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How does the rationalisation of work affect the motivation of employees?
1. Rationalisation and Bureaucracy
According to Max Weber ‘s theoretical framework of rationalisation, the concept opines rationality and logical reasoning are the main motivators for behaviour seen within modern society over that of tradition, culture, morality, values and emotions (Weber, 1978). Weber examined historical data and found people and societies were becoming more rational. This is defined as calculability through methodical behaviour and the ability to reflect and improve practices (Weber, 1997).
Weber argued that one of the most prominent influences of rationalisation is the rise in bureaucratisation, which is described as a highly organised and hierarchical structure organisations. The significance of bureaucracy increases the more developed the society or larger the organisation, as more order and control becomes imperative for productivity. Weber also identified rationalisation as the fundamental problem of modern society. During the capitalisation (post industrialisation) period, bureaucratisation and rationalisation emerged as the most prevalent of organisational and behavioural theories. Weber suggests western capitalist societies and economies require hierarchical structure and order provided by bureaucracy in order to be productive and meet demands efficiently. Key aspects of bureaucratisation is concerned with administrative and financial effectiveness. Therefore, rationalisation causes the shift from traditional social values and motivators to efficiency, calculative rationality, accountability and the ability to reflect. However, people tend to ignore the reflective dimension and focuses on prior motivators. This is leading to individuals being trapped in the “iron cage”, a term coined by Weber that seeks to identify the irrationality caused by the formal rationality, as people get dominated by the societal organisations they created. This is highlighted with the Nazi’s, drive for efficiency and calculative rationality that they become similar to machines, which lacks the ability to reflect (Ref). Weber deemed this could lead to highly bureaucratised, bleak world, lacking all humanity.
Weber’s theory of bureaucracy was derived from Taylorism, created by American mechanical engineer, Fredrick Winslow Taylor. Taylorism is based upon the principles of scientific management and efficient working practices in accordance with the Taylor system. Both scientific management and…
Motivation is fundamental to behaviour within individuals (Guay et al., 2010). It is an individual’s willingness or unwillingness to exert effort (Gredler, Broussard and Garrison 2004), to accomplish a goal that directly or indirectly fulfils their personal value, need or desire (Racko 2017 x ).
There are many theories of motivation that explore the various types and dimensions of motivation and how it is personal to various individuals or groups. Two of the most popular theories are identified in this section and evaluated on how they lead to one of the most fundamental difference in motivation.
Maslow’s Theory of Need
Maslow’s Theory of Need is arranged into five key needs in a hierarchical structure relative to their importance. The five needs can be further grouped into extrinsic and intrinsic motivated needs (Maslow, 1943). (Guzzo, 1979).
McGregor Theory X and Y
McGregor (1960) proposed two contrasting theories of how organisations deal with employee behaviour at the workplace: theory X and theory Y.
Theory X assumes employees are inherently lazy and are only driven to achieve their own selfish needs (McCaffer et al., 2005), thus will not exert themselves to contribute in any significant way towards the organisational philosophy (Bloisi et al., 2003). Management here is tasked with exerting control and power, through rewards and punishments (extrinsic), in order to achieve organisational goals.
Theory Y on the other hand, assumes employees to be motivated in order to achieve personal growth (intrinsic) and therefore management is tasked with providing a nurturing work environment where these employees can grow. Management should offer employees responsibilities and ensure goals of employees are cohesive to that of the firm (Bloisi et al., 2003).
Limitations of Theories
Maslow’s and McGregor’s theories assume motivator for employee rationale is the satisfaction through achievement of need, however, in reality, employees will never be satisfied and will always have needs (Vroom and Deci, 1970). Theory X implies management should strictly try to control employee behaviour, while theory Y expects employees to be capable of self-direction, however human rationale is much more complex and cannot be oversimplified to either one end of the spectrum (Armstrong, 2001) (Vroom and Deci, 1970). Both Maslow and McGregor show a clear difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivators.
