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should be evident from the preceding chapter, management poliies and practices have played a central role in the development of industrial relations over the past century. Managers have on the one hand sought to maximize profit through the technical design and organization of work, yet have on the other hand found themselves subject to various forms of worker resistance arising out of the sources of conflict identified in chapter three. Historically, the predominant managerial response to. this problem evolved from one of "coercive drive" in the late 1800s, to one of scientific management and welfare capitalism in the decades immediately before and after World War I, to one of bureaucratic accommodation in the post-World War II era. If recent accounts are to be believed, this response is currently evolving into one of "progressive human resources management" and adoption of what has come to be referred to as "high performance work systems". Yet, historical analysis runs the risk of focusing tooinuch on emergent developments and not enough on theconsiderablevariation that can exist across firms, industries, and regions at any particular time. Nowhere is this more the case than with respect to contemporary managerial policies and practices, which can vary considerably from one firm or establishment to the next. This chapter thus extends the analysis of the preceding chapter by providing an analytical framework for comparing different types of managerial policies and practices. Then, drawing on. this framework, it identifies and discusses three types of approaches that appear to be most widespread at present: the "autocratic/exploitive", the "bureaucratic/accommodative", and the "autonomic/consociative" (progressive HRM). Focus is placed on the third of these approaches, especially when embodied in the high performance model. This model 112
Godard, J. (2005). Contemporary management practices. This material was originally published in J. Godard, Industrial relations, the economy and society (3rd ed., pp. 112 -148). Concord, ON: Captus Press Inc. Reproduced with permission of Captus Press Inc. Internet:

Contemporary Management Practices

is not only the most developed, it has been widely heralded as a "best practice" and hence as the wave of the future. At the outset, it should be cautioned that this chapter is concerned primarily with describing and assessing contemporary managerial policies and practices, not with addressing why they vary. The latter is left to chapter six.



One problem confronting any discussion of managerial policies and practices is that they can be complex and multi-faceted. Any attempt to discuss them is thus by necessity likely to be somewhat oversimplified, at best providing only a crude representation of a more complex reality. But for present purposes, it is useful to consider managerial policies and practices as varying primarily along two dimensions: (1) workplace structure, and (2) managerial orientation towards employees.' Workplace structure essentially embodies the methods by which managerial authority is institutionalized within the workplace, and is directed primarily at the organization and control of the way work is performed. A variety of these methods can exist in any particular workplace, and, perhaps of greater importance, the extent to which these methods exist in combination can vary considerably. For the present, however, it is useful to distinguish between three predominant types of workplace structure: 1. Autocratic, where superordinates personally allocate and direct the work, monitor and evaluate workers, and determine rewards and discipline. 2. Bureaucratic, where employees are subject to a lower degree of direct authority but are constrained by the technical design of work and by formally established rules and procedures, conformity to which in turn forms the basis on which workers are monitored, rewarded, and disciplined. 3. Autonomic, where employees are given a high degree of autonomy, and performance forms the primary basis on which workers are monitored, rewarded, and disciplined.

1 A number of alternative schemes have been proposed, particularly in the United Kingdom. See chapter two of Legge (1995) for an excellent overview of these.



Managerial orientation towards employees refers to the values and objectives that underlie and hence come to be reflected in the exercise of managerial authority. Three types of orientation can be identified: 1. Exploitive, where managers display virtually no interest in employee needs and concerns, seeking only to get the most work out of them for the lowest possible wage. 2. Accommodative, where managers recognize that employees have legitimate needs and concerns and accommodate these to the extent that they are deemed reasonable. 3. Consociative, where managers appear to have great interest in employee needs and concerns and adopt extensive programs to ensure their identification with and loyalty to the organization. As indicated in Figure 5-1, it is possible, by drawing on these distinctions, to identify at least nine types of managerial policies and practices, most of which have been widespread at some point in history and continue to be predominant in some firms and industries today. For example, the welfare capitalism which was widespread in the 1920s could probably be located in the bureaucratic/consociative region, while early scientific management, which also continues to predominate in some firms (e.g., small, low-skill assembly operations), could probably be located in the bureaucratic/exploitive region. Figure 5-1 provides a useful analytical scheme for thinking about and characterizing managerial policies and practices. However, there are three regions on this figure that are of particular importance: (1) Autocratic/Exploitive, (2) Bureaucratic/Accommodative, and (3) Autonomiclconsociative. These regions are arguably most representative of managerial policies and practices at present, with each representing a distinctive managerial paradigm, or set of values, beliefs, and assumptions that guide managerial decisions. Accordingly, the remainder of the chapter will consider policies and practices associated with each in greater depth, characterizing them in general and then addressing their specifics with respect to unions and collective bargaining. Before proceeding, it should be cautioned that, though the discussion will proceed as if employers can be neatly characterized in accordance with a particular type, they may (and often do) adhere to policies and practices that are consistent with more than one type. Thus, for example, a firm may adopt a number of highly progressive (autonomic/consociative) policies' and practices with respect to the way


Categorizing Managerial Policies and Practices


Autonomic/ Exploitive (e.g., Contract Work)

Autonomic/ Accommodative (e.g., Traditional Craft Work)


Bureaucratic/ Exploitive (Early Thylorism)


Bureaucratic! Consociative (Advanced Paternalism)


Autocratic/ Accommodative (e.g., Small Retail Store)

Autocratic/ Consociative (Early Paternalism)





it treats workers in general, yet it may also adhere to highly coercive policies and practices (autocratic/exploitive) with respect to attempts by workers to organize a union. In this respect, it probably makes more sense not to ask whether a particular firm conforms to a particular type, but instead to ask the extent to which it does. In addition, it should also be noted that managerial policies and practices can vary not only in accordance with the region with which they are most consistent, but also in accordance with their level of sophistication compared to other employers within this region. For example, two firms may conform most closely to the autonomic/ consociative type, but one may have few formal policies and practices in place, while the other may have a number of highly sophisticated policies and practices. This is important, because the implications of various policies and practices may depend as much on the level of sophistication with which they are implemented as on the type with which they are associated.



Autocratic/exploitive practices are in many respects descended from the coercive drive system adopted by many employers in the late nineteenth century (see chapter four). While it may be difficult to find employers who precisely conform to the coercive drive system today (at least in Canada), there is no shortage of those who continue to adopt a number of the practices associated with it. These practices would appear to be most frequently adopted in smaller establishments, operating under highly competitive market conditions, and employing relatively unskilled workers, with little labour market or relational power. They are probably most predominant in the retail and restaurant sectors of the economy, but they are also common in a number of manufacturing sectors, including textiles and clothing. Anyone who has worked in these sectors may have experienced them first hand.

