Management Style – Assignment

Management Style

A management style is an overall method of leadership critical to the success of any work unit and there are as many and varied management styles as there are managers. Within their role as first line managers, Queensland Police Service (QPS) sergeants wield a tremendous amount of influence on the performance, attitudes and behaviours of staff members. To this end, choosing an effective management style is a critical decision as a QPS sergeant has the responsibility of influencing staff members, considering their opinions, coordinating their efforts, and assisting them to successfully accomplish tasks while simultaneously engendering their trust, respect, loyalty and confidence.

How a particular management style can impact on the performance and morale of staff members will be examined through a case scenario analysis of a sergeant whose uncompromising dictatorial style of management is contributing to an unhealthy work unit. The negative effects of the sergeant’s behaviours will be discussed with a view to proposing appropriate methods for improvement. The potential effectiveness of these methods will be considered in the context of how a replacement sergeant could apply them to improve the work unit by adopting a more participative, democratic style of management.

The three basic styles of management are autocratic, laissez-faire and democratic (Swanson, Territo & Taylor 2001, p.219), with the sharply contrasting autocratic and democratic styles representing the two ends of the police management spectrum. Historically, the former has dominated police leadership practices. Today, studies indicate that there is a measurable correlation between a sergeant’s moving away from the authoritarian approach and increased staff member effectiveness (Solar 2001, p.43).

While one management style is not definitively superior over the other, it will be asserted that democratic management is the most suitable and effective approach. The analysis of a work unit managed by two sergeants with differing management styles will be used to support this premise.

The behaviours of the sergeant whose management style is contributing to an unhealthy work unit emphasise the tactics of control. All tasks are directed and closely supervised to ensure staff members are adhering to the sergeant’s orders. The sergeant manages the work unit without any involvement of staff members in preparation, organisation or planning. The efforts of staff members are openly condemned and criticised for not meeting standards which the sergeant believes is due to staff weaknesses, inefficiency and too little training. The sergeant rarely arranges for training opportunities and any interaction between the sergeant and the staff outside of policing matters is discouraged.

The effects of the sergeant’s behaviors are significant and far-reaching. Staff members are not provided with any motivation or incentive to perform well and therefore they are often uncooperative and slow to undertake tasks. Outputs such as arrests and convictions are limited as a result. The sergeant’s critical attitude undermines the confidence of staff members which leads to low morale and a high level of absenteeism. The staff feels generally unsatisfied and isolated.

The behaviours exhibited by the sergeant in question are traits typically associated with an autocratic style of management. Lewin, Lippitt and White (1939) define this management style as one that is dominating, reactive and controlling. Often the autocratic manager assumes that an employee will not work to his full capacity unless pushed or forced by a superior. The autocratic manager makes the basic assumption that subordinates are best dealt with in terms of power, and consequently directs little energy toward interpersonal interaction. Communication is not interactive, answers are turned into absolutes, and discussion or questions are discouraged.

Authority is centralised within an autocratic style of management style in that decision-making is performed solely by the officer in charge and is rarely delegated to staff members (Hammer 1980). In a similar vein, the typical autocratic manager dominates and controls all tasks. Feidler (1967) labels this aspect of autocratic management as ‘task-oriented’, the basic premise of which is a reliance on power, structure and close supervision of task achievement. A great deal of concern is placed on the accomplishment of the work and much less concern for the employee’s opinions of the work.

While this management style may be effective for employees needing close supervision to perform certain tasks, it has a tendency to inhibit communication and individual initiative which often results in job dissatisfaction (Solar 2001, p.39).

There are various techniques, methods and strategies that help in improving a work unit suffering under autocratic management. According to Cole (2005, p.23), effective management is the implementation of four essential functions, namely planning, organising, controlling, and monitoring.

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Planning is the process of setting goals and performance expectations for staff members to lessen the gap between the objective of a task and the actual outcome of a task (Srikantaiah & Koenig 2000, pp.50-51). Planning involves defining objectives, evaluating opinions and implementing the necessary procedures to enable the plans to be achieved.

Effective managerial organisation is crucial for the outcomes of plans to be achieved. Organising as a management function involves the assignment of tasks, the assignment of authority and the coordination of human resources (QPS 2008, p.2.9). Organising is required to implement plans and achieve goals.

Communication is defined by Robbins, Bergman, Stagg and Coulter (2003, p.516) as the transferring and understanding of meaning. The communication process is paramount and needs to be effectively employed as a function of management.

The controlling and monitoring aspect of management is the supervision of tasks as they are carried out and the evaluation of the outcome so as to determine if organisational objectives have been met (Cole 2005, p.23). This process also involves the monitoring and evaluation of staff within budgetary, resource and time constraints.

The need for staff training and development can be assessed after the outcomes of tasks have been evaluated. Training can be defined as ‘the process by which people acquire the skills and knowledge that directly impact upon current job performance’ (QPS 2008, p.4.32).

There exist three key issues that encompass the planning, organising, controlling and monitoring functions which should be considered in the carrying out of any successful management style. These are delegation, autonomy and accountability (Boswell 1994, p.36).

