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British Journal of Ihidi,strial Medicine, 1975, 32, 93-101

People and work:


contemporary issues

Department of Behaviour in Organisations, University of Lancaster, Furness College, Bailrigg, Lancaster, LAl 4YG.

Shimmin, Sylvia (1975). British Journal of Industrial Medicine, 32, 93-101. People and work: some contemporary issues. In advanced industrial societies social, economic, and technological changes are accompanied by changing values and attitudes to work, symptomatic of what some see as the transition to a post-industrial era. As a result existing job definitions and traditional forms of organization are being challenged and attempts made to restructure work so that it becomes meaningful and rewarding in the fullest sense, to the individual, to the enterprise, and to society. These range from programmes ofjob enlargement and job enrichment, within the framework of existing technologies, to experiments in the design of organizations as a whole in which fewer constraints are accepted as given. They entail and require a multidisciplinary approach as well as awareness of and commitment to the underlying values. The possibilities and benefits of restructuring work in these various ways have been demonstrated sufficiently to encourage interest at governmental level as well as by employers and trade unions. There are, however, no simple prescriptions or principles of universal application. Knowledge is still tentative and partial but there is consensus that the search for new ways of dealing with the organization of work and the allocation of resources is of fundamental importance.

Two years ago the Department of Employment published a report (Wilson, 1973) which in its origin, title, and contents illustrates the theme and context of much contemporary occupational psychology. It was commissioned by the Department as the consequence of a request from the NATO Committee on the Challenges of Modern Society for an enquiry into problems of work motivation and satisfaction, indicating the interest in this topic which exists at both a national and international level. The author, although a psychologist, necessarily drew upon sources from other disciplines as well as his own because the study of behaviour and attitudes of people at work cannot be confined within any one set of academic boundaries. Entitled 'On the Quality of Working Life' it employs a phrase which is gaining in popularity but which presents social scientists with value issues in relation to their professional activities in studying work, in that quality unlike quantity is an evaluative judgement

and cannot be assessed by objective measures. These three aspects-the stimulus from governmental and international bodies in promoting discussions between themselves, employers, trade unions, and research workers; the multidisciplinary approach required to study work in a changing industrial society; and the recognition that, in such an applied field, social scientists cannot be 'value-free'-seem likely to influence research and practice throughout this decade. Reasons for this development and some of the major influences shaping current thinking on the subject are discussed in this article.
Social change The growth of the factory system and the design and organization of work in terms of rationalization, specialization, and subdivision of tasks, epitomized in assembly-line production, was associated with a social ethic attaching value to hard work and to the

