Article i 'Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv' no. 1 2005, page 27-42.
English resume

Unclear roles & employee involvement

About management and self-governing groups

Steen Visholm

The aim of this paper is to provide members of the joint consultation committees in Danish industry with a psychological understanding of the stress from unclear roles in industry – and with ideas for ways to solve or reduce the problems. Workplace welfare research has showed, that unclear roles are a problem for one out of three employees in industry. The paper analyses a case-study of a typical industrial workplace and the conclusion is, that unclear roles has to do with lack of authority.

In the research interviews a significant tension in the self-governing groups as well in the individual members of the groups was found. On the one hand workers liked to get work done and were frustrated when things didn't work. On the other hand they feared to take on leadership roles, because they knew, that anyone who acted just a bit like leader, would be the target of massive hate.

These tensions didn't make sense in a vertical two level (parent-child) understanding. Therefore we had to employ a three level model to understand traditional hierarchies (top, middle and bottom). Then we were able to look at what happens, when you remove middle management and give the authority to the self-governing groups. The middle manager can be seen as 'the promoted sibling', a figure that attracts massive envy and hate, and provokes feelings of being betrayed in the other siblings. When you give the authority from middle management to the self-governing groups everyone hopes, that all evil will disappear, but before long the ghost of the middle manager returns to haunt the group. The paper concludes, that you have to employ strong authority to manage self-governing groups, but it has to be in a new way aligned with management by containing.

Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv

(Journal for Working Life)




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in Danish frontpage Nyt om arbejdsliv
editor Jørgen Burchardt