Extrinsic and Intrinsic
Generally, these are two types of motivational theories that are prevalent in management (Deci, 1995). People who are motivated extrinsically see work as a means to an end, and are motivated and controlled by tangible, external rewards. On the other hand, people who are intrinsically motivated approach work as an end in itself and thus seek out work which adds meaning and value to their lives and is less likely to be motivated by externalities (Armstrong, 2006). It is generally accepted that in reality employees have both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, however, it is safe to assume employees tend to align more towards one end of this spectrum over the other, and as such can be classified extrinsically motivated or intrinsically motivated for simplicity.
We will look at extrinsic motivation, which is underpinned by hedonism, power and achievement values. We will explore how managers can control…
Impact of Bureaucratic Rationalisation on Motivation
In this section we will analyse and evaluate impact of bureaucratic management on the motivation of employees.
The adoption of bureaucratic rationalisation management in organisations, which utilises clearly defined tasks and assigns them to the right employees, can lead to the principle known as Division of Labour (Durkheim, 1893). Division of labour promotes specialisation among employees, who become highly efficient and knowledgeable at their respective tasks and thus increasing their value added to the organisation (Smith, Campbell and Skinner, 2015 x ). Division of labour is a concept mainly applied in the manufacturing sector, where the increase in productivity and efficiency are vital in supplying the current global demand for consumer goods (IPPOLITO, 1977 x ). However, Durkheim was concerned with the adverse effects division of labour may have on employee motivation. Division of labour can create silo-mentality among employees as the need or opportunity for social interaction is reduced, moving away from a homogeneous experience and introducing employees to a heterogeneous environment (Racko, 2017 x ). This inevitably reduces motivation and changes workplace behaviour and performance.
As an example, McDonald’s, a bureaucratised chain of fast food restaurants utilises specialisation through the division of labour to achieve four key features of operations: efficiency, calculability, predictability and control of employees (Ritzer, 2004). Ritzer explores “McDonaldisation” a concept that sees commonalities with principles from Taylor’s scientific management and Ford’s moving assembly line, however with much more scalability to various sectors who pursue rationalisation of work in accordance to Weber (Ritzer, 2002); unlike Fordism which is generally limited to manufacturing. An intensive study conducted on Mcdonald’s bureaucratic structure and its effects on employee motivation by Robin Leidner in the late-90’s partly supports Durkheim and Weber’s concerns of alienation in a bureaucratised organisational structure with the division of labour. Food preparation is highly standardised and lean manufacturing principles are implemented (minimising waste and maximising value added), where each employee works in isolation on their assigned station with very little peer interaction, working repeatedly towards orders that appear on a screen. Even though there is efficiency and greater productivity in the process, it can be argued employees feel alienated and undervalued. This is further reinforced by the fact that standardisation of the work reduces the skill required to conduct tasks and hence you have employees at McDonald’s whose skills are suppressed rather than cultivated, leading to a reduction in overall motivation (Marx, 1969 x ).
The idea standardisation can create silo-mentality was proposed by Marx in his Theory of Alienation (Marx, 1969). Marxist criticise Henry Ford’s model of standardisation and the moving assembly line. Even though it creates greater productivity as mentioned before, employees lose their sense of purpose as they are reduced to simple machines that are not required to think; leading to a loss of motivation or willingness to exert themselves past what is asked of them.
Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) currently implements a programme called ‘Lean Manufacturing’, which focuses on minimising waste and increasing value-added tasks. The programme is aimed at management level employees at JLR. Having completed this course myself, I can validate the course does teach how to improve overall productivity and reduce wasteful activities through their continuous improvement process called Kaizen. However, employees on the lower levels of the bureaucratic hierarchy structure, such operators can feel a reduction in satisfaction and general motivation from losing autonomy and increased stress from having to adopt new lean practices. It is important to identify the benefits of rationalisation and bureaucratic practices, however, it is even more important to identify the negative impacts to employee motivation from these practices. Having identified this, JLR mitigates it by firstly empowering all employees to be a part of the lean practice, this means managers create an environment where operators can give their input and the direct benefit is seen in real time (this is arguable). Furthermore, and most importantly the managers need to be capable of motivating their staff and allowing them to see the bigger picture, no matter how small a role that employee plays (discussed further in the next section).