and Hakel (1967). its significance for the individual and society. Blood and Hulin (1967). are the emphasis on self. Accompanying these patterns in social behaviour can be explained in terms of the extent to which these are the emergence of new values and changes in the needs are satisfied. of the second. group. the refusal of young and predict behaviour at work in terms of causal people in the developed countries to undertake jobs models. which seek to correlate economic. or. By this he does not large-scale organization tends towards bureaucracy mean totally ignoring the content of jobs but the and specialization of function which is at variance taking of technology as a given. There are signs now that the situation is changing. when the kinds. and on co-ordinated rather Katzell. as a result of which with the increasing value attached to self-determina.Classical industrial psychology sought to explain cipal type of employment. an approach which Hinrichs (1970) claims is which deny them personal satisfaction. context of existing systems of work rather than To some extent these apparently incompatible exploring how satisfaction might be increased through tendencies may be symptomatic of the problem of job design. He 'work' altogether or to engage in jobs which are only maintains that a systems framework is essential to on the fringe of so-called normal activity. aspects of the situation are obscured by the wide. Examples of the main exponents. Accordrather than short-term. innovation. and Parker (1961). a major criticism of studies by local government units. has been and still is that of preparing people for background to present discontents. Child (1974) sees the emphasis on growth in size as community. The guiding principle of most of our social change required of society is as radical as its definiinstitutions. and others contend is a transition from Man and work: some frames of reference an industrial to a post-industrial era. This is the out. one adopted by certain American of the transition. and of the third. on long-term planning horizons attitudes and satisfaction in the workplace. While not disputing the Campbell.outside work are the key to understanding industrial ganizational philosophies. and personality variables with evidence of 'doublethink'. cultural values. The former. the holding of workers' attitudes and job satisfaction. so frequently and maintaining them in jobs arising directly and ascribed solely to inflation. It also accounts for the indirectly from industrialization and technological intense interest being shown in official circles in all advanced societies in examining the nature of work. For occupational psychologists who deal . as Cherns (1973a) argues. to opt out of now almost universally recognized as inadequate. and Hulin (1969). Barrett. it is maintained that the expectfirst. other than those specifically related to an individual's a shorter working week. In his view. Dunnette. and the describe the dynamics of the interactions involved as choice by older people to spend a smaller proportion it permits consideration of organizational variables of their lives at work by means of longer holidays. existence of these changes in our organized society. than separate services. and in These were described by Cherns (1973a) in his ways of designing jobs which will meet the needs and presidential address to Section N of the British expectations of both. to focus very much on the context of work and upon ecological strategies. In the latter approach. In industrialized Europe some ticularly with some British sociologists. as an Organisation for Economic tion of work on which its institutions rest. on participation and behaviour. Association and are indicative of what Bell (1967). are spread employment of workers from less developed 'psychologically universalistic' in suggesting that countries in jobs which increasing numbers of the certain needs are shared by workers of all types and levels and that their response to the work situation indigenous population are not prepared to do. failure to study the work itself. None job.e.changing outlooks and social institutions to those vailed over a long period in which advances in appropriate to a post-industrial era. These intechnology have enhanced the possibilities of variably lag behind technical and economic possispecialization and external control in work of all bilities and. Most sociopsychological approaches have tended involvement in decisions rather than on conformity to a hierarchy of authority. This has pre..94 Sylvia Shimmin whole concept of 'earning a living'. Daniel (1973) distinguishes between two major of these trends is on a sufficiently large scale as yet for general public awareness of the nature and extent approaches. of which relative importance of others which Trist (1970) has Goldthorpe and his colleagues (1968) are the categorized under three headings. They include the decline in manufacturing industry as the prin.ations which the worker brings to his job as a discovery and self-expression rather than on result of his social experiences and relationships achievement and self-control. i. on enlarged rather than small ing to Davis (1971). and earlier exemplified by writers like McGregor (1960). Davis (1971). an Cooperative and Development (1973) report points intense and prolonged crisis is inevitable. although they are the subject of social psychologists and the other associated parsocial comment. is their contradictory values simultaneously.occupational adjustment is considered within the tion and democratic decision-making.

