Having originally written this work both in the context of business the perspective of my analysis was primarily also that of business. However, there can be distinguished two types of argument in favour of workplace democracy: arguments based on economic grounds and arguments based on societal grounds. In this rewriting I shall attempt to somewhat change my perspective as to include more of the latter. In any case, these arguments have some overlap, as the economic benefits that economic arguments for workplace democracy are based on tend to stem from the societal benefits.
Workplace democracy and society
In the context of the latter, Pateman and Blumberg have been identified as “the best known contemporary articulators of the values and purposes of workplace democracy” (Skelley, 1989: 177). Pateman (1970) has interpreted the political philosophies of Rousseau, Mill and Cole to contribute to a theory of participatory democracy which is justified through “the human results that accrue from the participatory process” (Pateman, 1970: 43) and “built around the central assertion that individuals and their institutions cannot be considered in isolation from one another” (Pateman, 1970: 42). Pateman asserts that a governmental democracy based on participation must be based on a “participatory society” in which all institutions utilize a participatory decision making process. Without this, citizens would not be educated in the ways of participation, resulting in them having no will to participate in government, failing to develop a sense of political efficacy, lacking a sense of dignity, worth and freedom and they will be less willing to accept societal decisions (Skelley, 1989, Pateman, 1970). Pateman argues that the workplace is “the most important area” in which such education can take place because “most individuals spend a great deal of their lifetime at work and the business of the workplace provides an education in the management of collective affairs that is difficult to parallel elsewhere” (Pateman, 1970: 43) and because participation in democracy in the workplace allows for “considerable control over their lives and environments” (Skelley, 1989: 178).
Blumberg (1968) was discussed to some extent in my previous article concerning alienation and infantilization, in which he identifies alienation at work as the common condition of modern man. Blumberg further contends that participation in decision making increases the employee’s power in the working environment, which in turn increases the status of the employee both in his own eyes and in the context of the organization which in turn leads to improvements in morale and productivity. Blumberg illustrates this with the model presented in figure 1.
Figure 1: Blumberg’s model of participation in decision making
Workplace democracy and Organizational Development
Skelley (1989) summarizes Pateman and Blumberg’s assumptions and values and compares them with the assumptions and values of the academic field of organizational development, as adapted from French and Bell (1979), finding many similarities and broadly concluding them to be compatible and complementary. The assumptions and values of workplace democracy as per Skelley’s interpretation of Pateman and Blumberg as well as the assumptions and values of organizational development as per Skelley’s adaption of French and Bell are included at the bottom of this article.
Skelley (1989) also notes a number of differences between the field of organizational development (OD) and workplace democracy as advocated by Pateman and Blumberg. Firstly, workplace democracy has broader goals of societal change, whereas OD is a tool for managing change based on the needs of organizations and the psychological well-being of individuals in those organizations. Note how this is not indicative of the views of all advocates for workplace democracy. While some, such as Pateman, Blumberg and Chomsky, advocate workplace democracy with these aims, it is not universal and not part of the definition of workplace democracy given in my first article nor a part or motivation of many of the contemporary firms operating as workplace democracies, which we shall examine in later articles. The discrepancy appears to be caused by whether the analysis performed focuses on business or society as a starting or focal point. However, these two types of advocates for workplace democracy are not mutually exclusive. Secondly, as we shall also discuss more in depth in a later article, Pateman and Blumberg overly rely on the perceived benefits of participation to solve problems, while OD offers a number of more specific tools to solve potential organizational problems.
Skelley then draws from organizational development literature demonstrating that certain organizational and individual factors can affect positively or negatively the inclination towards participation (Golembiewski, 1982; Stewart & Garson, 1983). This results in a draft for a revised model of the participative experience shown in figure 2.
Figure 2: Skelley’s revision of Blumberg’s model of participation in decision making
Human work needs
Katz and Kahn (1966) identify three basic human work needs based on a review of organizational research:
(1) Autonomy or control over one’s own behavior
(2) Completion or achievement of a whole, finished task
(3) Interpersonal contact in the context of work activities
We can see right away how these human work needs tie into the concepts of infantilization and alienation. The first work need stands directly opposed to the infantilization so pervasive in traditional workplaces as discussed in the previous article. Frustration of the second and third human work needs each contribute to different aspects of alienation. Marx (1932) identified four ways in which the worker is alienated:
(1) From the product of his/her labour
(2) From the act of producing
(3) From his/her species-essence
(4) From other workers
Frustration of the second work need contributes primarily to the second type of alienation, whereas frustration of the third work need contributes primarily to the fourth.
Sashkin (1984) finds that these three basic human work needs are supported by a range of psychological and sociological research findings and then goes on to develop the model shown in figure 3 to demonstrate that “participative management has positive effects on performance, productivity, and employee satisfaction because it fulfills the three basic human work needs: increased autonomy, increased meaningfulness, and decreased isolation” (Sashkin, 1984: 11).
Figure 3: Sashkin’s model of participative management
Sashkin identifies four broad areas of participation, which he notes are “neither “pure” nor mutually exclusive” (Sashkin, 1984:5), through which workers can experience autonomy and the completion of meaningful tasks, two of the three work needs, while the act of participation itself necessarily satisfies the third work need of interpersonal contact. This in turn is hypothesized to lead to a number of beneficial feelings which lead to increased innovation and ultimately performance and productivity.
