Workers participation in Management



A  process by which subordinate employees, either individually or collectively, become involved in one or more aspects of organizational decision making within the enterprises in which they work.

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Workers’ participation in management is an essential ingredient of Industrial democracy. The concept of workers’ participation in management is based on Human Relations approach to Management which brought about a new set of values to labour and management. Traditionally the concept of Workers’ Participation in Management (WPM) refers to participation of non-managerial employees in the decision-making process of the organization. Workers’ participation is also known as ‘labour participation’ or ‘employee participation’ in management. In Germany it is known as co-determination while in Yugoslavia it is known as self-management. The International Labour Organization has been encouraging member nations to promote the scheme of Workers’ Participation in Management.

Workers’ participation in management implies mental and emotional involvement of workers in the management of Enterprise. It is considered as a mechanism where workers have a say in the decision-
The philosophy underlying workers’ participation stresses:
  1. democratic participation in decision-making;
  2. maximum employer-employee collaboration;
  3. minimum state intervention;
  4. realisation of a greater measure of social justice;
  5. greater industrial efficiency; and
  6. higher level of organisational health and effectiveness.
It has been varyingly understood and practised as a system of joint consultation in industry; as a form of labour management cooperation; as a recognition of the principle of co-partnership, and as an instrument of industrial democracy. Consequently, participation has assumed different forms, varying from mere voluntary sharing of information by management with the workers to formal participation by the latter in actual decision-making process of management.


Definitions:

The concept of WPM is a broad and complex one. Depending on the socio-political environment and cultural conditions, the scope and contents of participation change.

International Institute of Labour Studies:
WPM is the participation resulting from the practices which increase the scope for employees’ share of influence in decision-making at different tiers of organizational hierarchy with concomitant (related) assumption of responsibility.

ILO:
Workers’ participation, may broadly be taken to cover all terms of association of workers and their representatives with the decision-making process, ranging from exchange of information, consultations, decisions and negotiations, to more institutionalized forms such as the presence of workers’ member on management or supervisory boards or even management by workers themselves (as practiced in Yugoslavia).
The main implications of workers’ participation in management as summarized by ILO:
  • Workers have ideas which can be useful;
  • Workers may work more intelligently if they are informed about the reasons for and then intention of decisions that are taken in a participative atmosphere
  • According to Keith Davis, Participation refers to the mental and emotional involvement of a person in a group situation which encourages him to contribute to group goals and share the responsibility of achievement.
  • According to Walpole, Participation in Management gives the worker a sense of importance, pride and accomplishment; it gives him the freedom of opportunity for self-expression; a feeling of belongingness with the place of work and a sense of workmanship and creativity.
  • Clegg says, “It implies a situation where workers representatives are, to some extent, involved in the process of management decision making, but where the ultimate power is in the hands of the management”.
  • According to Dr. Davis, “it is a mental and emotional involvement of a person in a group situation which encourages him to contribute to goals and share responsibilities in them”.

Objectives of Workers Participation in Management

The objectives of workers’ participation in management are as follows:
  • To raise level of motivation of workers by closer involvement.
  • To provide opportunity for expression and to provide a sense of importance to workers.
  • To develop ties of understanding leading to better effort and harmony.
  • To act on a device to counter-balance powers of managers.
  • To act on a panacea for solving industrial relation problems.
Specific of Purpose of Workers' Participation

1. It helps in managing resistance to change which is inevitable. For the growth and development of industry, changes have to be welcomed, otherwise the organization will stagnate and be left behind. If the need for change is jointly felt by all partners of production its acceptance can be high. Workers' participation in change strategy can facilitate acceptable solutions with a view to secure effective and smooth implementations of decisions.

2. Workers' participation can encourage communication at all levels. Since both partners of production are involved in the decision-making there will be fewer changes of distortion and/ or failure in communicating the decision.

3. Joint decision- making ensures the there will be minimum industrial conflict an economic growth can be free form distracting strife.

4. Workers' participation at the plant level can be seen as the first step to establishing democratic values in society at large.