1969. Early studies. This anticipated by some years the use and development of the idea of job enlargement. and Whitsett and Winslow (1967). and Gorlow (1967). 1937). sociopsychological. job enlargement. It has therefore focused their attention on job content and led to deliberate attempts to improve motivation to work through job enrichment programmes (Paul. recognition. including experiments with systematic variations in work activity. stated or implied. comprising distinct yet interrelated technological. According to King (1970). leading to mis- . conditions. and Herzberg. Marks. and Roethlisberger. Wyatt. Some of the arguments about job enlargement and job enrichment are spurious in the opinion of Davis (1971) because of the tendency of some researchers to treat the terms as synonymous. and job enlargement. that is of the satisfaction experienced by individuals with their jobs in terms not only of the task performed but also of the total work situation. as distinct from job enrichment (or vertical job enlargement) in which the addition of tasks or extension of the work requires greater responsibility and self-regulation by those performing the job. Mausner. although its central importance has not been fully appreciated until recently. Job satisfaction. Trist et al. including factors such as pay. were concerned with the relationship between attitudinal measures and particular aspects of the work situation. and Miller and Rice (1967). and job enrichment As Chichester-Clark (1973) has stated. and Ogden. University of Michigan in the 1950s and particularly influenced by those of Walker (1950) on repetitive jobs and assembly line work (Walker and Guest. 1924. 1971). as Rodger and Guest (1969) point out. supervisory style. Zaleznik. Christensen. Here the initial emphasis was on the incidence of boredom in different types of work and how it might be alleviated. and physical environment which. 1959) first led Herzberg to distinguish between intrinsic or 'motivating' factors and extrinsic or 'hygiene' factors in the work situation and to suggest that the two sets of factors contribute differentially to the separate conditions of job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction. (1963). These are not easily differentiated by the layman and are not always used in precisely the same way by profes- sionals. lead to dissatisfaction. and Stock. is met to some extent although the implications for institutional industrial relations have still to be explored in full. 1929) and subse- quently the Industrial Health Research Board (Wyatt. House and Wigdor (1967). These variations do not detract from the basic contention that there is a fundamental difference between what leads to positive satisfaction. Dunnette et al. and Snyderman. and Vamplew. This was not overlooked so much as studied by different people in a somewhat different context. Paul and Robertson. 1968) and with a fierce controversy among psychologists in the United States over his two-factor theory of job satisfaction. For many managers this has face validity because it explains why measures taken to remove grievances and improve conditions fail to evoke a positive response from their workpeople. if not adequate. Associated with. Dunham. has a long history. This approach is based on the concept of a sociotechnical system which regards the enterprise-as-a-whole as a system of social action. as for instance in the investigations of fatigue and boredom induced by repetitive work carried out in this country under the auspices of the Industrial Fatigue Research Board (Vernon. Langdon. and relations with managers and fellow workers. The concept of job satisfaction. for example the degree of acceptance by fellowworkers (van Zelst.People and work: some contemporary issues 95 with problems of fitting the man to the job and the job to the man this insistence on studying the task itself is not new. (1967). namely the achievement. which bring the question of transferring to work groups some of management's traditional authority for the control and co-ordination of work into the current debate on job design and job satisfaction. in publications by Herzberg (1966). Cotgrove. Robertson. 1958) rather than with intrinsic job content. and Stock. and economic components. Job enlargement is generally taken to mean providing greater variety within the compass of an individual's job without requiring the exercise of any greater level of skill or responsibility. 1970. 1951. much of the controversy over the two-factor theory can be attributed to lack of clear exposition by the researchers concerned. The possibilities of choice in work organization within the limits set by technology have been demonstrated in the studies by members of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations such as Rice (1958). An empirical study of the job attitudes of engineers and accountants (Herzberg. job enrichment. and self-fulfilment stemming from the job itself. Wyatt. and deriving from this work are the Norwegian experiments in industrial democracy reported by Emery and Thorsrud (1969) and Thorsrud (1970). the tendency to neglect differences in the power of management and labour and their potential conflicts of interest. In so doing. with which Daniel (1973) charges many social scientists. and the conditions of work such as pay. such as the classic one by Hoppock (1935). 1952). and he identifies five different versions. Fraser. any consideration of the quality of working life includes the area covered by such terms as job satisfaction. Lindsay. associated with studies made at the Institute for Social Research. Both terms have been associated with Herzberg (1966.

