Although we live and thrive in the twenty-first century, classical management is still evident in today’s organizational landscape. Per my experience and observation working in corporate America, most organizations’ public persona(s) promote the following: equal opportunity, work-life balance, flexibility, and diversity. In addition, leadership appears to be interested in new, or innovative ideas from its employees. Yet, after the onboarding process, the private persona of an organization emerges.
I was taught to work hard and get an education in order to have a successful career. Compared to most people in my generation I am considered “successful” because I do not have children, I became a homeowner when I was twenty-eight years old, and I purchased my dream car before I turned thirty; achieving [independently] what others spend a lifetime working towards. Most college graduates believe a college degree will immediately lead to a rewarding career. In our textbook, Organizational Communication Balancing Creativity and Constraint Eisensberg, Goodall, and Tretheway (2010) state the following:
Students embarking on careers often harbor misconceptions about the world of work. Many expect their first “real” job to be more serious and orderly than it turns out to be. Likewise, they expect competent and fair managers. They are often disappointed. Once on the job, they expect a relatively stable career with a company, only to be surprised by the steady stream of mergers, acquisitions, and joint ventures that change their job duties and add to their workload (p. 4-5).
I worked in a financial institution after graduating college for almost five years. In 2008, the organization in which I worked merged with another company, and the job security I envisioned was shattered.
Working in the financial industry, I have always been cognizant of each organizations’ bureaucratic management style. A management style I am reminded of daily in the company and department of which I work. Theorist, Max Weber’s notion of an organization’s structure is still a vital business model in the financial industry today. Weber believed, “…for organizations to function effectively and efficiently, there needed to be an assurance that the workers would respect the “right” of managers to direct their activities as dictated by organizational rules and procedures,” (Modaff, DeWine, & Butler, 2008, p. 37). In my current position no one is free to think outside of the box and employees are required to follow certain rules/procedures found in the company’s intranet site. The intranet site is used to research /answer client questions and is considered to be the “Bible”. Yet, the “Bible” is flawed. It is flawed because it is not updated with the latest information causing the employee to give out procedures no longer in use. Updates to the site takes several months for approval and only a few colleagues are privileged with the correct information. Thus it is the luck of the draw when giving accurate information. Employees are not to go any further than what they are trained to do according to the “Bible”. Yet, in other organizations employees are rewarded for going the extra mile and thinking outside of the box. However organizations operating as a bureaucracy reprimand team members for working outside of the parameters. For instance, I am expected to be ready to service my clients at 8:00 am. The other day, I came to work early, but had to resolve a system issue. At 8:10 am I received a message asking if I was late. Luckily, I received a ticket number from technical support. Without the ticket number as proof, I would’ve been marked as tardy and received an occurrence.
Bureaucracies are generally government agencies—how it functions and operates. As mentioned in the article, Renovating Home Depot, “These days every major decision and goal at Home Depot flows down from Nardelli’s office” (Grow, 2006). In a bureaucracy the main focus is about following the rules as opposed to being independent thinkers. W. Richard Scott (1981), informs us that, “…organizational bureaucracy has the following characteristics:
- A fixed division of labor among participants
- A hierarchy of offices
- A set of general rules that govern performances
- A rigid separation of personal life from work life,” (Eisenberg, et al., 2010, p. 75).
I believe that the classical management approach is a successful management style for the company in which I work because it is apart of a highly regulated industry. It must follow stringent regulations and is required to keep records [by law] to prove to the government at any given time that the organization is following its fiduciary responsibilities. Following fiduciary responsibilities to avoid potential lawsuits yields positive results for the organization. Due to the strict work environment, attrition in the workplace is high for employees and supervisors. As of May 2016 three supervisors, and several people from my training class quit; a negative impact of the classical management approach.
Personally, I am not a fan of corporate America and the classical management approach. However, I do believe there must be some type of structure in order for any business to survive. If organizations focused more on its employees versus numbers, attrition will drop, and employee engagement will rise. What thoughts or comments do you have about classical management? Have you personally experienced classical management? If so, I would like to hear your story.
Eisenberg, E. M., Goodall, H. L., Jr., & Tretheway, A. (2010). Organizational Communication Balancing Creativity and Constraint (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Bedford
Grow, B. (2006, March 6). Renovating Home Depot. Bloomberg. Retrieved from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2006-03-05/renovating-home-depot
Modaff, D.P., DeWine, S., & Butler, J.A. (2008). Organizational communication: foundations, challenges, and misunderstandings (2nd edition). Boston: Pearson.
3 thoughts on “Reflections of Classical Management”
Thank you for your reflection, Monet! I enjoyed reading your thoughts and comments. I too, believe that corporate America is the environment where you will almost always find classical management approaches throughout. I think because corporate America is based off of production and a high paced working environment, it can only thrive through using classical management approaches. I believe classical management works best in corporate America because its “underlying metaphor of organizations modeled after efficient machines” describes corporate America very well (Eisenberg, Goodall, & Trethewey, 2010, p. 65). My experience of working in corporate America is being an intern/family law assistant for a law firm. In order to get work done for the attorneys we had to do it in a certain way and it should only take a certain amount of time. Not completing the job in a timely manner or the way management wanted it, could cost you your job! To me, this explained the high turnover rates in law firms. Attorneys were consistently losing assistants and paralegals and gaining new ones. There is so much work that goes into making a law firm successful. I truly believe that management in the law firm environment view certain “employees who succeeded were deemed to be morally strong; those who failed were deemed to be unworthy of success” (Eisenberg, Goodall, & Trethewey, 2010, p. 70). I do believe that people need to experience working under classical management. Even though it might not be an ideal work environment for some people, it helps teach structure, discipline and great work ethic. All of which are needed in order to be a successful and productive employee in any work environment.
Eisenberg, E. M., Goodall, H.L., Jr., & Trethewey, A. (2010). Organizational communication balancing creativity and constraint (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Bedford
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Thank you for sharing your views on and experiences with classical management styles. It sounds like you and I have had parallel career paths in that I too have been in the financial services industry since shortly after graduation. While formerly employed with a financial organization, the classical management model was apparent and I experienced many of the situations that you described. You are absolutely correct in that often the appealing elevator speech that you are given during the recruitment process is in complete contradiction to what you experience once you are in the door. I do not think this inconsistency is purposeful, but rather due to the sheer size of many organizations.
Take Bank of America for example, where there are thousands and thousands of employees across the country and world. Although the corporate mantra may promote diversity, growth and creativity, the sub-teams under the corporate umbrella have their own unique culture and rules and executive oversight is limited. This means that it is possible for two people to work at the same company, at the same level and have completely different experiences because they are on different teams. This is definitely a frustrating phenomenon and I think very large corporations like most of the financial providers should do a better job at aligning all teams under the corporate mission and goals.
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As I prepared to write my reflection on classic management, I had a brief discussion with my husband. He also works in the finance industry and shared many of the same views that you reflected in your post. Another “industry” that follows the classic management model is education. You’re right, structure is essential for survival. We are all simply creatures of habit that thrive on routine.
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