In General
Autocratic/exploitive practices are relatively cated for they essentially involve managing They are not necessarily coercive in the sense stantly motivated by fear, but they generally "misconduct", whether it involves slacking on

simple and unsophistithrough personal edict. that employees are conentail low tolerance for the job, absenteeism, or

Contemporary Management Practices

insubordination. They can also entail rather arbitrary treatment, with supervisors appearing to favour some employees over others, and providing little explanation or rationale for their actions. Discipline is "summary": that is, employees do not enjoy anything approaching due process, but are instead disciplined on the spot, often with little opportunity to defend themselves or state their case. Finally, management often exhibits low trust for subordinates, minimizing their discretion on the job through close supervision and the imposition of strict rules. Thus, the term "autocratic". Workers may develop some sense of loyalty towards their employer, especially if they become subject to favouritism. But this is generally not the case. Workers often remain with the employer almost entirely because they cannot find a better job elsewhere, thereby taking a purely economic orientation to their work and "getting away with" whatever they can. The employer, in turn, views employees largely as commodities, to be paid as little as possible (usually around the minimum wage), with few if any benefits (except as required by law). As much labour is extracted as is possible, and employers exhibit little concern for working conditions. Thus, the term "exploitive".

As might be expected, autocratic/exploitive practices tend to be associated with an aggressively anti-union philosophy, with employers going to considerable lengths to keep unions out, even if this entails circumventing or breaking the law (see Freeman and Kleiner, 1990). Both the intensity and sophistication of these attempts can vary considerably though it is not unheard of for firms to hire expensive "consulting" firms to advise them on the most effective means of frustrating a union organizing drive. As discussed more fully in chapter eleven, these means can entail a number of illegal acts, such as threatening workers, employing spies, firing union organizers, or even instigating violence in order to discredit the union. Where a union has become established, employers may engage in a number of tactics to weaken and ultimately undermine it. Four such tactics can be identified as of particular importance (Anderson, 1989b): 1. Introducing workplace changes that lower skill requirements so that, if there is a strike, workers can be easily replaced. 2. Eliminating more skilled work by "contracting out", or paying other, non-union firms to have this work done for the employer, thus further weakening the union.


3. Forcing the union into a lengthy strike or lockout and then hiring new workers to replace those on strike, effectively undermining the strike and ultimately support for the union. 4. Either shutting down, relocating operations, or gradually shifting work to a non-union site. It is difficult to establish just how widely these practices are used as means of undermining a union, especially because employers seldom admit that this is their purpose. Instead, they contend that the practices are motivated by purely economic considerations having to do with the health of the firm.? But autocratic/exploitive practices in general would appear to remain widespread, especially with respect to developing countries where they are often found in plants that manufacture products for major North American corporations (see Box 5-1). As noted earlier, they would also appear to be widely used in some sectors of the Canadian economy.




Bureaucratic/accommodative practices began to emerge with the rise of the personnel function in the 1920s (Kochan and CappeUi, 1983; Jacoby, 1985; Baron, Dobbin, and Jennings, 1986), though they did not become fully developed until the post-war era. Generally, these practices were developed in response to a variety of factors, of which the most important ones were the growth in employer size, the adoption of more capital intensive and sophisticated production technologies, and the growth in labour union strength. They have traditionally been most characteristic of large manufacturing firms, including those in the North American steel, automobile, rubber, and railway industries, and of large public sector employers.

In General
Bureaucratic/accommodative practices are characterized by a high degree of "functional specialization" (i.e., separate departments which specialize on the basis of function) within management, including a

2 For example, see Zeytinoglu (1991, 1992) for the results of a survey of employer explanations for the use of part-time workers.


Contemporary Management Practices

ry Is very hot. You are constantly sweating and Gmtne heat. The ventilation is poor. There is a lot of ur ays stuffed up and you have 0 constant


production line, divided between 6 ooden benches without backs. It is not $0 your back and backside rvisors scream at you 10 garmenTs in the faces of g too slowty, they come hand, yelling a yo to

y treat us


o to ihe bath-

o check the re are five

you use once. The you to go



separate human resources (HR) and/or industrial relations (IR) function. The HR/IR function is, in turn, typically responsible for a number of activities that might otherwise be handled by line managers. Though the level of sophistication with which these functions are carried out can vary, they typically include: 1. The establishment of employee selection criteria, job classifications and pay differentials; 2. Employee training and development programs; 3. The handling of discipline and rewards; 4. The processing of grievances; and 5. Preparation for and conduct of collective bargaining (if there is a union).

Contemporary Management Practices

All of these activities are typically carried out in accordance with wellestablished rules and procedures, either as implemented by HRJIR specialists, or as negotiated with a union. The actual structure of the workplace is designed by industrial engineers or experts versed in principles of scientific management. As a result, jobs are clearly defined and highly specialized. Of particular importance are well-structured "internal labour markets", consisting of a number of job levels which workers can hope to advance through as they accumulate seniority. Sometimes these involve specific "job ladders", with workers starting at the bottom and working their way up through specific positions or rungs on the ladder. Other times, advancement occurs on a department-wide basis (e.g., the shipping department). In still others, it occurs on a plant- or establishment-wide basis. However, seniority as well as ability is an important criterion for advancement, and workers can generally look forward to some form of progression into "better jobs" if they remain with the employer, thereby increasing both their pay and their status over the course of their working life. Workers may again develop a sense of loyalty towards their employer, but their orientation is largely an instrumental one, under which they do not display a great deal of attachment to their task but are prepared to perform a "fair day's work" if treated fairly by their employer and by their immediate supervisors. Rather than relying solely on coercion, the employer and the immediate supervisor also attempt to win the consent of workers, so that they will choose to obey various rules and directives out of a belief in their legitimacy. The worker-supervisory relationship is generally an accommodative one, often involving considerable "give-and-take". In this respect, the "negotiation of order", as discussed in chapter three, is likely to be most pervasive in organizations with these practices.

As might be expected, bureaucratic/accommodative practices generally engender a recognition of the right of workers to join unions and a willingness to accommodate "legitimate" union demands. The relationship between union and management officials is primarily an arm'slength one, with the former serving as advocate for union members at the bargaining table and in the grievance/arbitration process. Unions and management tend to be adversaries in the sense that each is aware that there are important conflicts between the interests of their constituents and those of the "other side". (This is similar, for 121


example, to the relationship between two lawyers representing different sides in a court case.) As a' result, to the outsider, the unionmanagement relationship may appear to be highly contentious, especially during grievance arbitrations or collective bargaining. Yet, the day-to-day relationship between the two parties is often a professional one, in which there is considerable cooperation. Unions may even serve a number of positive functions for employers, such as communicating worker concerns and problems and helping to keep line supervisors "honest" by filing grievances if they abuse their authority. Unions still, of course, have a number of costs for management, not the least of which are higher wages and benefits. Yet management is often able to absorb these or pass them on to customers and consumers, either because the employer is in a highly unionized industry in which competitors can be counted on to pay similar wages and benefits, or because the employer faces limited (if any) price competition, or because labour costs are relatively small as a portion of overall costs (as for example, in workplaces with high levels of capital investment per worker employed). Equally important, many union non-wage demands involve the establishment of rules and procedures governing the performance of work, discipline, and promotion. Though these rules and procedures can entail a number of restrictions on management authority and hence are by no means welcomed by management, they are largely conducive to the bureaucratic structure of the employer and in many respects serve to both reinforce and legitimate this structure. As a result, management is far more likely than might otherwise be the case to accommodate union demands for these rules and restrictions, provided that they are not unduly restrictive or harmful to efficiency. Thus, for example, management may be willing to concede a provision which states that seniority is the primary basis for promotion provided that workers have adequate ability, for such a provision may be consistent with practices adopted by management in the absence of a union, for reasons discussed more fully in chapter fifteen. However, management may be highly resistant to a provision which states that seniority should be the sole basis for promotion, regardless of ability, for such a provision could unduly impair efficiency. Where a union is not established, employers may follow a "union substitution" approach, where they adopt many of the practices associated with union settings and provide wages and benefits that are comparable to those offered by union employers in the same industry or region. They may also establish some form of non-union grievance system, though such systems are often referred to as "internal justice