in the studies by Turner and Lawrence (1965). For example. Horizontal enlargement. that the absence of a marked or consistent correlation between job satisfaction and performance makes it desirable to treat them as separate outcomes of the person-work role relationship. 1959). Cherns (1973a). often of a multidisciplinary kind. similar experiments are also being made with other types. Jackson (1973). Research and application Experiments and investigations designed to test assertions about the organization of work and its consequences face the problem that these assertions usually embody both empirically testable statements of the effects of certain conditions. variously described as healthy. Guest (1957). On such issues it is inevitable that research workers adopt a valueladen approach in their enquiries as was noted by Warr (1973). Cherns (1973b). using a questionnaire technique. of production systems in Sweden. is subject to the bias of selective recall of certain incidents to the exclusion of others. found clear evidence of the multidimensional nature of job satisfaction and maintain that it is scientifically unjustifiable to try to relate a global measure ofgeneralized job satisfaction to worker efficiency. Although lack of standardized measures makes comparison between studies difficult. when used alone. Wernimont. job rotation whereby individuals move between jobs. 1963) a moral ideal of man. Distefano. As Shimmin (1971). and others have pointed out. restructuring of work are extending. workflow or increased delegation to the job holder.. However. Ewen (1964) argues that this method. Hulin and Blood (1968) give a similar definition. he concludes that job satisfaction must be assumed to be the result of the operation of both situational and personality variables. Some of the most publicized are those in the Swedish car industry although. shares with Marx (Bottomore and Rubel. Fox (1971) notes how the self-actualization school. which can be realized or denied by the normative system which structures the work situation. Davis (1957a. as Chichester-Clark (1973) suggests. Susman (1973) advises caution in interpreting workers' responses to increased discretion in their jobs when assessed against an omnibus measure of job satisfaction as. and that selfinvolvement in work is a positive human value. may be regarded as a special form of job enlargement. aims at more varied job content within the framework of the existing situation and does not entail any fundamental change in the status or responsibility of the individual worker. as Edgren (1974) has shown. and. entailing the research workers' active involvement in planning and implementing change. 1957. 1957b). Handyside and Speak (1964). modifying procedures in response to feedback. and Pym (1973) in a symposium on better working lives. Vertical enlargement or enrichment challenges prevailing concepts about the organization of work and the motivation of workers and seeks to change them. a criticism made also by Brayfield and Crockett (1955) and Fournet. as may be observed in a recent article by Susman (1973) in which enlarged jobs are defined as those which allow workers more discretion and responsibility through redesigned technology. normal. Studies of job satisfaction are seen by Vroom (1964) as of two main kinds: those seeking to identify the determinants ofjob satisfaction and those concerned with the relation between job satisfaction and work performance. the dichotomous nature of job satisfaction propounded by Herzberg and his associates may be an artifact of their method of study. confusion of terminology continues. experiments in the design of jobs and. Likewise. the origins of which are described by Foster (1968) and Klein (1974). Vroom and Maier (1961) also point to the risk of an individual attributing satisfactions to aspects of the job which reflect or enhance his self-esteem and of assigning dissatisfactions to environmental factors rather than to any personal inadequacies. and sharing responsibility for the outcome with members of the organization concerned. on the other hand. Use of the term enlargement to cover both the vertical and horizontal dimension of enhancing job content would not matter were it not that these dimensions often represent different philosophies of man and his work. and Pryer (1966) among others. Work organization experiments of this kind are not only in the job enrichment tradition but are based on other approaches. and Galitz (1962) of the views of Argyris (1957. represented by Maslow (1954) and his followers.96 Sylvia Shimmin interpretation by protagonists such as Kilbridge (1960) and MacKinney. In essence. Similarly. for example. In other words. and Davis and Werling (1960). . In this context.. mature or self-actualizing. 1964). They are characterized by action research. usually at regular intervals but sometimes on a more informal basis within a work group. this asks the respondent to relate incidents connected with a time when he felt either exceptionally good or bad about his job. and non-empirical values that some outcomes or psychological states are intrinsically superior to others. The Herzberg two-factor theory developed from research using a critical incidents approach (Herz-berg et al. Cherns (1973b) points out that the 'open sociotechnical system' approach of the Tavistock Institute and its associates is frankly ideological. this. its two value judgements are that autonomy and interdependence are not only adaptive values in most work situations but are social goods in their own right. Despite the methodological limitations which make it difficult to refute or confirm claims of universal applicability.

