The Feminization of Management Styles. An Alternative to Bureaucratized and Standardized Approaches?

Term Paper, 2014

12 Pages, Grade: 1,0


1. Introduction

According to a study released in the US in 2012 nearly two-third of the American workforce is not happy at work and disengaged by the organization they are working for.1 Hereby the right way of managing and controlling your workforce plays definitely a major role in affecting this problem. The working environment has shifted since our society has gone through the process of industrialization and so did the ways of collaboration, communication and monitoring at work. For being a successful human resource manager you have to understand the needs of your workers and continuously react and adapt to changing circumstances as well as improve your managing styles over time. Human resource management (HRM) handles with living creatures having their own personalities and goals and which are massively influenced by the culture and society they live in. As soon as values in society and the role of a human being regarding work are changing, traditional management styles that have worked for a long time may have become outdated.2 Instead new appropriate ways of managing your workforce may be needed in order to get people much more productive and engaged in what they do at work. This assignment focuses on the ongoing changes in the working environment and discusses the role of feminization of management as a desirable alternative to the standardized approaches of managing people while using exemplary scenes out of the movie "Potiche" in order to illustrate and support one's findings.

When talking about feminization of management styles one does neither address the role of women in business life nor does one mainly focus on gender roles. The term rather refers to an alternative style of managing human resources that is based on qualities and attributes culturally associated with categories of female which are associated with intuitive, emotionally governed work, close friendship relations at the workplace and absence of extensive hierarchy.3 Before arguing about the necessity of such values when it comes to leading your workforce nowadays, one firstly needs to have a look at the massive changes the business environment has gone through during the last decades and their resulting consequences. As it are those preceding fundamental changes that led management styles to change forcing managers to rethink their procedures and to come up with innovative ideas in managing their resources.

Looking at the past thirty years one can basically identify three major shifts within the economic world:

a) Market shift/economic shift
b) Shift in the nature of competition
c) Shift in the nature of employment

a) The shift from an industrial economy towards a knowledge based economy

The most obvious shift on a macro-economic level is the shift from an industrial economy being dominant in the 1970s towards a knowledge-based economy existing today. This shift has taken place in all the structures of the world's advanced industrial economies over the past four decades meaning that traditional sectors - primary resources, manufacturing and construction have constantly lost a great deal of their relative importance in the economy, while the service and knowledge sector is gaining more and more significance.4 (see appendix (1)-(3)) This shift can be seen as the latest stage of development in a global economic restructuring. So has the world transitioned from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy towards a post-industrial economy to finally become today's knowledge economy. A study of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) conducted in 1996 shows that knowledge is now recognized as the driver of productivity and economic growth, leading to a new focus on the role of collaboration and sharing information.5 These knowledge-based economies are directly based on the production, distribution and use of knowledge what can easily be identified when looking on numbers and statistics of the OECD countries (see appendix (4)). Employment numbers as well as produced output are expanding fastest in high-technology and knowledge industries such as electronics and services. Figures show that the high-technology share of OECD manufacturing production and exports has more than doubled and knowledge intensive service sectors such as education and communication are growing even faster. Today's industries are no longer based on natural resources and physical inputs as the former industrial economies but on intellectual assets.6 It is estimated that more than 50% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the major OECD economies is now knowledge-based with growing tendencies.7

As a result this rise is leading to a different kind of labour force. This labour force has different requirements and expectations of work and the way it wants to be managed.8 In this way the economic shift has direct implications on nowadays management styles.

b) Shift in the nature of competition

Accompanied by the economic shift is also a shift in the nature of competition. Whereas during the industrial times price-driven competition was apparent, innovation-driven competition is the main driver in today's advanced economies. During the industrial revolution not only new products were invented but also new ways of producing them. A key role played definitely Henry Ford's intention to produce a large number of cars with a simple design, for minimal costs.9 The idea of mass production was born and with it new forms of producing items through automization of processes and a division of tasks. Time saving techniques such as assembly lines and spezialisation of workers made it possible to create many products in a short period of time to the lowest costs possible.10 A worker did not have to build a product from start to finish anymore, but was part of a supply chain doing one necessary step in a repetitive manner. This resulted into large factories with a lot of workers and to the need to manage those human resources in a way of greatest efficiency as possible. In such an industry items were identical and the price was all that mattered. Targets of increasing a firm's market share could only be reached by cheaper prices than those of your competitors. A human resource manager expected his workers to perform repetitive tasks as fast as possible without much cognitive thinking or creative input.