Contemporary Management Practices

systems" because this term has more positive connotations. These systems typically fall far short of their counterparts in the unionized sector. For example, a survey of U.S. firms found that less than a quarter of the firms adopting these systems (Ichniowski, Delaney, and Lewin, 1989) allow employees to take their grievances to an impartial outside arbitrator, thus providing the employer with final say. But they at least in theory provide employees with some form of voice with which to seek redress if they believe themselves to have been unfairly treated. Even though the bureaucratic/accommodative approach applies to non-union as well as union employers, it essentially epitomizes the "mature" approach to employee relations emergent in the post-World War II years. An example of this approach in a union employer appears in Box 5-2. It should be noted, however, that developments of the past decade or so may have rendered the "pure" form of this approach increasingly rare. Indeed, as of early 2004, the employer in Box 5-2 was having to undergo a financial restructuring, although the extent to which its industrial relations practices could be blamed for this is unclear. As discussed later in this chapter, 'most employers traditionally characterized by the bureaucratic/accommodative approach appear to have adopted various forms of workplace "reform traditionally associated with the progressive or "high performance" paradigm. In response to the often difficult economic conditions of the past two decades, many have also sought to lower wages and benefits so that they are more in line with those in the non-unionized sector and to reduce union negotiated work rules and wages and benefits thought to impair flexibility. Most appear, however, to have retained the essential features of the bureaucratic/accommodative approach.



Progressive human resource management (HRM) practices are most consistent with (in fact they embody) the' managerialist perspective on industrial relations. They have a long history, originating in the "welfare capitalism" or "paternalistic management" practices emergent in the early decades of this century (see Jacoby, 2000). As discussed in chapter four, these practices included employee pension schemes, company housing, company unionism, suggestion systems, company


formal b the union struck, S tion. The result was a fang which an accord was reached. The accord is not a written document, but is informal understanding regarding acceptable behoviour side. The prominent features of the accord are these:


Management recognises the exclusive and legitimate right of the union to represenf the interest of those in the bargaining unit. This stipulation is required by law, and fully accepted by management. Stelco rnokes no to undermine the union or to escape from its to negotiate with it. If new plants ore e is a genera! understanding that managerecognise the USWA as the bargain, when the company opened ill in the late 19705, it voluntarily the USWA for the most part. ich Stelco negofiates were e when the company purorganisations. of management to organe strategic decisions unila1ices and the form of 1005 nor any of the other ertures to the company to ns, Nor has the company ling to restructure its reloconsiders it to be not also management's duty mployees is to folio .tJnanagement. It is t-ent with this phiContinued ....


Contemporary Management Practices

BOX 5-2 (continued)

, or

has not introduced quality circles, zero other forms of shop-floor worker portid-

s recognise that, within 1he bounds noted above. ill vigorously pursue the interests of its constituency. union is expected to seek high pay. job sectriy and strial justice. and the company is expected to defend its prerogaTIves. seek: labour costs consistent with compe . tiveness and maintain discipline. Each side is expec ed 0 treat the other with respect. not love. Behind the civility of their relationship lies fhe lmowledge that each has the capacity to do the other considerable harm. Institutions of Interaction and Their Result$

Terms and conditions of emp decided by negotiations years for the past several five ich has ye



Stelco Inc. mdustnalr Journal,10( Limited. All

ted from Adams, R.,1he "old titiveaess, Employee Relations .ssion of Emera1d Group Publishing


Contemporary Management Practices

supported recreational acnvines, profit sharing schemes, and other practices. They proliferated rapidly with the emergence of the personnel function in the 1920s, and although they were largely abandoned during the Great Depression of the 1930s, they began to grow again in the post-war period. During this period, they drew increasingly on theories of motivation and commitment emerging out of the human relations school of the 1930s and 1940s and the field of organizational behaviour (its successor) in the 1950s and 1960s. These theories generally suggest that if management communicates and consults with workers and if work is redesigned to allow them more discretion and responsibility, high levels of motivation and commitment will follow. Workers will therefore act in accordance with employer interests not because they are coerced to do so (as in the case of autocratic/exploitive practices) or because it is instrumental to their own goals (as in the case of bureaucratic/accommodative practices), but rather because they both like their jobs and feel a moral commitment to their employer, even adopting employer goals and priorities as their own. Thus, employees benefit from more challenging and rewarding work, while employers benefit from higher performance. Traditionally, these practices have been most prevalent in workplaces where workers have a high degree of relational power, either because the technology is highly sophisticated and capital intensive or because product quality and reliability are of critical importance to the firm's success. Thus, they seem initially to have been most adopted by firms in the oil refining, steel, chemicals, aerospace, and automobile industries. However, they received only limited attention until the 1980s. At this time, pundits began to argue that competitive forces associated with a global economy, coupled with new technologies, mandated a much more flexible and committed workforce and hence a transformation away from the bureaucratic/accommodative model towards an autonomic/consociative one. Since this time, growing attention has been placed on "new" forms of work and HRM practices associated with the autonomic!consociative approach. These practices have been alternatively referred to as "innovations", "workplace reforms", "alternative work practices", "high commitment practices", and "high performance practices". But they have increasingly come to be associated with something referred to as the "high performance paradigm". This paradigm has been widely heralded as representing "best practice" and the "wave of the future". Yet there has also been considerable debate over just how widely applicable this paradigm is and just what its implications are for workers,


unions, and employers. But before considering this debate, it is important to outline the practices associated with this paradigm and the theory associated with it, especially as articulated by its proponents.

In General: The High Performance. Paradigm in Theory

One version of the high performance paradigm is to be found at the CR facility in Waterloo, Ontario. As described in Box 5-3, this plant differs from the bureaucratic/accommodative approach in a number of ways. But it contains elements of the three main components considered central to the high performance paradigm: (1) job design reforms involving the way work is done, (2) participatory reforms involving information sharing and participation, and (3) high commitment employment practices. Below, each of these three components is discussed at some length. Focus is on how the practices associated with each work in theory. Debates over how they work in practice are left to the next section.


Eochteom team leaders that rotates team members oetermined by f Direc or of Mon of Manufacturing). The teams pro thirty..five Item Proc sIDle tor the ossembl ready for shipment. The teams meet d and other prodvction-relat their work by the ground of those rules include the At our team meeting.