Elements of Participation

The term “participation” has different meanings for different purposes in different situations. McGregor is of the view that participation is one of the most misunderstood idea that has emerged from the field of human relations. Keith Davis has defined the term “participation” as the mental and emotional involvement of a person in a group situation which encourages him to contribute to group goals and share responsibilities in them. This definition envisages three important elements in participation. Firstly, it means mental and emotional involvement rather than mere physical activity; secondly, participation must motivate a person to contribute to a specific situation to invest his own resources, such as initiative, knowledge, creativity and ingenuity in the objectives of the organisation; and thirdly, it encourages people to share responsibility for a decision or activity. Sharing of responsibility commits people to ensure the success of the decision or activity.


Forms of Participation

Different forms of participation are discussed below:

Collective Bargaining: Collective bargaining results in collective agreements which lay down certain rules and conditions of service in an establishment. Such agreements are normally binding on the parties. Theoretically, collective bargaining is based on the principle of balance of power, but, in actual practice, each party tries to outbid the other and get maximum advantage by using, if necessary, threats and counterthreats like; strikes, lockouts and other direct actions. Joint consultation, on the other hand, is a particular technique which is intended to achieve a greater degree of harmony and cooperation by emphasising matters of common interest. Workers prefer to use the instrument of collective bargaining rather than ask for a share in management. Workers’ participation in the U.S.A has been ensured almost exclusively by means of collective agreements and their application and interpretation rather than by way of labour representation in management.

Works Councils: These are exclusive bodies of employees, assigned with different functions in the management of an enterprise. In West Germany, the works councils have various decision-making functions. In some countries, their role is limited only to  receiving information about the enterprise. In Yugoslavia, these councils have wider decision-making powers in an enterprise like; appointment, promotion, salary fixation and also major investment decisions.

Joint Management Councils and Committees: Mainly these bodies are consultative and advisory, with decision-making being left to the top management. This system of participation is prevalent in many countries, including Britain and India. As they are consultative and advisory, neither the managements nor the workers take them seriously.

Board Representation: The role of a worker representative in the board of directors is essentially one of negotiating the worker’s interest with the other members of the board. At times, this may result in tension and friction inside the board room. The effectiveness of workers’ representative at the board depend upon his ability to participate in decision-making, his knowledge of the company affairs, his educational background, his level of understanding and also on the number of worker representatives in the Board.

Workers Ownership of Enterprise: Social self-management in Yugoslavia is an example of complete control of management by workers through an elected board and workers council. Even in such a system, there exist two distinct managerial and operative functions with different sets of persons to perform them. Though workers have the option to influence all the decisions taken at the top level, in actual practice, the board and the top management team assume a fairly independent role in taking major policy decisions for the enterprises, especially in economic matters.


Levels of Participation

Workers’ participation is possible at all levels of management; the only difference is that of degree and nature of application. For instance, it may be vigorous at lower level and faint at top level. Broadly speaking there is following five levels of participation:

1. Information participation: It ensures that employees are able to receive information and express their views pertaining to the matters of general economic importance.

2. Consultative participation: Here works are consulted on the matters of employee welfare such as work, safety and health. However, final decision always rests at the option of management and employees’ views are only of advisory nature.

3. Associative participation: It is extension of consultative participation as management here is under moral obligation to accept and implement the unanimous decisions of employees.

4. Administrative participation: It ensure greater share of works in discharge of managerial functions. Here, decision already taken by the management come to employees, preferably with alternatives for administration and employees have to select the best from those for implementation.

5. Decisive participation: Highest level of participation where decisions are jointly taken on the matters relation to production, welfare etc. is called decisive participation.

Pre-requisites for Effetive Participation

The pre-requisites for the success of any scheme of participative management are the following:

  1.  Firstly, there should be a strong, democratic and representative unionism for the success of participative management.
  2. Secondly, there should be mutually-agreed and clearly-formulated objectives for participation to succeed.
  3. Thirdly, there should be a feeling of participation at all levels.
  4. Fourthly, there should be effective consultation of the workers by the management.
  5. Fifthly, both the management and the workers must have full faith in the soundness of the philosophy underlying the concept of labour participation.
  6. Sixthly, till the participative structure is fully accepted by the parties, legislative support is necessary to ensure that rights of each other are recognised and protected.
  7. Seventhly, education and training make a significant contribution to the purposeful working of participative management.
  8. Lastly, forums of participation, areas of participation and guidelines for implementation of decisions should be specific and there should be prompt follow-up action and feedback.