In contrast competition in today's economies is innovation-driven. Firms try to differentiate themselves from the others in order to receive uniqueness and thereby a competitive advantage. According to Rosted (2005) intense global competition as well as the saturation of markets in the advanced economies are major challenges for today's companies. As a result the ability to innovate is the only way to survive and the only path to success in the global market.11 Product life cycles have become much shorter and companies regularly need to come up with new products in order to stay successful (see appendix (5)). Creating something new is the driving force leading to completely different expectations from the workers. Workers are now expected to be creative and need to come up with new ideas instead of only performing the same task over and over. Qualities such as the power ofknowledge and creative skills have replaced the power of physical, manual skills.12

As the nature of the task and the resulting expectations regarding your workforce determine what kind of management style is needed, a shift in those expectations has large impacts on ways of how to manage your employees appropriately.

c) Shift in the nature of employment

This third shift has basically to do with performance management and the right way of getting the most out of one's workforce. Within employment several shifts have taken place during the last decades. Today work is no longer a destination. We have come through a history of industrialization and standardization where in order to work you had to go to the place where the infrastructure was. For example if you were a factory worker you had to go where the plant was.13 In those times the notion of "going to work" was about arriving at a specific location and working on a specific task either as an individual or with the same group of people. Managers worked from the philosophy of managing by seeing, and they valued employees as implementers of work, not as instigators of ideas.14

Today the average knowledge worker doesn't need to be in a specific location to a specific point in time anymore. This has lead to more flexibility in choosing where and when to work and has resulted in a shift regarding the contracts of employment. Standard contracts of employments are more and more replaced by contracts of performance. In contrast to the standard contracts where the amount of pay for a specific amount of working time is defined, in contracts of performance solely the delivered outcome of your work is monetarily rewarded. Matters of being at work and performing your task in the office are no longer necessary. Instead certain performance standards, requirements and quality levels of work are determined.15 The worker is no longer told how many hours he has to spend at work, but instead what performance is expected and needed to reach a certain level of pay. As a result productivity and discretionary effort play a major role what especially in today's knowledge economy is of utmost importance. Relationships between employer and employee can be understood as a psychological contract meaning a description of unspoken expectations that are widely held by employers and employees.16 This psychological contract has changed. Traditionally organizations expected their employees to contribute time, effort, skills and loyalty. In return the organizations would provide job security and promotion. Today's workers can be seen as more able to shape their own career and lifestyles by getting more flexible work schedules, comfortable working conditions and development opportunities from their organization and instead are expected to deliver top performance with own ideas and cognitive thinking. Manufacturing tasks are outsourced, traditional employment has development to more flexible staffing levels and adjustment of working hours is possible today.

This shift in the nature of employment influences again the way of managing one's workforce as expectations and possibilities of control have changed within the new forms of contracts leading to different needs and characteristics that a successful human resource manager should have.

2. Main Body/Analysis

Taking those three main shifts into account one becomes aware that a discussion about the necessity of new alternative management styles regarding human resources is on the daily agenda. Through the industrial revolution managing a large amount of human beings within a factory became apparent and work was now seen as a social activity that involves people working together in groups and teams (Andrew 2001)17. Whereas Douglas McGregor and Ouchi both focused on employees as human beings with own emotions, motivations and targets, from an economic perspective employees are seen as human resources meaning that they are productive economic resources that need to be managed and that have a value and a cost. Human resource management can hereby be understood as the policies, practices and systems that influence employees' behaviour, attitudes and performance with the target to optimize the resources and get the most out of it in terms of productivity and efficiency in order to increase organizational performance as well as leading to more satisfied employees and customers.18

Also in the movie "Potiche" the necessity of managing human beings becomes obvious. Playing in the year 1977 in a French province the movie is about Suzanne Pujol and her husband Robert Pujol, a rich industrialist who runs his umbrella factory with an iron hand and turns out to be just as nasty and tyrannical with his workers as he is with his mistress, children and "trophy" wife.19 After a strike of his workers and for health reasons his wife takes over the management of the firm.