Contemporary Management Practices

od timely feedbad:: to team m duction status and see what other to meet linearity. er on all the worl< we do, O$Sembly. authority to shut d in a problem-solvi lencv. The meetin er or a production se ee, the pursuit of gre order; it means WOIting seeks to impart to osso are the things that ere c d. will enable us to a



and must pass an e about fifteen days eness and in the nec mployees receive about ten d (and the plant ts presen1ty doi look, among other things. for fie a group setting. Associates from is likely to go participate in the whether or not fo Ne the temoororv employees for up to go, re-hired as temporary e f the plant. Each team m different jobs. Theoreticoly, an machine on her/his own. with a

by production coaches each of whom for thirty to seven people. Producfion to the Director of t.4.onufocturing who onager of the facility. Previously, the line . 9 Manager and it'.e VICe-Presidenf een the associates and the Genera!
Qcturing ploys mostly 0 teaching and 09 of her things, he/she makes sure the ~sary resources to do whot they ore sup-

Continued ...



posed to do. To> can. deol directl should be lnvolv Manufacturing. There is a Dir inspectors were quality assuranc Inmany. the sisted of reviews employee with inp ners complefed a the expectations of t the plant. This performance op ago but was discontinue discussing other employee the system to "get bock'" tr.e greater maturity of the more effectively this time InterpefSOnolconflicts w the major problems that the te they are resolved by the team. s explained. "They have learned not Another problem cited by a t comes from interruptions in the work pr


and benefits of NCR ucl industry surveys. In ountabmty". alar


Contemporary Management Practices

(1) Job Design Reforms (Autonomic Workplace Design): Job redesign has traditionally entailed some combination or (1) job enlargement, under which tasks are broadened in order to provide workers with greater variety and more meaningful units of work; (2) job rotation, under which workers are rotated among different jobs, enabling them to develop a better understanding of the entire operation, providing them with greater variety, and introducing the challenge of learning different tasks, while at the same time providing employers with greater flexibility in tasks to which they can assign individual employee; and (3) job enrichment, under which employees are given increased challenge, discretion, and responsibility, and hence more opportunity for personal growth and fulfilment. Over the past decade or so, the organization of work into teams has also become central to job redesign programs and, in fact, may be seen as forming the core element of the high performance model (see Box 5-3). Though the nature of these teams can vary considerably, workers in theory work interdependently, in small groups with from (roughly) six to twenty members. In the ideal, these teams are self-directed or autonomous, meaning they are given considerable autonomy over the pace at which they work, decide how tasks are allocated among members, and are not subject to direct supervision, instead selecting their own "team leader" and taking joint responsibility for each other's performance. Where possible, they are also given responsibility for an identifiable service, component, or product, and often make their own decisions about how this is to be provided or produced. In theory, this provides workers with substantial autonomy and control over their work, while increasing the opportunity for social interaction. It also tends to engender job enlargement, job rotation, and job enrichment, because jobs are defined more broadly, workers can rotate tasks among themselves, and there is much greater scope for challenge, discretion, and responsibility. (2) Participatory Reforms: Employee participation programs are closely associated with job redesign concepts. This is especially true with respect to so-called quality circles. Now often referred to as "problem solving groups", quality circles have been widespread in Japan since the 1950s. But they did not come into vogue in North America until the early 1980s, when Japanese firms began to make significant inroads into North Am~rican markets, and pundits came to believe that this reflected

3 See chapter five of Robbins, 1992, for a representative discussion of these concepts.



the superiority of Japanese management practices. Though the exact nature and functions of quality circles can vary considerably, they generally entail meetings held on company time anywhere from once a day to once a month, in which groups of workers discuss any problems or ideas they have with respect to the work process and advance suggestions addressing how this process can be improved. In theory, these circles not only provide a forum for addressing work-related problems and improving both productivity and quality, they enable workers to develop a greater sense of ownership over the work process, given that they have had input into its design. This, in turn, facilitates a greater sense of involvement in, and hence commitment to, their work. More generally, employee participation schemes can entail various mechanisms for joint labour-management problem solving and decision making. Typically, these entail establishment-wide labour-management committees, comprising an equal number of worker and management representatives. Perhaps the most prevalent form of committee is the health and safety committee, which is required by law across Canada for workplaces above a given size (see chapter nine). However, labour management committees can be formed to address a variety of other issues, including the introduction of new technology, worker training and development, substance abuse, disciplinary problems, and productivity (see Bluestone and Bluestone, 1992: 155-64). In theory, such committees enable workers and their representatives to play a proactive role in decisions affecting their well-being, instead of having these decisions imposed on them unilaterally and reacting after the fact. Not only does this in theory result in a higher likelihood of finding "win-win" solutions, or solutions which benefit both labour and management, workers are more likely to buy into decisions in which they have had an input, thus ensuring their commitment. Because of this, some organizations also have "joint steering committees", where employee representatives meet with management personnel to discuss broad developments in the workplace and upcoming workplace changes. These committees are also sometimes referred to as "continuous improvement committees" or "re-engineering committees", in reflection of established workplace change programs (see below). Finally, growing attention has been paid to the importance of information sharing processes, especially through "team briefings" and "town hall meetings". While the former typically involve regularlY scheduled meetings through which work teams or groups are informed about developments relevant to their work and subsequent plans may affect them, town hall meetings tend to be broader invo 132

Contemporary Management Practices

meetings with the entire workforce at a particular workplace. In addition, a number of more traditional information sharing practices which remain popular include sending regular newsletters to employees, establishing suggestion systems through which employees can hope to receive some form of award if they contribute a suggestion that enhances performance,. and conducting internal attitude surveys of employee opinions and concerns, sometimes followed up by group interviews. (3) High Commitment Employment Practices: According to pundits, a number of employment policies and practices must be in place if high performance systems are to realize their full potential (see Pfeffer, 1998: 64-98). Particularly important is the provision of long-term job security. According to proponents, employees are unlikely to develop high levels of commitment if employers are unwilling to reciprocate with a similar level of commitment. Job security is in theory also important if employees are to adopt a long-run view towards their employment, thereby reducing turnover and hence employer hiring and training costs - both of which can be substantial under the high performance model. Finally, layoffs are contrary to the underlying philosophy of the high performance paradigm, which is that employees are to be viewed as strategic resources critical to the employer's long-run survival and growth. For these reasons.. employee cutbacks occur only if absolutely necessary, and, where possible, employers rely on normal attrition, redeployment to other jobs, and the use of voluntary retirement incentives. Where actual layoffs do take place, employees are provided with generous severance packages, assistance in looking for a new job, and in some cases even financial aid should they enter a training program to make themselves more marketable. Doing so can be viewed as an exercise in social responsibility, but it also conveys to surviving employees that the employer is doing everything possible for those who have been laid off, and will do the same for them if further . layoffs should become necessary. Intensive training is also believed to be essential if workers are to be able to perform at the level necessary for real performance gains, especially because high performance systems, in theory, rely on employee skill and initiative to solve problems, to initiate changes in work methods, and to take responsibility for quality (Pfeffer, 1998: 85). Not only does intensive training facilitate these skills, it can also symbolize employer commitment to employees (Pfeffer, 1998: 295). Because high performance work practices often entail considerable 133


