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The Practice of Promoting Based on Seniority and Its Impact in the US Workplace Essay Sample

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Introduction of TOPIC

The attitudes of managers toward their people are of primary importance (Goleman, 2001). Employees should be able to trust the motives and integrity of their supervisors. The managers in an organization are forced and driven to be cautiously appreciative of their people’s contribution that flows from high performance. They are expected to recognize that rewards must be psychological as well as financial, and strive for an atmosphere where each of their people can share the adventure and excitement of working at the company. It is the responsibility of management to create a productive environment where the organization’s values flourish (Blauner, 1999).

According to common researches, the people side of organizations came into its own in the 1930s, predominately as a result of the Hawthorne studies. These studies led to a new emphasis on the human factor in organizations and increased paternalism by management. In the late 1950s, managers’ attention was caught by the ideas of people like Abraham Maslow and Douglas McGregor, who proposed that organization structures and management practices had to be altered so as to bring out the full productive potential of the employees.

Supervisory management is the level that interacts with the workforce. This makes them the first level in upward communication of ideas for improving productivity. Much of the worker’s sense of the organization is based on the quality of interaction with their immediate supervisor. If he or she does not create an ambiance of trust that encourages open communication, it is unlikely that the workers will attempt to suggest improvements, however top management may feel.

After the individual is adequately socialized and has received the necessary training to perform job effectively, the next step in developing human resources is to determine how effectively people are performing at present. This is the purpose of performance appraisal, which can be thought of as an extension of the control function. In theory, the control process involves setting standards, measurement of results to determine deviation from standards , and corrective action, if needed. Similarly, performance appraisal requires supervisors to gather information on how effective each individual is at accomplishing delegated duties. Communicating this information to subordinates enables them to know how well they are doing and to correct less than acceptable behavior. Performance appraisal also permits management to identify the outstanding performers and in effect raise their performance standards by promoting them to more challenging positions.

Every organization has a continuous need to evaluate its personnel in order to make administrative decisions regarding promotion, transfer, or termination. Performance appraisal is also needed to provide people with information about their relative level of performance. When done correctly, the individual will learn not only whether his or her performance is acceptable, but also specifically what strengths and weaknesses he or she has and which areas could be improved. By identifying strong performers, management is able to reward them fairly with praise, pay, and promotion. Consistent, positive reinforcement for behavior associated with high performance should lead to similar behavior in the future.

In many of today’s workplaces, an effort is made to enrich jobs. The goal of job enrichment is to design tasks that will help satisfy some of the higher-order needs of workers (that is, needs for self-esteem and self-actualization) through the provision of motivational job factors. According to Frederick Herzberg, included in the category of motivators are responsibility, achievement, recognition, challenging work, and advancement in the organization (Kleinbeck, et al., 2000).

Job satisfaction is the difference between the amounts of rewards workers receive and the amount they believe they should receive. The belief that satisfied employees are more productive than dissatisfied employees has been a basic tenet among managers for years. Although much evidence questions that assumed causal relationship, it can be argued that advanced societies should be concerned not only with the quantity of life, that is concerns such as higher productivity and material acquisitions, but also with its quality. The most potent factors in job satisfaction are those that relate to workers’ self-respect, their chance to perform well, their opportunities for achievement and growth, and the chance to contribute something personal and quite unique (Cameron and Pierce, 2002).

These researchers with strong humanistic values additionally argue that satisfaction is a legitimate objective of any organization. Not only is satisfaction negatively related to absenteeism and turnover, but, they argue that these organizations have a responsibility to provide employees with jobs that are challenging and intrinsically rewarding (Cameron and Pierce, 2002).

In recent years, a number of organizational programs have been developed that attempt to enhance organizational productivity and worker satisfaction through the use of human resources principles (Gilley and Maycunich, 2000). For example, the Honda plant in Maryville, Ohio, has often been touted as one of the most successful implementations of Japanese management principles in the United States. In this plant, the value of the collective is emphasized through the flattening of the organizational hierarchy. Instead of there being managers and workers, everyone at the plant is an associate. The input of all employees is valued through the use of quality control circles, groups of workers who generate innovative ideas for improving the quality of the production process. Emphasis is placed in worker education, with the goal of helping associates to work smarter.

In short, this plant and others that have instituted the organizational values of Japanese management are working to solve organizational problems and increase effectiveness by drawing on the skills and ideas of the workforce (Gilley and Maycunich, 2000).

Indeed, the principles of human relations are certainly intuitively appealing. Gilley and Maycunich believe that by assuming good things about employees, by treating them well with enriched and challenging jobs, and by fulfilling their needs for esteem and self-actualization, managers could generate a climate in which worker satisfaction and productivity will flourish. When the attitudes, assumptions, and subtle behaviors are perceived by some members of the organization as threatening and potentially punishing, especially to an individual member’s sense of self-respect, then the climate will be defensive (Cameron and Pierce, 2002).