Skelley’s and Sashkin’s models are broadly compatible. Sashkin’s model acknowledges Skelley’s point about “Predisposition to Participate” with the “Individual/Organizational Contingency Factors”, but does again start from the point of participation, similar to Blumberg’s original model. Both Sashkin’s and Skelley’s models recognize how participation leads to empowerment/autonomy which in turn leads to satisfaction or acceptance. Sashkin, based on the three basic human work needs, does not have satisfaction flow directly from autonomy but rather from the separate need of completing meaningful tasks which in turn is fulfilled through participation. Based on this same model of human work needs, this satisfaction and acceptance in turn leads to performance and productivity, whereas Skelley sees both as stemming from empowerment. Sashkin’s model could be improved by implementing Skelley’s point that participation can be stimulated or hindered by other individual and organizational factors to such an extent that these factors, and not participation, should be the starting point of the model. Since participation in turn has an effect on these factors, this turns the first part of the model into a feedback loop, as shown in figure 4.
Figure 4: Revised model of participative management
In the next article, we will begin to examine a number of potential advantages of workplace democracy, followed by examining a number of potential disadvantages. After this, we shall take a look at the history of workplace democracy, discuss the relation between cooperatives and workplace democracy after which we will move on and examine a number of currently operating democratic workplaces.
Assumptions and values of workplace democracy as per Skelley’s interpretation of Pateman and Blumberg
1. Concerning people as individuals:
- Alienation is the common condition of man at work.
- Direct participation can mitigate alienation.
- Participation is learned by participating in social institutions
- People who are not socialized into participation lack dignity, self-worth, a sense of freedom, and an acceptance of societal conditions
- Participation increases worker power which increases worker status, and thereby improves worker morale and productivity.
- Participation leads to satisfaction by gratifying basic human needs.
- Most people want to participate in organizational decision making.
2. Concerning leaders and people in groups:
- The workplace provides the greatest opportunity for participation in collective action and gaining experience in participative decision making.
- Full participation requires ending the distinction between managers and employees.
3. Concerning people in organizations:
- Individuals and institutions cannot be considered separately.
- Democratic government requires a participative society.
- Sharing workplace control extends the workers’ control over his life and environment while increasing involvement, commitment, and satisfaction.
- Autocratic organizations tend to undermine the employee’s psychological maturity, whereas democratic ones strengthen maturity by stimulating its traits.
- Economic equality at work is necessary if full participation is to be achieved.
4. Concerning workplace democracy value and belief systems:
- The participatory process produces human results.
- Management of industries is a form of political system.
- The workplace can be democratized; if it cannot, then the theory of participative democracy must be revised.
- Economic equality is essential to complete attainment of workplace democracy
Assumptions and values of organizational development as per Skelley’s adaption of French and Bell
1. Concerning people as individuals:
- Given support and challenge, most people will live up to their capabilities.
- Most people can and are willing to make greater contributions than their organizations permit.
2. Concerning leaders and people in groups:
- An individual’s satisfaction and competence depend highly on the climate of his work group.
- Individuals seek acceptance and interaction in small reference groups.
- Group members must assist leaders with leadership and maintenance functions.
- Suppressing feelings adversely affects problem solving, personal growth, and job satisfaction.
- Trust, support, and cooperation among group members are usually lower than necessary.
- Transactional solutions can succeed with attitudinal and motivational problems.
3. Concerning people in organizations:
- The dynamics between linked work groups have a powerful effect on the attitudes and behavior of members in these groups.
- Usually win-lose conflict strategies are not conducive to solving problems in the long run.
- Resolving difficulties within organizations requires time and patience.
- Changes in human dynamics require changes in personnel appraisal, compensation, training, staffing, tasks, and communications.
4. Concerning clients:
- Organizational members usually share goal commitments, a desire to collaborate, and win-win approaches to conflict
- Organizational members, especially the powerful, usually value all members’ welfare.
5. Concerning organizational development value and belief systems:
- Because organizations exist to meet members’ needs, a primary concern in creating conditions in which needs can be satisfied.
- Life and work are more meaningful and satisfying when feelings and sentiments can be expressed.
- Change agents should be committed to broadly conceived action and research.
- Humanized work and democratic-participative management maximize human resources and empowers organizational members.
Blumberg, P. (1968). Industrial Democracy. Schocken Books, New York.
French, W.L. & Bell, C.H. (1978). Organizational development: Behavioral Science Interventions for Organizational Improvement, 2nd ed. Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs.
Golembiewski, R. (1982). Toward Democracy within and through Administration: A Primer to Inspire and Guide OD Applications. In Uveges, J. (Eds.) Public Administration: History and Theory in Contemporary Perspective. Marcel Dekker, New York.
Pateman, C. (1970). Participation and Democratic Theory. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Katz, D. & Kahn, R. (1966). The Social Psychology of Organizations. John Wiley & Sons, New York.
Marx, K. (1932). Economic & Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. Retrieved from http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/manuscripts/preface.htm
Sashkin, M. (1984). Participative Management Is an Ethical Imperative. Organizational Dynamics. Spring 12(4) pp. 4-22.
Skelley, B.D. (1989). Workplace Democracy and OD: Philosophical and Practical Connections. Public Administration Quarterly. 13, 2, pp. 176-195.
Stewart, D. & Garson, G. (1983). Organizational Behavior and Public Management. Marcel Dekker, New York.
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