divergent options such as going for a hard approach or adopting a soft approach. Under the harder approach, the management tries to maintain an environment of command and control characterized by coercion, implicit threats, close supervision, and strict controls. While the soft approach heavily relies on permissiveness and seeking harmony with the assumptions that workers in return would cooperate as and when asked to do so. However, neither of these approaches offer the optimal solution as the had approach yields low-output with hostility from workers and hard-line of union demands whereas the never-ending requests for more rewards and incentives in exchange for decreasing output are the results of the soft approach.

The optimal management approach should be choosing a mid-way approach between these extremes. However, McGregor asserts that neither approach is appropriate because the assumptions of Theory X are not correct (Gordon, 2001).

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6 Analysis of the Case

The first perspective that is modernist and scientific management theory gave the ideas of offering monetary rewards, strict control, and piece rate system, centralized decision-making to motivate workers to get greater efficiency and effectiveness at organizations.

In the case of Senor Payroll which highlights the pitfalls of modernist and scientific management clearly, one can easily judge the grievances that arise due to strictly centralized decision making. In this case, we will be studying the reward system of the organization, strict control and management style of decision making. However, in this perspective, the social aspect, their behavior, and psychology will not be observed.

Thus one can ask:

  • How are decisions made at the downtown office and at the gas plant?
  • How workers are paid at the downtown office and at the gas plant?
  • How control and supervision are being done at various levels of the company?
  • Does reward current reward system fulfill their needs?
  • Is the company able to get greater efficiency and productivity with this system and management approach?

In this perspective, one cannot ask:

  • Are stokers are satisfied with the company?
  • How the worker’s family issues affect the company’s productivity?
  • What customs are being followed in that particular area of the plant?
  • What culture is being followed at the gas plant?
  • Does teamwork result in greater productivity?

The second lens through which the case of Senor Payroll can be looked through is a human-centered approach of neo-modernist perspective. Here, basic human needs, desires, personal factors, attitudes and behaviors of employees are studied in order to motivate them to get the work done efficiently and effectively. Basically, this perspective has provided tools such as teamwork, decentralized management style as opposed to a command and control system of centralized decision-making (Catlette&Hadden, 2001).

In this case of Senor Payroll, the organization seems to be following the modernist perspective of management rather then neo-modernist perspective.

Main Issue:

The organization basically follows a centralized, authoritative style of decision-making characterized by strict command and control while ignoring the human aspects of stokers at the gas plant. The main issues in Senor Payroll case are the reward system, strict command, and control system and decision-making which are resulting in poor productivity and efficiency.

Fixing the Main issue:

These issues can be fixed by following various approaches from both of the perspectives discussed above keeping in view the present grievances of the stokers and junior engineers at the gas plant:

Firstly, the company should devise a new reward system that takes into account the cultural aspects and basic needs of the Mexican workers at the plant in order to resolve such issues. Moreover, rules regarding payroll should be made flexible so that they can easily change keeping in view the changing needs of the workers at the plant.

As we have observed that, the payroll officers have to ask their downtown office for every action they want to take, the management should devise a decentralized approach of decision making so that gas plant junior payroll officer may take decision according to the real situation at the moment in order to avoid loss in efficiency at the plant.

7 Evaluation of the Selected Perspectives and Theories:

The modernist perspective which solely focused on organization and economic rationality and ignored the human need for self-actualization such as self-respect and satisfaction at a workplace, however, proposed new ways of thought in management theories. The managers by embracing these theories were able to increase employees’ efficiency and effectiveness as well as designing and maintaining sound organizational structures and command & control systems. However, at a point, this perspective was unable to achieve desired outcomes. Furthermore, this perspective recognized the organization as a machine and all workers are simply parts of it and they have to work together to make it run efficiently.

On the contrary to modernist perspective and scientific management theory, I would prefer the neo-modernist perspective of management. In fact, this perspective goes beyond the organizational factors and considers the human side of workers by taking care of their needs of self-actualization.  Furthermore, the human relation and behavioral approaches under this perspective are mostly concerned with motivation.

It was argued in these perspectives that employees at present want diverse and challenging work thus design and organizational structures have to be changed to keep pace with these employees’ needs. Furthermore, participative and group decision-making, the process of self-direction were preferred among employees instead of traditional imposed command and strict control. The more practical realistic model of human motivation and relationship were stressed so that organizations can take into account the situational constraints, social aspects of organizational and environmental changes (Catlette& Hadden,2001).

The selected theory of scientific management presented by Taylor under the modernist perspective promoted that there is “one right way” to do things. However, the recent management approaches and theories like MBA (Management by Objectives), Continuous Improvement, BPR (Business Process Engineering), and other tools are making contradiction with this theory.  Under these theories, individual responsibility has been promoted, and it has been suggested to have a decentralized system where decision making takes place at all levels of the organization. As against the strict control and command centralized system, these theories propose as much autonomy as practically possible so that the existing situational problem can be resolved following appropriate approaches that are compatible. It has also been seen in a present-day organization that it is much hard for rigid, rules-driven organization to adapt to changing external situations. Furthermore, front-line workers are required to be flexible enough to adjust in rapidly changing conditions (MindTools,2010).

Another area where scientific management theory of Taylor lacks is teamwork which is requisite in present organizations to achieve their goals efficiently and effectively. We know that Taylor suggested that each task is to be broken down into tiny steps so that each person can put his or her best on his or her specific series of steps of performing a task. While present management theorists examine work systems more holistically in order to evaluate the efficiency and maximize productivity. Furthermore, the modern ideas of having motivating and satisfying workplace for workers are contrary to Taylor’s extreme specialization (Marvin,2011).

The selected motivational theory X which was presented by McGregor under the neo-modernist perspective directed the management towards the human side and their behavioral aspects at a workplace. However, the ultimate objective of this theory was also to maintain a system of command and control and offer monetary rewards to motivate workers. On contrary to scientific management, I would prefer theory X because it formed the foundation of theory Y and other motivational theories which directed the attention towards higher needs of satisfaction of employees at work.

He basically argued that a command and control system of an organization cannot work in the long-run as it relies on lower needs as tools of motivation. These lower needs in modern society don’t motivate workers as they have already been satisfied. In such a situation, those X-theory assumptions become true where employees start avoiding work responsibilities, disliking their work, lacking interest in overall organizational goals and showing resistance to change, etc. The theory X a self-fulfilling prophecy tuned McGregor to propose another motivational theory that is a theory.

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