team work, this training frequently involves "soft" or interpersonal skills as well as "hard" or technical skills required for the work itself. It is ideally continuous, with employees receiving a set number of days of training per year in order to ensure that their skills are up-todate and to allow them the opportunity for self development. In this respect, the term "the learning organization" has become popular. In theory, employees in these organizations are able to develop and broaden their knowledge, not only of their work tasks, but of the organization in general. Where job rotation or team work have been implemented, it is also common to hear about multi-skilling or crosstraining, under which employees are trained so that they have a broader variety of skills than that required for their own jobs and/or are able to do different jobs. In theory, this makes employees more interchangeable in addition to providing them with a more thorough understanding of ho their work fits into the overall picture. A third practice considered of major importance is the implementation of a "contingent" or "performance-based" pay system, under which pay is linked to performance. Group bonuses, under which individuals receive bonuses based on their team's performance, are considered especially important for fostering team effectiveness, because employees ha e an incentive to help each other rather than focusing on their individual tasks. But a number of workplace and firm level systems may also be established. Of particular note are: gainsharing, under hich pa is linked to productivity gains; profit-sharing, under which pa is linked to profitability; and employee stock ownership plans or ESOPs under which employees are given financial incentives to purchase shares in their employer. Most of these systems are not particularly new, finding their genesis in the welfare capitalist schemes emergent in the early decades of this century. However, they in theory help to ensure that employees identify their interests with the performance of the organization and hence are more likely to accept employer goals as their own. A fourth employment practice is the adoption of sophisticated selection and socialization processes. These are designed to ensure that workers have work values and orientations that are conducive to a "high performance culture" within the workplace as well as the necessary skills and abilities. Before workers are hired, they go through extensive psychological testing and personality assessment as well as being assessed for their technical capabilities, in essence to ensure that they have the "right" values. Once hired, they then go throughelaborate initial orientation programs, designed in part to ensure that they develop favourable attitudes towards their employer and are 134




inculcated with their employer's culture and values. To ensure success in this endeavour, employers may even locate facilities based in areas characterized by conservative values, and in which they can therefore be sure of an ample supply of employees with the appropriate orientations. A fifth, largely symbolic practice, is the reduction of traditional status distinctions. Most common in this respect is the provision of workers with a monthly "salary" rather than paying them for the precise number of hours worked in a pay period, although in practice employers still typically require fixed hours of work and provide overtime payor time off for extra hours worked. In addition to this practice, workers may also be allowed to use the same (rather than separate) eating facilities, entrances, and parking lots as do managers, thus symbolizing that everyone is part of the same overall "team". In theory, this eliminates the "we-them" atmosphere of traditional organizationsand facilitates greater identification with, and commitment to, employer goals. A sixth high commitment employment practice is the reduction of the number of job classifications and pay differentials between workers, in effect eliminating the structured internal labour markets of the bureaucratic/accommodative approach. In place of traditional pay differentials, employers may establish pay-for-knowledge systems, where workers are paid bonuses based on the number of tasks they can perform. Reduction in the number of job classifications essentially means a broadening of those classifications which remain, while pay~ for-knowledge systems encourage workers to learn as broad an array of tasks as possible. As a result, employers ha e increased flexibility in the tasks they can assign to individual workers and teams. Broader Programs Associated with High Performance Practices. In addition to the specific components of high performance practices are broader management programs or strategies which often accompany them. Three such programs/strategies have been most popularized in the management literature. The first is Total Quality Management or TQM. Although TOM systems can vary considerably, they generally entail an emphasis on the continuous improvement of all aspects of quality, from the actual design and manufacture of a product, to the way in which customers are served. More important, they are based on the idea that quality is something for which all employees share responsibility - rather than relegating quality related concerns to specific individuals or departments. Thus, workers themselves, rather than supervisors and inspectors, are responsible for inspecting their output



and rmmnuzmg defects. In order to accomplish this, workers must be given considerable discretion in the workplace, and they must at the same time be highly committed to employer goals. The second is justin-time system. These systems are designed to minimize stock and work-in-progress inventory levels, while providing maximum flexibility to respond to changes in market demands. Finally, the term "workplace re-engineering" is often used to refer to workplace change programs involving (in theory) radical restructuring of work relations so as to cut costs and improve flexibility. Three Theses on the Effectiveness of High Performance Systems. Proponents have generally argued that, for high performance practices to reach their full potential, various conditions must normally be met (see Godard, 2001a Wood, 1999). In particular, three "theses" can be identified. The first thesis can be referred to as the "comprehensiveness thesis (Godard, 2001a). Under this thesis, reforms must be fully or comprehensively implemented. A "halfway" approach, providing workers with some enhanced discretion and opportunity to participate, may yield some positive effects, but it is only once reforms have been fully adopted that their real potential can be realized. For example, having employees work in teams may make some difference, but this difference may be relatively small unless these teams have a high degree of autonomy and are given responsibility for a specific good or service. Thus, the positive effects of these reforms increase exponentially with the level of adoption, with each increase in the level of adoption yielding even larger improvements than the previous increase. A second, and closely related thesis is the complementarities thesis. Under this, high performance practices are thought to complement one another (e.g., Ichniowski Shaw, and Prennushi, 1997). That is, while each practice can be expected to have some positive effect in and of itself, this effect is enhanced to the extent that it is implemented in combination with other practices. As an example, job design reforms can be expected to have positive motivational effects because they allow greater discretion and responsibility. But these effects are unlikely to be fully realized if these reforms are not complemented by participative reforms and high commitment employment practices, because employees are otherwise less likely to identify with employer goals and may lack the ability, commitment, or incentiv to exercise this discretion and responsibility in a way that is consisten with employer goals. Conversely, participative reforms and high co 136

Contemporary Management Practices

mitment employment practices may enhance employee identification with employer goals and ensure that they have the necessary ability, commitment, or incentives. But their effects are likely to be limited if job redesign reforms have not been implemented, because workers may have little discretion with which to improve performance. In short, the whole is greater in its effects tban is the sum of its parts. The third thesis can be referred to as tbe matching thesis. This thesis argues that the effectiveness of high performance work practices will not be fully realized unless matcbed with a firm's competitive strategy (Guest, 1987; Huselid, 1995: 664). In particular, quality and flexibility represent two of the major advantages of a high performance work system. Yet these advantages are likely to be of less importance if the orkp1ace is producing a standardized, low-cost output in which quality concerns are relatively unimportant. It is only if tbe employer is pursuing a higher quality higher-cost strategy in which tbe ability to respond and adapt rapidly to changing demands that flexibility and quality are likely to be of maior importance. Th under the matching thesis, high performance are like to be most effective for employers aiming at high qnaliIy specializ.ed markets subject to rapid change." Variants on the High Performance Theme. A number of varian of the high performance model have been identified (see Applebaum am Batt, 1994; Cutcher-Gershenfeld and Verma, 1994). But the most common distinction has been between the "team" and the lean" models (e.g., Berggren, 1992). Under both models, workers usually in teams. But under the team model, these teams are truly autonomous and workers have considerable discretion over the pace of work. Under the lean model, they are subject to traditional npervision and centralized decision-making processes, tasks remain narro and there is normally a just-in-time system in place, thereby allowing little control over the pace of work. Thus, while the former may be viewed as fully conforming to the high performance model, the latter may fall somewhat short of this model. As discussed more fully below, there

