It is argued by many Unitary theorists that the Human Relations movement of the 21st century has bought about enhanced autonomy and democracy for the individual worker through employing programs such as Total Quality Management, Quality of Working Lives and HRM. Storey (1989) cited by Blyton (1992), supports this, stating that Total Quality Management puts an emphasis on communication, motivation and leadership, leading to more fulfilling job roles, increasing competences and so responsibility.
‘Therefore increased involvement suggests better training programs forming key skills producing flexible workers. Soltani and Gennard (2004) recognise flexible workers as the most important asset in a ‘quality-driven’ context; especially important as a differentiating tool in today’s quality-focused service sector, Specht and Fichtel et al (2007). Thus implying regular opportunities for front-line worker delegation and empowerment.
However this naively assumes that management are willing to delegate responsibility.Korzynski (2002) is correct in his argument that management style won’t always be consistent in assisting the enhancement of empowerment. Korzynski (2002) citing Clegg (1979) argues conflict occurs naturally through the ‘differing sources of authority’ already existing within a firm’s hierarchy.
Therefore ‘management’s interest is to maximise control over activities’ Korzynski (2002), resulting in minimal training and empowerment for employees. Suggesting management by compliance is a resulting output of Total Quality Management.Giles et al (1987) supports this stating that ‘by allowing people to influence you, you give up expert power’ suggesting it is improbable that large co-operate managers will overcome previous hierarchical ‘expert culture’ simply because of the introduction of new Human Relation practices. Therefore imposing collaborative goals into employee’s ideology is still likely to take precedence over recognising worker interests, Dunphy (1986) cited by Blyton (1992).This could be done through the use of a ‘consultative’ form of leadership, to ensure communication remains vertical, an example of subtle managerial control, creating a power struggle, Kanter (1989) cited by Jones (1997). Consequently according to Crosby (1984) invalidating the so-called Human Relation’s bottom-up approach, (cited by Wilkinson et al 1991). Alternatively Barge (1993) cited by Jones et al (1992) argues that HRM processes provide a ‘fundamental break from a systems driven approach of the past’.
The adoption of Total Quality Management systems verifies this argument. It intends to restructure working relations, encouraging two-way communication and team working, Hill (1991) cited by Wilkinson (1992). For example Wilkinson (1992) argues the ‘supervisory climate’ created in this form of team working, can support and develop employees, reducing fear of failure encouraging ‘active co-operation rather than simple compliance’.However this essay argues that instead, Korzynski (2002) is correct in proposing that it is evident that ‘new forms of Bureaucratic systems of control exist through the empowerment of IT systems and consumers, equating to lose of control for the front line worker’.
This is especially prevalent within the private sector such as the manufacturing industry, as the greater empowerment of machines to improve efficiency often equates to worker job displacement, Knights and McCabe (1999). Therefore Delbridge and Turnbull (1992) suggests that it is ‘not the jobs that are homogenised but the worker’s ability’.Consequently in reality ’empowerment and participation are a loose rhetoric and the reality is a greater degree of control over work’ Mcardle (1995).
Fuller&smith (1991) strengthen this argument suggesting it ‘deepens and complicates authority and power relations in the workplace, and may also give rise to new forms of workplace conflict. ‘ This essay therefore argues implementing a high degree of ‘technocratic-principles’ IT systems parallel Taylor’s methods of control, such as the empowerment of technology in substitution of worker.Thus standardising routines means autonomy is removed and indispensability reduced Knights and McCabe (1999).
Therefore suggesting limited change has occurred in relation to adopting a more humane approach within working environments compared to past schemes. For example the public service sector is still suffering from the privatisation era, at the end of the 1990s 600,000 co-operations had been privatised, therefore suggesting many organisations may still not be fully adapted to new bureaucratic policies resulting form the transformation Micks et al (2005).Making it difficult to concentrate on in-cooperating humane activities. Thus suggesting that the Human Relations movement has done little to make the workplace more humane, but simply provided a regression back toward Taylor’s ideologies; a rigid ‘one-best way’ approach; which ignorantly suppresses the implementation of HR practices and more productive approaches of empowerment, such as ‘collective negotiations’, which accept differing interests of the employer and employee.Therefore Jones et al (1997) suggests Hyman’s (1987) theory is a more realistic one. Stating that there is actually no ‘one best way’ but simply ‘routes to failure’ when dealing with the power struggle between employer and employee control. Delbridge (1992) cited by Blyton (1992) strengthens this argument, suggesting that employee’s power is undermined due to psychological contracts such as ‘life-time employment’ and ‘seniority’ based payment systems of which tie workers to a firm.