The concept Worker’s Participation in Management (WPM) is a broad and complex one. Depending on the sociopolitical environment and cultural conditions, the scope and contents of participation may change. In any case, a common thread running through all interpretations is the idea of associating employees in managerial decision-making. The view expressed by the International Institute for Labor Studies (Bulletin 5) is worth quoting here.
Worker’s Participation in Management has been defined as, “the participation resulting from practices which increase the scope for employee’s share of influence in decision-making at different tiers of organizational hierarchy with concomitant assumption of responsibility”.
The concept of worker’s participation in management crystallizes the concept of Industrial Democracy, and indicates an attempt on the part of an employer to build his employees into a team which work towards the realization of a common objective.
The participation of each worker in management affairs should strictly confine to the field for which he is competent and concerned with. This must have been the reason workers participation in management is defined as the involvement of workers only in such areas of activities of the enterprises where they can make some positive contribution for the betterment of the enterprise. Such participation should facilitate effective utilization of available resources and effective execution of long-term expansion plans, including diversification. It should facilitate the day-to-day functioning as well as inventions and innovations.
Worker’s participation in management has assumed great importance these days because of the following advantages:
- Reduced industrial unrest: Industrial conflict is a struggle between two organized groups which are motivated by the belief that their respective interests are endangered by the self-interested behavior of the other. Participation cuts at this very root of industrial conflict. It tries to remove or at least minimize the diverse and conflicting interests between the parties, by substituting in their place, cooperation, homogeneity of objects and common interests. Both sides are integrated and decisions arrived at becomes “ours” rather than “theirs”.
- Reduced misunderstanding: Participation helps dispelling employee’s misunderstanding about the outlook of management in industry.
- Increased organization balance: If worker are invited to share in organizational problems, and to work towards common solutions, a greater degree of organizational balance occurs because of decreased misunderstanding of individual and group conflict. Participation leads to increased understanding throughout the organization. People learn that others have problems beside themselves.
- Higher productivity: Increased productivity is possible only when there exists fullest co-operation between labor and management. It has been empirically tested that poor ‘labor management relations’ do not encourage the workers to contribute anything more than the minimum desirable to retain their jobs. Thus, participation of workers in management is essential to increase industrial productivity.
- Increased Commitment: An important prerequisite for forging greater commitment is the individual’s involvement and opportunity to express himself. Participation allows individuals to express themselves at the work place rather than being absorbed into a complex system of rules, procedures and systems. If an individual knows that he can express his opinion and ideas, a personal sense of gratification and involvement takes place within him. This, in turn, fortifies his identification with the organization resulting in greater commitment.
- Industrial democracy: Participation helps to usher in an era of democracy in industry. It is based on the principle of recognition of the human factor. It tends to reduce class conflict between capital and labor. It also serves as a support to political democracy.
- Development of Individuals: Participation enhances individual creativity and response to job challenges. Individuals are given an opportunity to direct their initiative and creativity towards the objectives of the group. This facilitates individual growth.
- Less resistance to change: when changes are arbitrarily introduced from above without explanation, subordinates tend to feel insecure and take counter measures aimed at sabotage of innovations. But when they have participated in the decision making process, they have had an opportunity to be heard. They know what to expect and why. Their resistance to change is reduced.