Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences

Organizational Flexibility in Western and Asian Firms: An Examination of Control and Safeguard Rules in Five Countries

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences

Organizational Flexibility in Western and Asian Firms: An Examination of Control and Safeguard Rules in Five Countries

Article excerpt


This paper examines the influence of family and government ownerships and of labour unions on the adoption of control and safeguard rules in Asian (Hong Kong, Korea, and Malaysia) and Western (Australia and Canada) organizations. Following Ng and Dastmalchian (1998), control rules are those rules applied to employees and their behaviour at work, whereas safeguard rules are designed to address managerial discretion. Using data from 119 organizations, of which 58 are from Asia and the remaining 61 from the West, the results show that, contrary to general expectations, government organizations from both regions are no more rules-oriented than their non-government counterparts. Another unexpected finding is that unionized Asian organizations have fewer safeguard rules, not only in comparison with nonunion Asian firms but also relative to unionized Western organizations. The results also show that Asian family organizations have fewer safeguard rules in comparison with both other Asian firms and other family firms in the West.


Cette etude evalue l'influence que peuvent avoir les syndicate, les societes d'etat et les grandee firmes familiales sur l'adoption de regles de conduite et de precaution dans un nombre de societes en Asie (Hong Hong, Corie du Sud, la Malaisie) et en Occident (au Canada et en Australie). Conformement aux precisions formulees dans Ng and Dastmalchian (1998), nous entendons par regles de conduites celles qui gouvernent le comportement des employee au travail, tandis que par regles de precaution nous disignons celles qui ont pour objet la marge de manoeuvre des gestionnaires. En basant nos donnees sur 119 societes, dont 58 en Asie et 61 au Canada et en Australie, nos resultats demontrent que, contrairement aux attentes generales, les societes d'etat dans ces deux aires geographiques ne sont pas plus lourdement reglementees que leurs homologues nongouvernementaux. Autre surprise: les societes en Asie dont la main d'oeuvre West pas syndiquee ont moins de regles de precaution, non seulement par rapport avec les organismes non-syndiques en Asie, mais aussi en comparaison des societes syndiques au Canada et Australie. Enfin, les resultats demontrent aussi que les grandes firmes familiales en Asie ont moins de regles de precaution que les autres societes d'Asie et que lee firmes familiales au Canada et en Australie.

The term "organizational flexibility" has been the subject of considerable research over the last decade or so, with the earlier studies (Blyton, 1991; MacInnes, 1988) concentrating on defining the various components of flexibility and the later studies (Grenier, Giles, & Belanger, 1997; Shepard, Clifton, & Kruse 1996) on the impact of flexible practices. Implicit in this literature is the notion that organizational flexibility denotes fewer rules and regulations so that managers have more discretion in hiring and laying off the workforce (numerical flexibility and distancing), assigning employees to different tasks (functional flexibility), and paying employees (financial flexibility). This literature has therefore limited itself mainly to those rules restricting managerial freedom. Put differently, with the exception of studies on inter-temporal flexibility, the organizational flexibility literature has paid scant attention to those rules impinging on how employees do their work.

Rules restricting managers' discretion and those limiting employees' discretion are conceptually different. From the employees' perspective, increasing organizational flexibility (that is, reducing rules on managers) weakens job security, pay stability, and protection against arbitrary decisions by management. In contrast, reducing rules inhibiting how employees do their job provides them with greater autonomy and control over their day-to-day activities. In this sense, these rules can be viewed as control rules whereas those rules limiting managerial discretion can be termed as safeguard rules (Ng & Dastmalchian, 1998). …

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