Delegation refers to the process of delegating tasks, activities and responsibilities to staff members to ensure work is carried out and all those involved can develop skills and experience. Effective delegation reduces a manager’s workload while developing employees’ skills, knowledge, job satisfaction, and organisational commitment.

Autonomy is the right to self-governance and is important as a management method as it allows staff members the freedom to make decisions and carry out their tasks within clear and agreed guidelines.

Accountability means responsibility and is the mechanism by which staff members report back and are held answerable for their actions to their colleagues and supervisors. A QPS sergeant is accountable for helping others in achieving ‘value-added public service’ (Whisehand & Rush 1998, p.2).

In addition to delegation, autonomy and accountability, there are a range of specific behaviour modification procedures shown to be successful in the work setting (Brown, Malott, Dillon, & Keeps 1980; Crowell et al. 1988; Komaki et al. 1980). These include skills management, task clarification, positive reinforcement and corrective feedback (i.e., feedback which identifies a better way of doing the task).

Skills management is defined as the practice of understanding, developing and deploying people and their skills and should identify the skills required for job roles, the skills required for individual employees, and any difference between the two.

Task clarification involves the officer in charge informing employees of the specific actions required for successful completion of the task. The aim is to reduce role ambiguity and to enable employees to modify their own behaviour so that it meets the specifications defined by management.

The provision of feedback about performance and praise are among the simplest and most effective techniques for improving the manner in which a work task is carried out (Luthans & Krietner 1975). Daniels and Rosen (1982) argue that positive reinforcement must be sincere, specific, immediate and personal if it is to be effective. The same factors will also influence the effectiveness of corrective feedback.

Another significant element to be taken into consideration by a sergeant attempting to improve a work unit is the motivation of staff members. By understanding aspects of motivation, managers are more likely to succeed in understanding an employee’s behaviour (QPS 2008, p.4.29).

A replacement QPS sergeant could implement and apply these management methods in various ways to improve the struggling work unit. In order to do so at every level of management, Robbins et al. (2003) identifies the three general skill areas required as technical, people and conceptual (QPS 2008, p.2.10).

Technical skills are necessary to comprehend legislation and the appropriate application and use of resources. People skills are the ability to effectively interact with staff members, and conceptual skills involve the formulation of ideas (QPS 2008, pp.2.9-2.10).

To that end, a QPS sergeant must provide appropriate role modelling, adequate monitoring of an individual’s performance, reinforcement for courteous behaviour, and corrective feedback for inappropriate behaviour.

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Applying proposed management methods to improve a work unit must begin with a commitment by the officer in charge to change poor management practices and values by embracing leadership skills such as fairness, patience and judgment. The extent to which a supervisor cares about staff members has a significant impact on management effectiveness (Bonnar 2000, p.297). Tact and diplomacy are important to gain employee cooperation and a rapport should be developed between the officer in charge and the staff members.

It is important for a QPS sergeant to recognise the destructive impact that public criticism, insensitivity and unfairness has on a work unit. Disciplinary action should be administered quickly and fairly in order to minimise any adverse effect on staff morale. The objective of discipline is to correct performance, not to punish.

Participative decision making can be applied by including staff members in the review of the objectives, targets and goals of their work unit, communicating decisions and ensuring staff members are made privy as to why certain decisions are made.

Role clarification can be applied by adopting induction programs for new staff members, conducting role reviews that involve discussing changes to roles and tasks and providing opportunity and an open-door policy to discuss concerns relating to expectations of current roles and tasks (Stogdill 1974, p.94)

Appraisal and recognition can be applied by making feedback frequent, simple, concise and meaningful and recognising individual and team achievements. By creating a culture of open, constructive feedback, employees will know they are valued and will gain self-confidence. Their morale will improve and their commitment will deepen (Greenleaf 1977, p.161). It is the manager’s responsibility to apply these methods and create such an environment.

A supervisory sergeant must learn to shift the focus from employee control to employee team building (Thibault 2006, p.38).A replacement sergeant could implement this method by asking staff members for their opinions and input, showing concern for their feelings, encouraging communication from and between subordinates, and bolstering self-confidence and job-satisfaction.

Professional growth can be achieved by firstly evaluating the support required for staff members to meet their supervisor’s expectations and task goals, and secondly, by providing opportunities for employees to train, mentor or shadow others in specific skills and roles.

Providing training opportunities for staff members can be an invaluable investment for the future of both the employee and the work unit as a whole. In addition to keeping an organisation current in the latest technology, knowledge and skills, management’s concern for employee career growth is both a means of social support and a value-added job component (Golembiewski 2002, pp.63-64).

Thibault (2006) asserts that police management is a human service made possible by communication between individuals and that the implementation of first-class communication skills is the heart of the police organisation. A QPS sergeant should learn to use negotiation techniques to resolve difficult situations and discover how to open dialogue on problem identification and conflict resolution (Robbins et al. 2003, p.532).

