Modern Perspective of Personal Management!

The object of personnel management is basically one of reducing the charm between organisational objectives and the individual’s objectives to the desirable extent, by treating individuals at work in such a way that they will realise their maximum possible intrinsic abilities, to create an effective organisation.

In this broad perspective, an evaluation of personnel management by referring to external symptoms such as absenteeism, accidents, labour turnover, etc. results in a mere superficial evaluation.


There are deep-rooted malignant causes for which we have to worry more when we observe the Indian scenario of human resources management, the widespread feeling of alienation on our work-force from the work situation, lack of respect for authority, poor work-relations, point out that we are sinning more than sinned against through our ill-equipped managerial leadership.

The time has come to take stock of personnel management practices in India, in the light of the emerging unpalatable trends and growing political influence of labour, because, or most of the past three decades, the top management’s attention has simply been absorbed by issues of growth, diversification and related financial and legal concerns.

In consequence, labour management relations and employment matters have been relegated to down-the-line managers and staff to a degree rare in Europe, where labour is much more disciplined than here.

Human Resource Management is not an exact science where one can apply neat formulae. Professionalisation of management in India is basically ‘Americanisation’ of management practices. Whatever we grafted from the West, we applied them in the most unimaginative way. We failed to make our social values productive, though fond of quoting Japanese management practices.


Take, for example, the concept of class. The lingering aspects of the Indian ethos, wholly or essentially absent in the United States, tell most of the story of why differences are and will be great. First, the ancient notion of class by birth still clings to most contemporary social and economic Indian institutions.

Class is still as manifest in the jealously guarded social caste system of most Indian managers as it is in the fierce class consciousness, and caste consciousness of Indian workers. The continuing Indian awareness of class and its political mirror image, class struggle—may well be the seminal social essence of the Indian version of industrial democracy.

Second, and certainly in large measure deriving from the deep sense of class itself so basically absent in the twentieth century United States, is the turn-to-government-for-what- you-need syndrome characteristic of most Indian workers.

Unless we take congnisance of these realities, human resource management in India is bond to result in sub-optimum results, right questions have seldom been debated.


To mention a few: Whether enforcement of collectivisation techniques will ever succeed in a basically individualistic society; whether paternalistic management is really a bane; whether democratisation of work-situations is possible if the workforce is not willing to subordinate individual rights to collective rights; whether participative techniques yield desirable results if workers fear freedom or, for that matter, imposition of factory culture, however desirable from modern management point of view, will ever result in harmony in work relations if those imposed sub- cultural values are not compatible with the major social values in which the work force has been nurtured.

Even though these questions defy categorical answers because of the dynamics of each work situation, we have to grapple with these questions to have a broad framework to start in the right direction, instead of proceeding in a wrong direction rightly.

When we scan the human relations management scenario in this country, we will be struck by a realisation that personnel management is treated basically as the task of a super specialist, instead of that of every executive, the specialist personnel Managers, instead of main line executives effective in dealing with people, knowingly or unknowingly usurp their functions by trying to deal with the work force directly. So, naturally, his department tends to become a fire-fighting instead of a fire prevention department.

In fact most of the line and staff frictions result from this ill-conceived encroachment of legitimate authority zones. As a result, most executives spend a major part of their precious time in organisational politicking, it is a case of Personnel Managers giving rise to conflicts, fuelling frictions in the organisation rather than snubbing the causes, it is wrong to attribute all ills in our approach to human resource management, to personal managers or to individual organisations. Only a purblind critic can do that.


Take the case of the growing legalistic approach to management of conflict. Relations Management in an organisation forms an integral part of our national human resource management.

Failure to appreciate the ramifications of the systems approach will only result in half truths. Personnel Management in an industry cannot be viewed in isolation. Managers at micro enterprise level, to survive, cannot but respond to the policies formulated at macro national level.

Will it be possible to sustain interest in mutual negotiations to resolve conflicts across the table, if both the parties realize that they are not bound to honour what is agreed upon? But it is also true that our government, with its responsiveness to popular will, cannot and will not recede into background on matters of national interest.

So, it is vitally important for business and labour leaders to understand national priorities, interests and problems as seen from the political leaders’ perspective. It is difficult to understand much less control, the consequences of particular problems or policy “solutions”. Let us first take the issue of professional well-paid employees turning to unions.


