Academic journal article Indian Journal of Industrial Relations

Workers' Participation in Management: A Conduit between Present & Past

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Industrial Relations

Workers' Participation in Management: A Conduit between Present & Past

Article excerpt


"Workers participation in management is not a new concept; it is as old as the institution of owners and workers. Only its importance has increased and has been brought into sharp focus with the industrial revolution and the advent of large enterprises" (Virmani, 1978). In the feudal system before the Industrial Revolution, the units were small and there used to be a joint decision making through consultation between the owner and worker. The owner took a paternalistic approach and interest in the employee.

At times interests of workers and of management clash with each other and effective discussion becomes essential. Groups representing both sides negotiate to derive common ground for finding solutions for the conflict. Such a common ground can also be prepared through cooperation, mutual trust and understanding of issues between the management and workers. This can be possible when both cooperate jointly to manage issues. Such an understanding and a collaborative approach to find a common understanding is called as workers participation in management.

Some Stylized Facts

The roots of modem cry for participation are deep in history. We have come a long way from master- servant relationship to the present stage of participation. Social thinkers like Comte and Omen had advocated the participation of workers in management for achieving social and distributive justice. The most remarkable contribution in this field is done by Karl Marx who advocated complete control of enterprise by workers. It was however a distant dream for the workers to have control over the production and product under capitalism. Later on Webb and Cole propagated that participation of worker in management would be sufficient to meet the needs of social justice and distribution. They believed that if the workers are also given opportunity to participate in the management process, there would be positive gains for the enterprise through higher productivity and efficiency. They want to bridge the divide between the management and workers in order to bring harmony in industrial relations.

F. W. Taylor was the first to champion the recognition of the importance of human beings in managing an organization. Taylor's work on scientific management was the first explicit attempt at using in an organization the knowledge that for increased productivity the employers need to make efforts to satisfy workers needs (Taylor, 1911). The importance of making fuller use of potential of workers through management methods was elaborated in the researches carried out by behavioral scientist like Likert (1961) and McGregor (1960). Their analysis was based on the assumption that the average worker is willing to accept the responsibility and will respond to the opportunity of using his intellectual faculties in larger measure. The introduction of a more participative management style and the improvement of job design are reported in several cases to have given good results in terms of workers attitudes and productivity (ILO, 1976).

In spite of the controversies and conflicts, Workers Participation in Management, is being increasingly adopted both in capitalist and socialist countries particularly in Europe and in the third world as an ideal form of industrial democracy Since the conclusion of World War II more appropriately in the fifties and sixties, various European countries have been experimenting in what may be called participative management. Wertheim (1976) stated that in Europe, there appears as a complement to traditional patterns, an attempt to decentralize influence. Efforts towards worker control are likely to have limited appeal in place such as the United States and Britain where labor perceives industrial relation as already fairly decentralized. Jecchinis (1979) explained the experiences of certain successful West European practice in employee's participation. He pointed out the establishment of complementary intuitional arrangements in the existing system of labor-management relations in Canada for its success which, at the present, is based only on the institution of collective bargaining. …

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