Each of the two characters display two completely different management styles and can be understood as a symbol for each of those styles revealing contrasting values and procedures of human resource management. Thereby the paper does not focus on differences between women or men in leadership positions, but on the qualities managers rely on when they manage a group of people. A masculine management style does hereby not automatically mean that it is performed by a male leader, nor does a feminine approach always need to be conducted by women. It is more about the characteristics of each style that are linked to qualities generally associated with men or women and that are found to be beneficial for particular types of business. When we talk about feminization of management this refers to the tendency to use a transformational style of management that relies on qualities, which are traditionally associated with women. Within Hofstede's studies the terms masculinity and femininity are also used to describe the values of a society. Generally masculinity is linked to qualities of competition, assertiveness, physical strength and power whereas femininity is based on such qualities as sensitivity, caring, cooperation and creativity.20 Feminization of management is about bringing a new set of long neglected qualities of intuition, emotion, nurturance and cooperation that one might call feminine values into the business world which has long been dominated by competitive, cerebral, hierarchical, masculine values.21 Soft skills such as listening, caring and meeting the changed needs of today's workforce are becoming more important opening the way for new management styles that are staying in a sharp contrast to traditional bureaucratic ones that have been successful in the past.22 Feminine traits as supportiveness, attention to others and being relationship-oriented build the foundations of transformational management.23 Transformational management places emphasis on motivation, team­building and collaboration thereby encouraging workers to participate in decision-making while relying on personal qualities rather than power and position. It makes subordinates aware of how important their jobs are for the organizations and that they have to care about their own needs for personal growth, development and accomplishment.

In contrast the transactional style of management is based on qualities that are generally linked to male traits. This style is based on the principal of exchange between leader and follower giving rewards and punishment for good or bad performance. A transactional leader uses principles of disciplinary power, hierarchy, rules and control.24 Whereas transactional leadership style and its consequences can be seen as based on Weber's principles of bureaucracy describing how to manage an organization at best, the transformational approach can be seen as relying on Heckscher's (1994) post-bureaucratic type reflecting the breakdown of traditional bureaucratically ordered power relations.25 Whereas Weber's principles rely on a formal hierarchy of authority, control by rules as well as a division of labour and impersonal treatment of employees, Heckscher argues that in the new economy, rules need to be replaced by consensus and dialogue, workers need to be treated as individuals and responsibilities assigned on merit rather than on hierarchy.26

Douglas McGregor's Theory Y and Theory X can also be compared with these two management styles. Whereas Theory X can be compared with transactional leadership where managers need to rule by fear and consequences in order to be successful, Theory Y can be compared to transformational leadership because the theory and style supports the idea that managers work to encourage their workers and believe them to be trusting, respectful and self-motivated.


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2 Coplin Dave. RSAAnimate - Re-ImaginingWork. 2013. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 05 December 2013]

3 Simpson R. 2009. Transformation and Feminisation: The Masculinity of the MBA and the 'Un-development' of Men. Uxbridge: Brunel University.

4 Surendra Gera, Kurt Mang, 1997. The Knowledge Based Economy: Shifts in Industrial Output. Industry Canada, Canada.

5 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). 1997. The Knowledge-based Economy. Paris.

6 Powell W., Snellman K. 2004. The Knowledge Economy. Stanford University, Stanford.

7 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 1997. The Knowledge-based Economy. Paris.

8 Paul Banfield. 2012. Introduction to Human Resource Management. 2 Edition. Oxford University Press, USA.

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16 RaymondAndrew Noe, 2011. Fundamentals ofHuman Resource Management. 4th Revised edition Edition. McGraw Hill Higher Education.

17 Andrew Mayo, 2001. The Human Value of the Enterprise: Valuing People as Assets: Monitoring, Measuring, Managing. Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

18 Meyer, E., Ashleigh, M., George, J.M., Jones, G.R., 2007. Contemporary Management: European Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill.

19 Potiche - Cineuropa. 2013. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 05 December 2013].

20 Hofstede G., 1998. Masculinity and Femininity: The Taboo Dimension of National Cultures. Thousand Oaks CA: Sage Publications

21 Kirschenbaum J., 1991. The Feminization of Management (Not for women only). Business Ethics: The Magazine of Corporate Responsibility. Pages 20-23.

22 Spirituality and Gender: the feminization of management thinking. 2013. [ONLINE] Available at: and gender 092006.htm. [Accessed 05 December 2013].

23 Fondas N., 1996. The Boundaryless Career: A New Employment Principle for a New Organizational Era. Edition. Oxford University Press, USA.

24 Ingram D., 2013. Transformational Leadership Vs. Transactional Leadership [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 05 December 2013].

25 Johnson P., Wood G., Brewster C., Brookes M., 2009. The Rise ofPost-Bureaucracy: Theorists' Fancy or Organizational Praxis?. International Sociology 24: 37-61.

26 Johnston K., 2013. Busting Bureaucracy - Bureaucratic Form according to MaxWeber - his sixmajor principles.

Excerpt out of 12 pages


The Feminization of Management Styles. An Alternative to Bureaucratized and Standardized Approaches?
Stockholm University
Human Resource Management
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feminization, management, styles, alternative, bureaucratized, standardized, approaches
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Sebastian Zimmer (Author), 2014, The Feminization of Management Styles. An Alternative to Bureaucratized and Standardized Approaches?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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