Out of climate of continuous defensiveness evolve hostile attitudes and ways of reacting between the workforce and the management. When threats are posed to such an extent that hostility and destructive drives are excited, workers become rather motivated to uphold industrial action than production (Blauner, 1999).

Whether it comes from Robert Blauner, Judy Cameron and David Pierce, or Jerry Gilley and Ann Maycunich, it is undeniable that this principle works both ways: productivity is highest when the group is cohesive. Teamwork, group morale, and team spirit are other terms that refer to feelings of cohesiveness. Although cohesiveness tends to produce higher levels of organizational accomplishments, it also places demands on members of the organization. When participation is attractive and important to the parties involved, the norms, or expected and acceptable behaviors exert a strong influence on the concerned. The stronger the influence of these conditional factors on behavior, the greater is the likelihood of the organizational citizens conforming to qualified expectations (Goleman, 2001).

            American management places high premium on maximized return on investment through technological and individual efficiency. Employees dislike work but may be motivated by money if tasks are closely supervised. Or

ganizational goals therefore believed to be incongruent with employee goals. In Japanese management,

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people are seen as most valuable asset in order to achieve company goals of increasing their share of international markets. Organization and employee group goals are therefore seen as congruent to group goals (Keeley 2001).

            Since U.S. companies are highly centralized, top down written communication, with extensive post-decision verbal communication is employed to seek compliance. Japanese management systems encourage participative decision-making. All those who will be affected by a decision are involved in making it. Even of sixty to seventy people are involved, they must reach a consensus in which all parties understand each other’s point of view. They all may not prefer the final decision, but will support it because they have had a chance to explain their viewpoints and listen to others. While a decision reached through consensus takes longer, it is usually faster to implement with fewer problems because of the commitment of all involved. This ringi process in which collective decisions pass from manager to manager, typically bottom-up, for their approval promotes joint responsibility for all decisions. No one can claim individual responsibility, and private turfs are thus minimized (Keeley 2001).

The human resources potential in U.S. organizations are seldom fully recognized. Human resources training and development are not carefully planned but they are intermittent with high levels of functional and technological orientation to improve individual performance. High career or specialization is also encouraged. Japanese companies see human resources as invaluable lifetime investment. There is continuous in-house training and development, which is the key to both organization loyalty and technical development. There is less job specialization but team members are encouraged to develop broader skills and management development. Technical adaptation and traditional development are thus very well developed (Keeley 2001).

One Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) decree related to performance appraisal is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, also known as EEO mandates. It prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against applicants and employees in all aspects of employment, including recruiting, hiring, pay, promotion, training and termination, on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion or gender (Blake, 1991).

Because of the likes of this law, employment decisions, therefore, are forced to be based on business necessity, not on an employee’s or applicant’s membership in a protected class. Employers likewise cannot discriminate on the basis of age by hiring younger employees because they are younger, paying an older person less because the employee is older, or terminating an older employee before a younger employee because the older employee is older. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act, also known as the ADEA, is geared toward protecting individuals over the age of 40 against employment discrimination. The ADEA does say, however, that it is not unlawful for you to observe the terms of a bona fide seniority system (Blake, 1991).Experts are predicting wide-ranging changes to the whole culture of workplaces: from advertising jobs and interviewing procedures to the way people conduct themselves in the office.

On October 1, 2004, the National Security Personnel System (NSPS) was put forward to modernize civilian personnel structures for all U.S. employees. NSPS governs basic pay, staffing, classification, performance management, labor relations, adverse actions, and employee appeals (“National Security”).

At best, the current personnel system is based on 20th century assumptions about the nature of public service and cannot adequately address the 21st century national security environment. Although the current Federal personnel management system is based on important core principles, those principles are operationalized in an inflexible, one-size-fits-all system of defining work, hiring staff, managing people, assessing and rewarding performance, and advancing personnel. The question is how appropriate it is in the modern pace of the information age and how effective would it be in addressing as many issues as possible in the U.S. workplace.

NSPS, more than an administrative move, is fundamentally a management concern. There is no system in this world that could be designed and would cause managers to behave correctly or incorrectly. There is nothing into a system. And ultimately, that is a leadership issue. If NSPS would yield a novel system that is open and sufficiently transparent in spite of the bureaucratic nature of government institutions, it would be quite of help in bringing out the best in managers. Performance management, if strictly covered by NSPS, would be an applicable course of action. There could be measurable objectives but pay as an answer to evaluating performance may be another way of undermining human behavior and motivation. Moreover, the fact remains that there is no system that guarantees good behavior.

Pay management is also a big issue in personnel workings. The merit principles, which are the foundation for the country’s civil service, cannot be touched, changed or waived. Among those principles is equal pay for work of substantially equal value. Another of the principles is a prohibition on personal favoritism (Asch, 2001).  Decisions must be made on merit.  So there is an overlay of principles that protect employees.  Things like veterans preference are protected. Due process is protected and consequently, cannot be changed. And for that reason, full attention must be likewise given to the right to reply to a hearing to the extent that anyone who wants to take an adverse action against a federal employee, there is suitably the right to review. So while the American workplace may not be able to build a perfect system, they can build around it a set of principles that protect people, a set of procedures that protect people, and oversight to ensure that no strange business occurs.