too little can be conducive to boredom or fatigue.People and work: some contemporary issues 97 hold the job. causes. and 'scapegoating'. ( f ) The tasks included in the job should include some degree of care. knowledge of results Minimum standards generally (ii) have some scope for setting standards and have to be set by management to determine whether receiving knowledge of results. noise or isolation. degrees of effort. and he can more easily relate his job to that of others. detached observer. or kinds of skill. At best this procedure will help to create work groups that enforce standards of co-operation and mutual help. specialization. skill. the carrying out of one task makes it easier to get on with the next or gives a better end result to the overall task. concentration. recriminations. (b) A meaningful pattern of tasks that gives to each job a semblance of a single overall task The tasks should be such that although involving different levels of attention. At the level of the individual: (a) Optimum variety of tasks within the job Too much variety can be inefficient for training and production as well as frustrating for the worker. and subdivision of tasks. the following principles put forward by Emery and Thorsrud (1969) are recognized as guide-lines for job design: 1. 2. Left to their own devices people will become habituated. (j) Providing for interlocking tasks. (e) Inclusion in the job of some of the auxiliary and preparatory tasks The worker cannot and will not accept responsibility for matters outside his control. methods. and the like. and relationships of jobs in order to satisfy technological and organizational requirements as well as the social and personal requirements of the job-holder. such as physical activity. Although social scientists are by no means unanimous about the nature. Workers are more likely to accept responsibility for higher standards if they have some freedom in setting them and are more likely to learn from the job if there is feedback. (k) Where a number of jobs are linked together by interlocking tasks or job rotation they should as a group: (i) have some semblance of an overall task which (d) Some scope for setting standards of quantity and makes a contribution to the utility of the quality of production and a suitable feedback of product. then the inclusion of such 'boundary tasks' will extend the scope of the worker's responsibility'and make for involvement in the job. However. they are interdependent: that is. Criteria for job design Job design is defined by Davis (1966) as the specification of the contents. but the effects of the stress will tend to be reflected in more mistakes. the procedures followed are not subject to the same checks as other scientific methods nor are the results obtained subject to the same process of validation. and consequences of job satisfaction. job rotation or physical proximity where there is a necessary interdependence of jobs (for technical or psychological reasons). characteristic of the industrial era. An outline of the history of developments in job design has been given by Smyth (1967) in which he points out that the detrimental effects of imposed pacing of work. if these persist for long periods. practitioner-client relationship leads to a very different role for the research worker from the traditional one of an independent. and knowledge of the desirable components of jobs is still tentative. means (i) Providing for interlocking tasks. They can neither effectively set standards nor learn if there is not a quick enough feedback of knowledge of results. -a worker is sufficiently trained. too long a cycle makes it difficult to build up a rhythm of work. Communication with others in a similar plight tends to lessen the strain. job rotation or physical proximity where the individual jobs entail a relatively high degree of stress Stress can arise from apparently simple things. At a minimum this helps to sustain communication and to create mutual understanding between workers whose tasks are interdependent and thus lessens friction. (g) The job should make some perceptible contribution to the utility of the product for the consumer. accidents. Given such a pattern. At the level of the group: (h) Providing for 'interlocking' tasks. the worker can help to find a method of working suitable to his requirements. job rotation or physical proximity where the individual jobs do not make an obvious perceptible contribution to the utility of the end product. skilled or careful to . have been demonstrated experimentally. (c) Optimum length of work cycle Too short a cycle too much finishing and starting. and conversely allows him to stretch himself and his capacities after a period of routine activity. The optimum level would be that which allows the operator to take a rest from a high level of attention or effort in a demanding activity while working at another. In so far as the preceding criteria are met. knowledge or effort that is worthy of respect in the community.

