From a purely financial perspective, the relationship between management and employees is the purchase by management of goods and services (that have been requested by customers) from the employees.
In traditional manufacturing companies very little veneer covers the commerciality of this arrangement. The financial interests of the employees may be represented by trade unions who negotiate on their behalf with management, sometimes with equanimity and sometimes forcibly.
However, since modern corporations seek to create their own internal society in which money is not seen to be the driving factor, the relationship between management and employees cannot be allowed to remain soul-less and impersonal.
Instead, a more nuanced understanding is fostered in which it is understood that management are “the people who have to get things done” and employees are “the people who need to feel at home while doing their tasks”. The needs of management are functionally driven yet management remain “human”, and the needs of the employees are socially driven yet “they have to get the job done”.
Subsequently, management demand that employees “get the job done” but in return accommodate the employees personal and social needs. Employees, on the other hand, demand that management accommodate their personal and social needs but in return they “will get the job done”.
The greater the mutual understanding that develops between management and employees, the more they will work in harmony. How can companies strive to achieve this happy state of affairs?
From the perspective of the management – employee relationship, both management and employees are inherently in a state of conflict.
- Management wish to be as personable as possible to the employees, however they are constrained from indulging the employees due to the need to demand the output of goods and services from them.
- Employees wish to provide management with the greatest output of goods and services possible, but they are constrained from indulging management due to the need to enjoy their work-life balance.
The more employees enjoy their jobs, the smaller management’s quandary of how to maximise employee output while simultaneously providing for their personal and social needs will be. In other words, when employees perceive that their personal success and enjoyment lies in their work, they will not need management to goad them on to excel in their tasks.
Quid pro quo
If the staff of an Internet Service Provider are wildly interested in networking connectivity and the Internet, it is likely that the ISP will be more successful than if staff feel that they have to put up with the drudgery of yet another day of enabling customers to surf the web.
In the first scenario (ISP staff are wildly enthusiastic about networking), there is very little “distance” between the functional exterior and the personal core of the ISP’s employees.
Because of this, there will be commensurately very little requirement for management to make purely functional demands on the self-motivated ISP staff. Instead, they will enjoy a “warm” relationship with their employees, who will nevertheless”get the job done”.
However, in the second scenario, there is a large gap between the disinterested employees’ personal involvement in their work and the results they have to accomplish.
In this case, management will have to adopt a functional communication style when interacting with employees. The relationship will be “cold” and factual.
Therefore it seems that the success of the informal company is directly proportional to the degree of personal interest that employees have in their own work.
The reason Google used to allow employees 20% of their time to develop their own projects, is not necessarily because this was the most efficient way to invent new products, but because Google knew this was the best way to enthuse employees generally about their work.
Every company in every industry, probably has to seek a different path to allowing employees to personally identify with their work and be excited about the difference they can make every day, however.