Employee seeing real-time changes to their input is arguable, especially in a large bureaucratised organisation with several levels of hierarchy. The change might take a long time to reach the top from the bottom, and may even get lost in the process. Sometimes this leads employees to lose faith in the idea their opinions matter in the first place (Robbins 2010 ? ).
The hierarchy can be a major barrier to organisational and behaviour change within large bureaucratised structures, and in effect could be de-motivational for employees. However, on the other hand, some extrinsically motivated employees might look fondly at hierarchy and order, for this brings security and reduced liability. For example, the JLR operators can work competitively with the focus being about producing the most units, without having to solve complex problems that carry a high risk, since every part of the task undertaken has been standardised and ensured safe by management. You see this on the factory floor a lot, as extrinsically motivated employees care about status and being able to produce the most units among your peers tends to receive praise from managers, as well increased incentive pay. Manager feedback is a source of non-financial extrinsic reward that motivates extrinsically driven employees.
Big Data and BIM from the Construction Indutsry
(Robbins, 2010)?. Armstrong (1998)??
Earlier in this essay, we looked at how standardisation and repetitive tasks can increase organisational productivity but can also have adverse effects on the motivation of employees. Exploring this further, we will look at how data logging can be seen by employees as repetitive. Why bureaucratised organisations do it? Finally, how it affects employee motivation?
Bureaucratised organisations record data mainly for legal reasons and accountability, they take on a huge amount of liability for the products they produce or the services they offer. With many individuals working on the completion of a project within large bureaucratised firms, it becomes necessary to log data to ensure liability is shared fairly to the respective individual who is responsible. In many industries such as construction or manufacturing, it is also a legal requirement imposed by governing bodies. This data is tedious to record and as employees don’t see the benefit in doing so, they will generally feel unmotivated in doing this job.
The concept of big data is relatively recent. Big data is about analysing this large amount of data computationally, to learn more from our past experience and, to better improve ‘control’ human behaviour and interactions. If employees can see the benefit from the data they are logging they are much more likely to be motivated to do so.
An example of a practical application would be in the construction industry that has for decades been constructing a building and for legal reasons logging large amounts of data. However, this data was never really used, and as a new building is constructed people make the same mistakes as that was done in the past, and no learning occurs. But that has changed with the adoption of BIM (Building Information Modeling) based on concepts of big data, it is about collecting data, analysing it so it becomes information (data with a value attached). Following which, for the creation of more sustainable and intelligent buildings, employees can use this information. Employees show an increase in motivation as their job has value that they can validate (Nelson, 2016) XXX .
Managers and Rationalisation
Employees guided by calculative rationality have a higher tenancy to be motivated by pay (Miller, 1996; Ferraro, Pfeffer and Sutton, 2005; Kasser et al., 2007; Wang et al., 2011; Racko, 2015, 2017a, 2017b). Calculative rationality underpins both bureaucratisation and economic rationality. Rationale employees who calculate the most effective means to an end, value calculative rationality. By generalisation, we will explore in this section why managers are likely to value rationality.
Research suggests graduates from business, economics and other social science programmes internalises calculative rationality (Racko, 2017a). This is because they are taught from neoclassical economics to assume individuals maximise self-interest. Management typically comprises of these graduates who have internalised rational behaviour and exert this ideology in the workplace. Now large bureaucratic organisations in accordance with Weber also adhere to this ideology and involve several levels of management. This means you have a high degree of reinforcement within the organisation (Racko, 2017).
Managers are more extrinsically motivated than employees at lower levels of the hierarchical structure, especially in large bureaucratised organisations. This is because managers inherently due to their job responsibilities are concerned with power and control. Economical rationality is about controlling the resources, and as managers see employees as a human resource they must exert control over them in order to maximise productivity. This involves enforcing rules, disciplining and firing when necessary.