4 This does not mean that they should not be adopted where such a strategy is not in place. Indeed, implicit to much of the high performance literature is the argument that firms should adopt this strategy so that the competitive advantages associated with this model can be fully realized. But even if this were not the case, there would appear to be a general consensus among proponents that high performance work systems have potentially strong performance effects even in lower cost mass production operations, because they also facilitate cost reduction and increased productivity (e.g., Pfeffer, 1998: 57).



has been considerable debate over the impJi-cariOillS particular for the nature and experience of 0 (Adler, 1993) argue that workers are, through other practices associated with the high performance .......... .:L. to develop a high level of commitment and involveme

The High Performance Paradigm and Unions

Historically, some of the practices associated with the high pe mance paradigm and its predecessors (e.g., welfare capitalism) been used to keep a union from forming. They have done so either _ ensuring that workers are sufficiently satisfied with the treatment they receive from management that they see no need for a union, or by establishing means of representation and participation that serve as substitutes for a union (see Jacoby, 1997). However, many proponents of the high performance paradigm - especially those in the field of industrial relations - argue that the presence of a union can enhance the effectiveness of the high performance model. Proponents argue that unions can contribute in two ways. First, they argue that the participation of a union in the design and implementation of high performance practices helps to offset worker insecurity and distrust, because workers can be confident that their own elected and independent representatives have played a role and hence that these practices will not have negative implications for them. Second, proponents argue that a high performance system requires a long term commitment, yet managers often act in ways that undermine a high performance system or the promises associated with it (e.g., job security) in order to satisfy short term pressures. A union can help to prevent this by holding management to its word, especially if it has managed to negotiate various promises into the collective agreement. Proponents also argue that not only can unions be good for the high performance model, this model can be good for unions. Specifically, this model provides unions with an opportunity to discard their traditional adversarial role in favour of a more co-operative one, in which they are able to serve as "partners" in the pursuit of "mutual gains" that derive from the effective implementation of a high performance system. In an era characterized by union stagnation and even decline, the high performance model thus serves as a basis for union renewal, ensuring that unions have a much more positive future than otherwise. Failure to take this opportunity will only mean loss of membership support and continued decline, especially as workers

Contemporary Management Practices

will come to see unions as outmoded and standing in the way of changes that are good for them as well as their employers. It is important to recognize, however, that these tend to be theoretical arguments. As shall be apparent below, whether they hold in practice is uncertain.



According to proponents, high performance practices represent the "wave of the future". By giving workers the opportunity to realize their potential on the job and adopting the appropriate selection, training, and compensation policies, high performance practices foster high employee motivation and commitment, which in turn produces high levels of cooperation and productivity. Proponents therefore tend to view the high performance model as good not only for employers, but also for employees and ultimately for society. Despite the theoretical promise of the high performance model, it does not appear to have been widely adopted. A sizeable majority of employers do appear to have adopted at least a few of the practices associated with this model, but only a small minority - perhaps fewer than one in ten, appear to have adopted them to a high degree.> It appears that most employers have used these practices to augment more traditional approaches rather than to "transform" the way work is done or the relations between employees and their employers. In addition, there has now been considerable research addressing whether high performance practices have the positive implications claimed for them by their proponents. It is important to consider this research

5 For example, a 1992-94 survey of 341 Canadian firms found that although 70 percent of participating firms reported some adoption of high performance practices, only 9 percent reported doing so with "high intensity". A 2001 Statistics Canada survey of 6,223 establishments with over 10 employees found that, although 4 in 10 reported some form of information sharing and a quarter reported problem solving teams, only 9 percent reported self-directed work groups (Statistics Canada, 2004). These findings also reveal somewhat lower levels of adoption than did a comparable, 1999 survey of 3,142 employers (Morisette and Rosa, 2003: 25). In the United States, a 1997 survey of 3,167 establishments with over 20 employees found that, although half of these establishments had reportedly adopted at least 3 of 7 practices asked about, only 8 percent had adopted more than 4 (Ellwood et al., 2000: 69-78). In the U.K., a 1998 survey found that, although 7 in 10 employers had adopted at least 3 of 15 practices asked about, only 14 percent had 8 or more (Cully et aI., 1999: 110). Moreover, only 3 percent had teams in which workers selected their own leader, which may be viewed as a criterion for whether truly autonomous teams have been established (Cully et aI., 1999: 43).



and the debates surrounding, it because all too often there is a tendency for practitioners, policy makers, and academics to buy into particular ideas because these ideas are consistent with what they ant to believe rather than because they actually work. Unfortunately, there is reason to believe that this may have been at least partly the case with regard to the high performance paradigm (Godard and Delaney 2000: 485-86). This section thus provides an overview of some of the more important research findings and the issues surrounding them, based on a more thorough analysis published elsewhere (Godard, 2004a). High Performance Practices and Performance. The evidence as to the implications of high performance practices for performance is somewhat mixed. Although a number of initial studies found these practices to on average bear positive associations with performance (e.g. Huselid, 1995; Ichniowski, Shaw, and Prennushi, 1997), more recent studies have found these practices to have weak, if any, associations (e.g., Cappelli and Neumark, 2001; Freeman, Kleiner, and Ostroff, 2000: 9-12). More critical assessments of the research have also found that most if not all of the former studies have suffered from one or more potentially serious limitations, thus limiting the amount of confidence that can be placed in their results (see Godard and Delan 2000; Godard, 2004a). For example, it is possible that employers have high performance have more resources and are more tikJ to adopt high performance practices as a result, in which case performance "causes" high performance practices rather than vice Most studies have been unable to address this possibility. In ad there has been a tendency for many studies to include a of practices that are more closely associated with the burea accommodative approach, in which case they may simply be that these practices, rather than their high performance parts, enhance performance. Finally, attempts to establish an employer has adopted these practices typically involve simple questions asked of a senior manager. There is evi the answers to such questions cannot be considered to reliable information of what is actually happening in the itself. Similar concerns have been raised about studies claiming support for the three theses associated with the ioparadigm (the comprehensiveness, complementariti and matcbi:ng thesis). One assessment of the literature even tha contrary to the comprehensiveness thesis, the main performance effects of high




