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9.2: Management Styles

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  • Learning Objectives

    1. Define the various types of management styles.
    2. Explain how we can determine which style to use in a variety of situations.

    Management style ties in very closely with communication style. There isn’t necessarily one management style that is better than another; they are simply different and might be used in a variety of situations. HR managers can provide training on each of these areas since management style impacts the ability and motivation of employees to do their jobs. This is addressed in Chapter 7 “Retention and Motivation”.

    Fortune 500 Focus

    One of the most famous Fortune 500 management styles is the GE Way, which has been discussed in numerous books and articles. In fact, GE has traditionally been the recruiting ground for other companies’ CEO searches. When Jack Welch, the famous GE CEO known for several books on his management style, including Winning, retired and was replaced, it took less than a week for the two runners-up for his job to be offered jobs at other Fortune 500 companies. Home Depot recruited Robert Nardellia and 3M recruited W. James McNearney (Deutsch, 2007). However, the command-and-control management style responsible for the success of GE did not work out well for several former GE executives. Command-and-control style is based on military management. The idea is to get people to do what you tell them to do, and if they don’t, there are major penalties, similar to an autocratic style. Many say that Nardellia was unsuccessful at Home Depot because of this ingrained management style learned at GE (Deutsch, 2007). For example, Nardellia insisted that shelves be stocked during off hours, and he instituted formal inventory control. Unfortunately, he didn’t understand most employees were not looking to rise within the organization, so the extra work didn’t provide any upside for the individuals, causing high turnover. An autocratic style may work well in some organizations, well enough for numerous books to be written, but management style isn’t always transferable to other organizations, as Nardellia found out at Home Depot.

    Management styles are one of the most challenging topics we can deal with in a work setting. Everyone is different; everyone has a preference for which style motivates them the best in a variety of situations. Oftentimes managers make the mistake of using the same style for everyone, regardless of ability or motivation. In this section, we will discuss some of the main management styles and how to know which one to use in a specific situation.

    Task Style versus People-Centered Style

    When we look at the styles of management, we see that most styles fall into one of two categories, a task-oriented management style or a people-centered style.

    A manager with a task-oriented style will focus on the technical or task aspects of the job. The concern for this manager is that employees know what is expected of them and have the tools needed to do their job.

    A people-oriented style is more concerned with the relationships in the workplace. The manager emphasizes the interpersonal relations, as opposed to the task. The manager is most concerned about the welfare of the employee and tends to be friendly and trusting.

    Understanding these two main differences in management style, we will now look at other possible styles a manager might use.

    Participatory, Directing, or Teamwork Styles

    Utilization of a participatory management style involves both a task-oriented style and a people-centered style. This style emphasizes how the employee’s assigned task fits into the bigger picture. This style will provide support and input where needed. As a result, the focus is on the task but also on the person and the relationships required to get the task done. This style might be used when the employees are experienced and the deadlines reasonable enough to provide the time needed to focus both on the task and the person. If more hands-on management is required1, might be appropriate. Consider a very tight deadline or an emergency situation in which someone needs to be calling the shots. For example, in your doggie treats business, you just received an order for one hundred dog cookies by later this afternoon. You might consider using a directing style to make sure it gets done on time. This style doesn’t focus on the person, but rather focuses on getting the task done; hence it tends to be more of a task-oriented style.

    A manager who uses a teamwork management style believes there is a value (or necessity) in having people work in teams. As a result, this style tends to require a people-centered approach. Relationships are most important, and assuming the individuals work well together, the task will be successfully accomplished. The advantage to this style, given the type of task and situation, is that as a manager you are able to pool resources and abilities from several different people. Use of a team style can also provide big benefits for the company. For example, Google uses a teamwork approach it calls “grouplets.” Google believes that individuals should be able to spend time on something that interests them and is also company related. Engineers at Google spend 20 percent of their time on this endeavor. As a result, grouplets are formed, and the grouplet works on their idea with no specific budget. Some of the best ideas from Google have come through this teamwork process. Gmail, in fact, was developed using a grouplet (Mediratta, 2007).

    Autocratic, Participative, and Free-Reign Styles

    An autocratic style of management involves the task-oriented style. The focus is on getting things done, and relationships are secondary. This type of manager tends to tell people what to do and takes a “my way or the highway” approach. Another description for this type of manager is a taskmaster. This person uses his or her authority and makes all the decisions as to who does what, how it is done, and when it should get done.

    On the other hand, a participative style constantly seeks input from the employees. Setting goals, making plans, and determining objectives are viewed as a group effort, rather than the manager making all the decisions.

    At the other extreme, a free-rein style gives employees total freedom to make decisions on how things will get done. The manager may establish a few objectives, but the employees can decide how those objectives are met. In other words, the leader tends to be removed from the day-to-day activities but is available to help employees deal with any situation that may come up.

    Path Goal Model for Leadership

    The path goal theory says that the role of a leader is to define goals and lay down the path for the employees to meet those goals. Aspects include clarification of the task and scope of the process. Clarification of the employee’s role and clarification around how the success of the task will be measured are key aspects in this model. The leader also is involved in guidance and coaching surrounding the goal and removes obstacles for employees that might affect the completion of the task. The path goal theory says that if employees are satisfied by the leadership style, they will be motivated toward the goals of leadership. Part of the model also stresses that the skills, experience, and environmental contingencies of the job play a role in the success of the leader.


    Figure 9.4 Path Goal Model for Leadership