Implementing certain management methods such as setting goals, clarifying expectations, encouraging autonomy, developing individual strengths and abilities and regularly appraising performance have been methods shown to improve a struggling work unit (Hersey, Blanchard & Johnson 1996).

A QPS sergeant could effectively apply these methods by adopting a democratic management style. The key issues of delegation, autonomy and accountability are crucial to successful democratic management.

Democratic leadership advocates consultation with staff members without the manager relinquishing control (Watkins 2003, p.180). It is a style of management that utilises the various skills of staff members by tapping into each as required (Goodworth 1988, p.11). A democratic manager is group-oriented, promotes active participation in planning and executing tasks and is objective in his or her praise of subordinates (Swanson, Territo & Taylor 2001, p.219).

Democratic leadership is also referred to as employee centered, equalitarian, consultative, participative or people-oriented leadership. A participative manager is one who involves subordinates in decision-making but retains the final authority (Berry 1992, p.286). Communication is two-way and employees are allowed to contribute in the decision-making.

Typically a democratic management style is characterised by a manager who permits staff members to establish goals, acknowledges and encourages achievement and creates plans for employees to evaluate their own performance (Terry 1960, p.5). A democratic manager believes the goal of discipline should be better performance, not punishment.

Democracy encourages team building and participation and the major advantage of such approach is that employees are more motivated to accomplish their tasks and enjoy the satisfaction of showing themselves worthy of their managers’ trust. In turn, managers are made aware of the abilities of each staff member and learn to trust their judgment and input. Employees respond to that trust with increased cooperation, team spirit, and high morale (Argyris 1976, p.69).

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A necessary component of any successful management style is the correct approach to delegation and delegation of authority is considered an important part of democratic management (Nelson 1994, p.23). A democratic manager has the ability to delegate so as to prepare employees to handle responsibilities and enable them to advance to other career opportunities within the organisation. When properly executed, delegation establishes responsibility and accountability, and builds mutual trust and reciprocity between superiors and subordinates.

Beech (2002) asserts that within a participative democratic style of leadership, there is a greater move toward decentralisation. Decentralisation is when the delegation of decision making is made by those closer to the task as opposed to those removed from the task. The effect of decentralisation is increased flexibility on the part of the employee.

Another important component in democratic management is reduced supervision. Giving staff members greater autonomy encourages them to become problem solvers and team builders (Solar 2001, p.39). Poole (1986, p.2) considers that sharing power and accountability may increase the productivity and efficiency of individual staff members.

Systems that improve productivity, especially those based on relaxing authoritarian control in favour of a more democratic management system (where workers can influence their environment), have been proven valuable in many ways (Nelson 1994, p.11). A sense of ownership among employees helps them to develop their sense of worth. Once this is accomplished, and all staff members feel some sense of control, they tend to thrive within their environment.

Likewise, the intrinsic rewards of accomplishment and achievement derived from completing work should not be underestimated. Harnessing the power of self-motivation illustrates how subordinates can accomplish more when managed from a democratic approach (Lawler 1992, p.45).

The benefits of a democratically managed work unit are considerable, including more commitment to a task in which staff members have played a part in decision making. Nelson (1994, p.26) further asserts that one of the most important factors for employees in their work environment is social support. Democratic leadership has the advantages of encouraging staff members to act as a social unit, promoting the full use of their talents and abilities, generating a feeling of recognition and individual dignity, increasing morale and providing encouragement to develop, grow and rise in the organisation. An understanding of each employee’s capabilities helps to structure a task that best takes advantage of these capabilities.

Burman and Evans (2008) published a ‘charter’ for successful managers. The list included leading by example, building trust and confidence, keeping subordinates informed and involving staff members by seeking their views and listening actively to their contributions. Also included was the requirement for managers to provide feedback on progress, to be accountable for their actions and weighing alternatives, considering both short and long-term effects and then being resolute in the decisions they make. All these methods are designed to improve the work unit for both the manager and the staff members. A democratic style of management encompasses every method included in the charter.

Since the early 1970s, reformers have urged police administrators to adopt more democratic styles of management (Bittner 1970, p.51). The benefits and arguments for a democratic management system fit with what a QPS sergeant should accomplish if the aim is to manage a work unit that is healthy and productive.

The performance of any work unit within a police organisation depends upon the effectiveness of its policies and practices, knowledge, resourcefulness, competence and morale of staff and above all the managerial quality.

Choosing a democratic management style has the potential to create a work environment wherein staff morale and team spirit are improved by the involvement of staff members in planning tasks and making decisions. It is clear that the case of the work unit struggling under an autocratic management style could be improved by adopting democratic management methods to increase loyalty, efficiency and productivity.

Today’s problem-oriented and community-oriented policing strategies are supported by the features of a democratic management system. Kearne (in Melling 2000, p.21) observes that the QPS has “begun de-emphasising its authoritarian management approach in favour of wider consultation and communication”. It is this far-reaching, consultative aspect of the democratic management which facilitates reconciliation of the goals of management within the QPS.


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