performance practices seem in most workplaces to occur when a few of these practices have been adopted in conjunction with more traditional bureaucratic/accommodative practices (Godard, 2004a). One problem with any such conclusion, however, is that studies exploring the effects of high performance practices typically explore the average effects of these practices on performance, based on data obtained for a large number of employers in a particular industry or the economy as a whole. It may be that high performance practices have strong positive effects for some of these employers, but weak or negative ones for others. Indeed, proponents of the high performance model have identified a number of individual employers where the former appears to have been the case (Pfeffer, 1994, 1998; Kochan and Osterman, 1994; Levine, 1995). Yet there is also evidence that, even for these employers, high performance systems tend to be fragile (Clarke, 1997: 859) and are often scaled back or discontinued altogether after a few years have elapsed (Heckscher and Schurman, 1997). So the number of cases where they have been effective for employers over a long period of time may be small. Overall, it would appear that we should treat broad-brush claims about the performance effects of high performance practices, and about research studies claiming to observe them, with a healthy degree of scepticism. There is little reason to doubt that high performance systems are highly effective in some workplaces, or that the adoption of at least some high performance practices can contribute to performance in most workplaces. But the evidence to date does not support the assumption that they represent some sort of "magic bullet" that can yield dramatic performance gains for all or even many employers. High Performance Practices and the Nature of Work. There are also questions as to whether the high performance paradigm has the positive effects promised for workers. Again, a number of studies have reported evidence of such effects, but these studies may suffer from important shortcomings. For example, one major study (Appelbaum et aI., 2000) found that job complexity (e.g., how much responsibility and challenge a job entails) was associated with higher levels of job satisfaction. But whether high performance practices give rise to greater job complexity has been a matter of some debate, and many jobs may in any case be high in complexity regardless of whether high performance practices have been adopted. In addition, critics have argued that, rather than adopting a "commitment" approach, under which workers are truly empowered and



progressive employment practices are fully adopted, employers often opt for a low cost, "control" approach that reduces skills and intensifies the work process and does not require progressive employment practices. Under this approach, the use of teams, job enlargement, job rotation, and multi-skilling mean that workers are expected to perform a broader array of tasks and to help with the work of others who are absent or may have fallen behind. A number of studies have found that this may be the case (see Landsbergis, Cahill, and Schnall, 1999). However, these studies have typically been conducted in automobile assembly and parts manufacturing, and so the results from them may not apply to other industries (Godard, 2004a: 359). A 1998 study (Godard, 2002) intended to address the limitations of these and other studies found that the answer may lie somewhere in between the arguments of proponents and those of critics. This study involved the survey of 508 employed Canadians referred to in chapter three. It found that the number of high performance practices to which respondents were subject bore a positive association with whether they were highly motivated and committed to their employer. But it also found that the number of such practices was positively associated with the level of stress they reported in their job. It also found that the adoption of a limited number of high perfor-. mance practices appeared to have positive implications for job satisfaction., the extent to which workers felt that they belonged, the extent to which they felt involved in their work, the extent to which they felt empowered, and their level of self-esteem. But higher levels of adoption had few positive implications and, in some cases, had negative implications for these outcomes. In addition, although working in traditional groups (i.e., with supervisors) had a number of positive implications for workers, working in autonomous groups had, if anything, somewhat negative ones. In other words, it would appear that any positive implications that high performance practices have for workers may, on average, taper off and even decline at higher levels of adoption, which are more likely to involve autonomous teams. It may be that, as for employers, the most positive effects for workers are when a few of these practices are adopted in conjunction with traditional bureaucratic/accommodative practices and that, on average, full adoption of these practices does not have positive effects and may even have negative ones. It is also possible, however, that much depends on the extent to which employers adopt a "commitment" or a "control" approach, as signified by the extent to which high commitment employment practices are in place. If so, the problem may be that too many employers are failing to fully adopt these practices.

Contemporary Management Practices

To date, however, there does not appear to have been any research systematically addressing this possibility.
High Performance Practices and Unions. A further issue has been whether high performance practices really have positive implications for unions. As noted earlier, proponents of these practices argue that high performance practices enable unions to develop a new "partnership" role, one that replaces their more traditional adversarial one and may even enhance their effectiveness. Sceptics have argued, however, that the emphasis the high performance paradigm places on cooperation may undermine the very reason for a union - to represent worker interests where they conflict with tho e of the employer and to provide workers with a meaningful voice through hich they can express discontent. In effect, the emphasis on cooperation may create an environment that is hostile to the expression of legitimate concerns and hence to the performance of this role and those who support it. If so, it may lower the likelihood that workers will form a union. Where one is formed, the union is likely to be marginalized by the employer unless it adopts a "partnership" role. Yet doing so lessens its ability to adequately represent worker interests and concerns where they conflict with those of the employer, thus undermining its main reason for existing. Either way, the union loses. Again, the research is unclear (Godard, 2004a: 360-63). It reveals little association between the adoption of high performance practices and whether a union is established. In other words, it does not appear that high performance practices are more likely to be adopted in nonunion workplaces. This is contrary to what one would expect if a major purpose of these practices was to keep unions out. Moreover, there is little evidence that a primary reason for adopting these practices is to weaken unions or to keep them from forming. However, a survey of Canadian employers found that keeping unions out was at least partly the reason for adopting them in roughly one in four firms that had done so, and that it was viewed as an outcome from adopting these practices in roughly one in three of these firms (Godard, 1998a: 2627). A number of studies have also found that workers are somewhat less likely to vote in favour of forming a union to the extent that these practices are in place (Godard, 2004a: 361-62). Thus, the adoption of high performance practices may have negative implications for the likelihood of a union becoming established, although these implications do not appear to be very strong. As for what happens where a union is already established, a few studies have found that high performance practices tend to harm 143


membership support for the union if it does not co-operate with management, and to have neutral or even positive implications for membership support if it does co-operate (e.g., Verma, 1989; Frost, 2000). Yet much may depend on whether the union is provided with a meaningful opportunity to co-operate and has sufficient power and institutional security to ensure that it can represent its members' interests effectively when conflicts arise. Where this is not the case the union may find itself to be undermined if it co-operates (Marks et al., 1998: 220-223). Moreover, it appears that, over time, unions that cooperate can experience internal tensions and conflicts, reflecting strains between their traditional role as an adversary and the more eo-operative one demanded of them by the employer (e.g., ells, 1993 . One problem with the research is that it addresses the implications of high performance practices relative to those of all other employer practices, whether these are autocratic/exploitive or bureaucratic/accommodative. One would expect that if these implications were compared only to those of autocratic/exploitive practn which tend to entail a highly antagonistic approach towards unio high performance practices would appear to be positive to unions, But if compared only to bureaucratic/accommodative practices, which tend to entail greater acceptance and accommodation of unio the eoneems raised about high performance practices may be borne out. The latter may represent the more appropriate comparison, becanse ere is evidence that high performance practices are much more e 10 be adopted by larger employers, and it is these emplo have traditionally been most likel to opt for a b odative approach to ards unions. To date ho ~ ~ e research does not shed much light on this

Whither the
The discussion to this potential claimed for it, the high performance been fully adopted only in a limited number of e full adoption of this paradigm may no on . d outromes that are appreciably more positive than en n - 0 partly adopted, in conjunction with more traditional, bu:reancrati accommodative practices. Indeed, it is even possible that high levels of adoption yield outcomes that are appreciably less positive. This is especially so with regards to the worker and union outcomes. Yet, even from an employer perspective, it is not clear that the theoretical benefits of the high performance paradigm are on average borne out in practice.