Control is an externality by default and becomes essential in maximising productivity and profits for the organisation. Bureaucratised organisations incentivise managers for productivity and managers being extrinsically driven employees they are motivated to exert control over resources in order to achieve this external reward.
Dwelling deeper, it can be seen the environment past the organisation may become a factor in moulding extrinsically driven managers. In countries with more bureaucratised governance structures, individuals tend to be more extrinsically motivated due to the higher formalisation of governance. Managers are likely to work for large multinational corporations that have branches around the world. As such the likelihood a manager is placed in a country with a bureaucratised and formalised governance structure is high. The employees hired in such countries would have a greater affiliation to be guided by rules and calculative rationality. The employees working living in such an environment internalise these values, but so does the managers above them in order to gain control, power and respect. This becomes more likely in social environments with high-income inequality due to social comparison and other factors.
Managers and Motivation
It is important for managers to understand extrinsic and intrinsic motivations in order to assign the employees to tasks best suited to nurture their motivation to ensure productivity and efficiency.
Extrinsically motivated employees may only maximise effort if they are rewarded financially through a base pay, incentivised pay and benefits and/or non-financial rewards through performance feedback, which fuels their extrinsic motivation (Houldsworth in Rees, 2004). As a manager, it is important to control and incentivise these employees with external rewards in order to ensure the employees fully exert effort to work and to ensure their motivation is nurtured. In an ideal world, extrinsic motivation underpins economically rational action, where employees select the most effective means to an end. This means maximising profit with minimal amount resource used.
The maximisation of satisfaction or hedonism is one of the key forms of extrinsic rewards that can be used to motivate individuals. In economic theory, the total satisfaction received from consumption is called “Utility”, which was introduced by Daniel Bernoulli in 1738.
Another would be the implication of power. An extrinsically motivated manager internalises rational action, and aims to use the most effective means to an end, must control the resources. The resource here is the employees and the manager must exert power over the employee to have control of employee behaviour. Finally, it is important to understand extrinsically motivated people are driven by status. Managers should be able to differentiate rewarding employees based on whether the task undertaken was an individual task or a group task. Research shows incentivising an individual working within a team is likely to create the free-rider problem, where individuals input very little or no effort and aim to free-ride on the work of other employees within the team. Here group incentives are found to be more effective and motivating as this leads to peer motivation.
A basic assumption made is base and incentive pay allows for greater operational control within organisations. This is further amplified in large bureaucratic organisations in comparisons to SMEs (Small-Medium Enterprises).
Meta-analyses (Rynes et al 2004 x ) indicate incentive pay increases employee productivity by 30-43% in comparison to 9-17% from motivational strategies empowering employees with higher autonomy.
Furthermore incentive pay is better for routine tasks (Holmstrom and Milgrom, 1991) rather than creative tasks.
It is important however to note the demand for employees performing creative tasks has shown a strong increase in recent years (Autor et al., 2003; Florida, 2002). Bureaucratized organizations and managers need to identify motivational strategies for encouraging creativity (Neckermann, Warnke and Bradler, 2014)
However, uncertainty about pay could lead to reduction in motivation and performance (Hennig-Schmitt et al., 2010 x 1 ).
Extrinsically motivated employees are more dependent on externalities and won’t be working unless incentivized. They are less likely to deviate from the external environment they are placed in; they will find it hard to go against the norm (Racko, 2017). Intrinsically motivated people are not as affected by the externalities and as such an external reward such as incentive pay would hold little value (Deci et al., 1999). They find it easier to be creative, as creativeness requires deviation from the external environment, which they are capable of given their lesser affiliation to externalities. Furthermore, several studies highlight how intrinsic people who value autonomy feel less in control when offered external rewards and thus a decline in intrinsic motivation (Amabile, 1988, 1996; Joussemet and Koestner, 1999; Deci et al., 1999)