At this stage in your career, you’ve probably established a routine for addressing problems associated with labor management. You probably also have learned that if you want to stay competitive in your market, constant improvement is necessary. You might want to look at the four basic management styles to assess where your style sits and how to incorporate useful aspects of other styles into your routine to improve your labor management practices.

1. Autocratic Management: (think Hitler)

You make all decisions across the board. You rarely take into account your staff’s well being because decisions are for the good of the business. Employees are expected to follow directions without explanation, and there is a structured rewards and consequences system (company policies).

Pros:

  • Projects image of confidently managed business
  • Effective with new and untrained staff
  • Quick decision making

Cons:

  • Subordinates are very dependent upon you
  • Staff need constant supervision
  • High turnover and absenteeism
  • Low morale and poor work quality

2. Bureaucratic or “Paternalistic” Management: (think Michael Scott from The Office)

You make all decisions across the board (like autocratic), but you take into account the good of the business and your subordinates. You manage “by the book” and use policies to determine all actions. Essentially, it’s the autocratic management style, but with more morale boosting practices and more focus on the social needs of employees. You might do things like encourage feedback and allow subordinates to make minor decisions for themselves to improve morale.

Pros:

  • Less turnover than autocratic
  • High employee loyalty
  • Effective when staff are performing routine tasks

Cons:

  • Employees are still very dependent on you and need lots of supervision (but not as much as autocratic)
  • Work habits become so routine that change is difficult to enact
  • Staff can lose interest in their work, leading to more turnover

3. Democratic or “Participative” Management: (think Bill Gates from Microsoft)

You take into account the well-being of your subordinates and let them be part of the decision-making process with a “majority rules” concept. Staff is   informed of any decisions you make that might affect their work. This style is great when there is a problem that needs attention from people with different skill sets. Bill Gates is notorious for involving employees in key management decisions and staying in contact with Microsoft employees around the world via e-mail.

Pros:

  • Increased job satisfaction and quality of work
  • Reduced turnover

Cons:

  • Decision making takes a long time (therefore costs more)
  • The majority’s decision may not necessarily be the best decision
  • Some managers will feel their power is threatened

4. Laissez-faire or “Hands off” Management: (think Hippie commune)

You give staff as much freedom as possible; they set company goals, make decisions, and resolve problems on their own. Your role is strictly peripheral and you aren’t needed very often.

Pros:

  • Extremely effective when you have trustworthy, highly skilled, and experienced employees
  • When used effectively, offers extremely low turnover
  • Brings out the best in highly creative and driven groups

Cons:

  • Employees can feel lost or insecure without management
  • Management can’t provide regular feedback
  • Uncoordinated delegation leads to mistakes
  • Often just a result of poor management
  • Can lead to lack of staff focus, dissatisfaction, and poor company image

Undoubtedly, using a “situational” leadership style is the best way to manage. Good managers will apply each of the above styles when they are most effective, and transition between them as needed. However, it is important to understand the four primary leadership styles to see where you stand.

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