however. using behavioural science knowledge. ana the rate of change itself. He claims that it is the only approach which deals with the aspects of the work situation identified by Herzberg as being critical to the performance and motivation of the employee. Child (1973).98 Sylvia Shimmin (iii) have some control over the 'boundary tasks' (i. although here again it must be noted that different practitioners may use the terms somewhat differently from one another. Hence organization development has been mistakenly thought by some to be solely or largely a matter of sensitivity training. and decision-making. As Taylor (1971) observes. and advancement. knowledge about organizational design is tentative. Central to both organizational design and development are questions on the order and precedence of subsystem change. (m) Provision of channels of promotion to foreman rank which are sanctioned by the workers. regards contingency theory as unduly conservative in many ways because it takes certain constraints for granted and ignores the political and ideological aspects inherent in organizational design and decision-making.. to increase organizational effectiveness and health through planned interventions in organizational processes. and Thorsrud (1972) stresses that there is no simple technique which can be applied in all industrial conditions to bring about these changes. challenges. These criteria were not meant to be final. values.e. or to change both simultaneously. Bennis (1969) states that it is a complex educational strategy intended to change the beliefs. although the contingency theory approach. control. In his opinion. markets. managed from the top. Clark (1972) describes it as a new and emergent activity concerned with the designing of systems of organization including co-ordination. the evidence is not unambiguous. although few technologies are so intractable as to be susceptible of no improvement.. i. These are often described as 'planned organizational change' or organization development. In this the behavioural scientist is an integral member of a multidisciplinary design team seeking to achieve joint optimization of the social and technical systems which comprise the enterprise. so it is not surprising that from the theory and practice of job design has now emerged the idea of organizational design. which specifies that organizations should be designed to meet their particular circumstances. and structure of organizations so that they can better adapt to new technologies. Although Beckhard cites a case of redistribution of tasks as one of many strategies of organization development. we still do not know whether technical change is the best way of achieving organizational change or whether it would be better to make a purposeful change in the social system. Organization development is defined by Beckhard (1969) as planned organization-wide effort. following this by planned changes in organizational technology. He contends that there is probably far more choice in the design of organization than is generally suggested by the literature and that in future there will be mounting pressure for decisions of this kind to be made with reference to a much broader framework of costs and benefits than prevails today. marks an advance on earlier approaches seeking generally applicable principles and techniques for allocating and controlling work. attitudes. tasks of service or voluntary character). Organization design and development The systemic nature of organizations means that changes in one part of the system leads to changes in other parts. Thus job enrichment and job enlargement may be effective in some conditions but inappropriate in others. adaptiveoutlook within the enterprise. or will have more permanent effects. The search for universal prescriptions dies hard. existing technology may limit the extent to which the desired changes may be made in the content of certain jobs. summarized by Lupton (1971) and Child (1972). and. At present. autonomous work groups are appropriate to some production systems but not others. although there is evidence for asserting that planning for social change should whenever possible take place around technological change. This is in contrast with approaches to organizational change in which work design is seen as a function of industrial engineering and behavioural science as a means of assisting individuals and groups to cope with and adapt to changing technology. (1) Provision of channels of communication so that the minimum requirements of the workers can be fed into the design of new jobs at an early stage. Future trends It is difficult to evaluate the current status of these .e. Bennis admits that far more emphasis is put on effective interpersonal relationships than on structural factors. autonomy. Nor is it clear whether one sort of change strategy will work better with some people than others. therefore. the opportunities provided by the job itself for control. Recognition of the possibilities of organizational choice is extending but the problem of accommodating individual preferences and differences within organized frameworks subject to varying operational and environmental constraints is highly complex. He maintains that organization development practitioners or 'change-agents' tend to see their work as introducing meaningful interpersonal relationships into the working environment and rely on a change in organizational 'climate' to produce the desired problem-solving.

A. consultancy. Harmondsworth. Penguin. Mass. and Rubel. M. and within the Department of Employment a research unit on work has been set up to provide advice. 1-22.. Notes on the post-industrial society: I and II. a view which it is impossible to refute or confirm. information.which was re-convened by the Labour government when it first took office in 1974. whether at the level of individual. R. W. (1967). Child. Origins and Prospects. In Man and Organization. C. Blood. Alienation. C. London. (1963). Occupational Psychology. there is a tendency for some to see attempts to improve work systems as restricted to this area. first. eds. environmental characteristics and worker responses. 396-424. (1972). Arising from the deliberations of this steering group a research programme has been initiated. Addison-Wesley. Wiley. and research. Mass. (1973). 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These examples illustrate that alienation. (1957). Cotgrove. On the quality of working life. The University of Aston in Birmingham. As Wilson puts it. the development of open-plan offices. Organization Development: Its Nature. Because most of the well-documented cases to date have come from the latter. Bell. As Schein (1970) puts it. growth in the size of organizations and of the scale of their operations has increased the number of routinized administrative jobs in both the public and private sector. has made the work of many clerical workers more like that of the shopfloor. 11. Brayfield. London. group or organizational activities. W. environment and performance-the role of strategic choice. (1973b). characterized by changing values and attitudes to work as it affects the whole of life. the psychologist has a distinctive contribution to make alongside other specialists in furthering knowledge of the nature of this interaction. J. 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