The cause for this can be many, but the basic face is that today’s professionals are no longer self-employed independent practitioners, but are instead employees of ever-larger organisations. No matter what the nature of the employing institutions, few individuals within it feel they have sufficient personal bargaining power to effectively control their careers or their jobs since professional employees lack strength as individuals.

The logical approach is to join together to support each other. Moreover, the expectation of the professional all too often, falls far short of reality. Dissatisfaction may result from inadequate technical support, insufficient opportunity to pursue interesting ideas, excess interference by superiors, and lack of sufficient input to project assignment decisions, and so on. A progressive management will have to live with the fact that white-collar and professional employees will have to be attracted to unions in ever-growing number.

The most important factor is the growing size and impersonality of employing organisations; this will make the professional even more remote from the centre of decision ­making and will inevitably increase his frustrations. It is this professional malaise, rather than strictly monetary considerations, that in the long run will result in a union.

We begin to find today the symptoms of a new industrial illness. We invest in machines to eliminate some of the physical stresses of work, and then we find that psychological tensions cause even more health and behaviour problems.


Technical changes would be fruitless if they were not accompanied by organisational changes and evolution towards a climate of cooperation and partnership.

Unfortunately in India, for various reasons, there is no sustained commitment at all levels to change the work environment.

Take for example the question of creating consultation structure in our factories. With a few exceptions, our attempts, to create work place renaissance through workers participation in management failed because we have not trained our employees to participate. The result is we see fires of discontent.

The leaders of that revolt are the young and the better educated; it is this group who speak openly about their resentment at the humiliation of having no voice in organizing their work environment and content.


They have experienced the freedom to participate in problem-solving and decision-making in their homes, their schools, and in the governing of their country but not at work where they spend most of their waking hours.

Higher Pay will not provide a satisfactory answer to the young employees’ earning for self-fulfillment, or for the loss of self-esteem from having to perform mind-killing work. Participation actually demands better leadership as well as more self-discipline from everyone involved.

It is the weak people in management who have difficulties dealing with employee representatives’ .Until, the manager can earn the respect of employees, there will be mutual suspicion, and too little information will flow between them. Participation demands more work, not less from everybody.

The manager who is reluctant or just gives lip service to the idea of participation can hold back employee- based changes that are actually in the best interest of both the corporation and its employees.

In practice, the “Open Door” implies to the factory man, “if you want to do business with a staff person you must come up to his front office”. The need of the hour is for “open floor” concept.

The new approach makes the factory man’s work place as important an “office” as any place else in the factory, so that territorial barriers are specifically torn down. Similarly, one fails to understand the rationality behind many discriminatory personnel policies and practices between factory and office employees. Does it not benefit the management when factory employees are given the same respect and concern usually shown only of office people?


Human Resource Management is not an absolute science. The widespread productivity to invent principles of Personnel Management with an overdose of common sense, devoid of empirical research, will only result in distorted managerial orientations.

To give an example, the personnel problems in the textile industry, where the labour has developed traditions of its own due to historical and technological reasons, cannot be the same as in the case of a modern petro-chemical industry.

There are very few Indian case studies dealing with the linkage and interactions between technology and human relations, though we are profuse in dealing with the questions of semantics.

The dilemma of a personal Officer; to what extent participative management can be allowed in work relations without impairing organisational effectiveness; how to promote his own interests without sacrificing organisational interest etc. are seldom debated. In fact, participative management means in its extreme form, equal distribution of power throughout the organisation.

Another important dilemma of a personnel man is: to what extent should he humanize work relations? He knows by experience that every step towards democratization on will result in new demands on the enterprise’s resources, which are allowed to remain under the carpet.

He also knows that not allowing an outlet to discontent will boomerant with vengeance one day. No amount of text-book knowledge will enable him to take correct decisions in this respect unless he takes resource to periodical attitudinal survey, which is, building his own empirical information system.


Similarly, the style of leadership the personnel man should pursue is a perplexing task which cannot be easily resolved by recollecting Liker’s Four Patterns of Management of managerial Grid of Black and Mouton.

The statement “your style should place optimum emphasis both on production and the human side of the enterprise.” is nothing more than obvious truism and its practical utility is negligible.

The correct ‘situational style’ can be adopted by the personnel manager only when he has a thorough grasp of the socio-economic dimensions of his work force, the influence of specific technology on the human relations circuit and the interaction functional role that is expected of the personnel department within the broad framework of organisational objectives.

On all these counts, our empirical insights are far from satisfactory. These are important business problems rather than questions of semantics. How management answers them determines what course of action it will choose.