In the aviation industry, the Federal Aviation Administration has created an Age-60 Rule that is so much unfair to the fit and proficient airmen no matter how senior they are. It simply restricts the age of both a pilot-in-command and a co-pilot to 60 years. Tracing back to the history of the regulation, it was confirmed that C.R. Smith of the American Airlines was merely uneasy with the financial aspect of the industry if transitional costs of technological advances are to be accounted for (Hyland et al., 1994).

The Standard instituted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) curbs the age of both a pilot-in-command and a co-pilot to 60 years. Those who reached the age of 60 has been proscribed from engaging in commercial air transport operations by the Requirements of the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA). However, no matter how one looks at the imperative, it remains an indefensible application in bureaucratic deception, committed upon and harming both the consuming public and the industry, as well as the individual airmen upon whom it has lain so heavily these past three decades (Hyland et al., 1994).

In this regard, seniority may be a great deal to take into consideration on tenure issues. An Age-60 Rule would seem of serious weight in one-pilot operations if advanced age and medical uncertainties contributed to the higher risk actually existing in these palpably less secure flights. The incredibly powerful lobbying of ALPA, dominated by younger pilots seeking not improved safety for the community they are remunerated so well to serve, but the promotional prospects that the untimely exit of fit, skilled, and motivated airmen at the subjective and prejudiced age-60 (Hyland et al., 1994).

Indeed, it may not be proposed or even implied that retirement is not an issue but there is more to the retirement law than reaching a specified age. Unless an employer can establish a substantial basis for believing that all or nearly all employees above an age lack the qualifications required for the position, the age selected for mandatory retirement less than 70 must be an age at which it is highly impractical for the employer to assure by individual testing that its employees will have the necessary qualifications for the job.

American workers and management should have the shared vision of their Japanese counterparts. As a supervisor’s word, considerable job security for workers will be guaranteed. Morale is expected to improve when group participation in the decision is affirmed. Occasionally, a decision would disrupt morale if it were forced on the labor force without consulting them. In these situations, the supervisor may create and use a committee to bring the labor force into the decision-making process (Gilley and Eggland, 1998).

Today, American managers are going considerably further by giving employees full control of their work. Self-managed teams, in which workers operate largely without bosses, have become the rage of the 1990s. Managers’ new labels nowadays are coaches, advisers, sponsors, or facilitators. In many organizations, employees have become associates or teammates. And there’s a blurring line between the roles of managers and workers (Rue, 2004). Decision-making is being pushed down to the operating level, where workers are being given the freedom to make choices about schedules, procedures, and solving work-related problems.

The key to the future depends greatly on whether there can be a broader move toward shared responsibility between the business and the employees, which is a shared responsibility that involves greater decision-making power and job security for workers. Those of us in the company who want to see a high-morale, highly motivated employees, in addition to see more economic and social justice in America, must be willing to take risks and try new approaches. As we attempt to develop a more progressive employee-management relations, we shall not forget that those who insist in making cooperation impossible make confrontation inevitable.

All things considered, the key to improving our organization’s prosperity is to improve the prosperity of the worker (Goleman, 2001). Therefore, the workers see themselves as doers and their managers as organizers if they were rewarded well enough. Although this approach to management and motivation of employees seems naïve to us now, many major industrial employers of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, accepted it.


Asch, Beth J. (2001). The Pay, Promotion, and Retention of High-Quality Civil Service Workers in the Department of Defense. Houghton: Northland.

Blake, S. (1991). “Managing Cultural Diversity: Implications for Organizational Effectiveness.” Academy of Management Executive. New York: Bantam Books.

Blauner, Robert. (1999). “Worker Satisfaction and Industrial Trends.” A Sociological Reader on Complex Organizations. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Cameron, Judy, and David Pierce. (2002). Rewards and Intrinsic Motivation: Resolving the Controversy. Bergin & Garvey.

Gilley, Jerry W., and Ann Maycunich. (2000). Organizational Learning, Performance, and Change: An Introduction to Strategic Human Resource Development. Perseus Books.

Gilley, Jerry W., and Eggland, Steven A. (1998). Principles of Human Resource Development. Addison-Wesley Publishing.

Goleman, Daniel. (2001). Business: The Ultimate Resource. Maine: Perseus Publishing.

Kleinbeck, Uwe,  Hans-Henning Quast, Henk Thierry, and Hartmut Häcker. (2000). Work Motivation. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Keeley, Timothy Dean. (2001). International Human Resource Management in Japanese Firms: Their Greatest Challenge. Palgrave.

 “National Security Personnel System.” What’s New Page. Accessed October 8, 2005 <http://www.cpms.osd.mil/nsps/>

Rue, Leslie W. (2004). Supervision: Key Link to Productivity. 8th ed. McGraw-Hill.

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