Contemporary Management Practices

Three general explanations have been advanced to explain these findings. The first, which has traditionally been the main explanation offered by proponents of the high performance paradigm, has been that the research findings do not reflect a problem with the paradigm itself; instead, the problem is essentially a managerial one. Managers, it is argued, often adhere to outmoded or traditional values and beliefs, values and beliefs that are more associated with the other two approaches considered in this chapter and hence are contrary to those needed for the full and effective adoption of the high performance paradigm. In addition, managers often lack the knowledge, expertise, or financial resources needed for its full and effective adoption. Thus, the problem is essentially one of properly educating managers and helping to ensure that the needed expertise and resources are more readily available to them (e.g., through government assistance). The second, which proponents have also increasingly begun to adopt, is that the problem derives from the incentive structures to which managers are subject. Under this explanation, employers have little incentive to invest in the high levels of training required by the high performance paradigm because employees may subsequently be hired away by other employers, so that this investment is lost. In addition, financial markets and incentives place pressures on employers to maximize returns to investors over the short term. This results in the adoption of a low cost, control approach that relies on intensification of the work process, rather than a longer-term "commitment" approach that relies on the development of trust and partnership. According to proponents, the latter approach is critical if the true potential of the high performance paradigm is to be realized. These two general explanations are plausible, and the available research suggests some support for them (Godard, 2004a: 364-66). Yet the third explanation, which is not normally considered by proponents, suggests that the problem is more basic, stemming from the nature of the employment relationship itself. Under this explanation, it is argued that, because the employment relation is a one of subordination, in which workers take on the status of resources to serve employer ends, the high levels of trust and commitment sought under the high performance paradigm are far more difficult and hence costly to achieve and sustain than proponents assume. Thus, although the adoption of some of these practices may result in a meaningful increase in commitment, any further gains from higher levels of adoption are likely to be only marginal. Hence, they are likely to make sense only in those workplaces where even small increases can have

important performance implications, which is the case where workers have high levels of relational power. This would explain why high levels of adoption are relatively rare. Moreover, the difficulties in achieving high levels of commitment, coupled with the costs of doing so, may mean that it makes sense for many employers to adopt a low cost, intensification approach: one that increases work loads and stress without empowering workers or requiring the adoption of high commitment employment practices. This may be especially so in workplaces where workers fear job loss and have few job alternatives and hence can be, in effect, "coerced to co-operate" (Drago, 1996). This would explain why, for example, such an approach appears to be predominate in the auto assembly and parts industries, where employers are readily able to relocate. But even where such an approach is not adopted, the costs associated with high levels of high performance practices may still generate substantial pressures to achieve performance gains, thus creating a high stress environment. This would explain why high performance practices tend to have mixed effects for workers, especially at high levels of adoption, and why they often appear to create difficulties for unions. Finally, the difficulties in achieving and sustaining high levels of commitment may cause employers who adopt full, high performance systems to eventually determine that these systems are simply not worth the costs and problems associated with them, explaining why such systems often have a limited life span. These difficulties may also explain why such systems tend to be fragile. Overall, this more basic explanation suggests that the high performance paradigm may be inherently flawed as a general approach for management, at least given the way the employment relation is currently structured at law in Canada (see Godard, 2004a: 369-70). It also suggests that this paradigm does not hold the promise for either workers or unions that proponents argue to be the case. If these conclusions are valid, it may on average be more conducive to the interests of employers, workers, and unions, to adopt some variant of the bureaucratic/accommodative approach, perhaps in combination with selected high performance practices. However, although this would appear to be what many employers have been doing, a great deal likely depends on an employer's specific circumstances. This is discussed further in the next chapter. More important at this point are possible ethical issues.

Contemporary Management Practices

Ethical Issues
Ethical issues involving employer practices are probably most apparent with regard to the autocratic/exploitive model, especially where it entails employer attempts to avoid or undermine a union. Not only do such attempts often entail illegal actions (see chapter seven), they are also contrary to the right of workers to achieve meaningful independent representation at work, which many would argue should be central in any democratic society. Indeed, the freedom to join a union and engage in collective bargaining is widely recognized as a fundamental human right, as discussed in chapter seven. Ethical issues have also been raised, however, about the high performance paradigm. These issues go beyond more obvious concerns about the implications of high performance practices for the nature of work and the effectiveness of unions to more philosophical issues having to do with democratic rights and freedoms (see Ackroyd and Thompson, 1999: 150-55). According to some critics (e.g., McKinlay and Taylor, 1996; Sennett, 1998), the high performance model can be highly oppressive, because workers are required to accept employer goals and values as their own. In addition, workers are subject to strong peer pressures to be good "team players" and as a result do not feel free to express otherwise legitimate concerns and complaints. From an employer's perspective, this may not be a bad thing. But for critics, high performance practices represent. little more than a social engineering technology that stifles freedom of thought as well as expression, both of which are not only associated with a truly free and democratic society, but which are essential to the survival of such a society. It is possible that these concerns are ill-founded, reflecting a tendency for some authors to under-estimate the ability of workers to think for themselves and to resist these sorts of pressures if, indeed, they exist in the first place (see Ackroyd and Thompson, 1999: 15562). This would be consistent with the argument that the levels of trust and commitment sought under the high performance paradigm are more difficult to achieve and more fragile than proponents have assumed. Yet to the extent that such concerns are valid, it suggests that, from an ethical standpoint, some variant of the bureaucratic/ accommodative approach, perhaps combined with those high performance practices that allow workers more discretion and autonomy, may be preferred. Under this approach, workers are not expected to adopt employer goals and values as their own. Rather, it is recognized that there may be legitimate differences between employer and worker


goals, and that there is need for employers to accommodate such differences rather than to attempt to impose their goals onto workers. Not only may this be more ethically desirable, it may also be more realistic in view of the possible limitations to the high performance paradigm identified above.



This chapter has gone beyond the historical analysis of chapter four to address contemporary management policies and practices in labour relations. Though these policies and practices are often complex and inconsistent, it has been possible to identify three general approaches which appear to be most predominant: (1) exploitive/autocratic, (2) accommodativelbureaucratic, and (3) autonomic/consociative. The first of these is most reminiscent of the coercive drive approach emergent at the end of the nineteenth century, and the second of the post-war status quo as it developed in the 1950s and 1960s. The third is borne of both the welfare capitalist tradition of the 1920s and the "human relations school" emergent in the 1930s, but has grown to be increasingly sophisticated over the past few decades, and is now engendered in the high performance paradigm touted by many as the "wave of the future". Because of this, considerable emphasis has been placed on this paradigm. But a number of issues are associated with it, and the available research suggests that it may not hold the promise for employers, workers, or unions that many of its proponents have assumed.