Workplace Control

Published: 16th August 2008
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Control systems in the workplace are necessary tools to monitor, forecast, or diagnose performance and performance deviations. Some control systems like Six Sigma have reportedly saved organizations millions of dollars and some safety control systems have even saved lives. There are numerous control mechanisms available to help detect any operational performance issue. However, oftentimes the control systems seem to run the organization rather than the other way around. When this occurs, the workplace culture can become negative and inefficient. The role of management and leadership is to find the balance between control and maintaining a positive work environment. This paper will examine what happens when an organization's focus gets out of balance in those areas and then suggest ways to achieve a healthy balance of control and work environment.

Too much workplace control

Control is essential for the attainment of any management's objectives. The dangers of management maintaining too much control over plans and projects can create friction throughout an organization. Employees can become dissatisfied when they are not allowed to exercise their opinion or use their creativity and experience to make decisions. They may also begin to feel unappreciated. When a supervisor has too much control, power and authority, a lack of respect from the employees can arise. The wrong kinds of control- frequently cause irreparable damage to organizations. Too much power in the wrong hands causes resistance in the workplace. Power is something not everyone deserves. For example, a new manager may experience difficulty adjusting because they are trying to become comfortable in their position and they want to relay a message to everyone that they are in charge. Some new managers simply cannot handle the responsibilities of instructing people, and may intimidated when the people they are instructing are older or have been on the job longer. As a result, the manager wanting to appear "in control" may come off, instead, as overbearing. Even in these tough economic times, it is important that your job be a source of satisfaction and respect.

Neglecting workplace control

On the other hand, a different imbalance in the workplace can occur when management's focus is solely on the workplace culture. The danger of focusing too much on a good work environment is that you lose balance. Everyone wants a good work environment. The problem with focusing too much on it is that you can lose sight of the daily tasks. Companies focus on creating a good work environment for several beneficial reasons; a main reason is to avoid employee burnout. A company can only go so long on focusing on good work environment - pretty soon the tasks are not getting completed and everyone's using all their creative freedom on extracurricular activities that are non-goal related. There are some areas for individuals to focus on that would be beneficial to the overall organization and they are primarily health and safety. The benefits safety and health bring:

• Healthy workers are more productive and can produce at a higher quality;

• Fewer work-related accidents and diseases lead to less absence. In turn, this results in lower costs and less disruption of the production processes;

• Equipment and a working environment that are optimized to the needs of the working process and that are well-maintained lead to higher productivity, better quality and less health and safety risks;

• Reduction of injuries and illnesses means less damages and lower risks for liabilities.

Balance is the key when creating a sustaining business in today's marketplace. When organizational improvement stops, the business stops. With proper balance, a good workplace can become great.

Strategies for a healthy workplace balance

When an organization is comprised of employees from various backgrounds, it is critical that top management strives to maintain a healthy workforce in order to achieve specific organizational goals. Control strategies and mechanisms must be in place to ensure that plans stay on track and sustain good quality. There are three broad strategies for achieving organizational control: bureaucratic control, market control, and clan control.

1. Bureaucratic control covers how we use rules, regulations, and formal authority to guide employee performances. As we need to regulate behavior and results, this control area includes such things as budgets, statistical reports, and performance appraisals.

2. Market control covers how we use pricing mechanisms to regulate activities in organizations. Profit and loss scenarios would form the evaluating basis for managers.

3. Clan control covers area which our organization's employees may share the values, expectations and goals thus act in accordance with them.

Management must review the nature and culture of its workforce together the organization's objective to determine the best mechanism to select. It may be difficult to identify what is best but it is very important to gauge the most appropriate control strategy.


There are definite advantages to implementing control mechanisms within an organization. Greater cost savings, increased efficiency, better product quality, enhanced customer service, and a more cohesive workforce are just a few positive results of utilizing control strategies and mechanisms. However, problems can arise when an organization does not balance its control mechanisms with its workforce. Too much control can cause a hostile work environment and adversely affect employee morale. Moreover, too much control may bring about a downturn in employee productivity.

Neglecting control in the workplace can also cause the same damaging outcomes, however for different reasons. Focusing too much on maintaining a good work environment and not enough on control can result in an undisciplined, unmanageable workforce. In this instance, the workforce seems to dictate what happens operationally.

In either case, an organization has cause for concern. Leadership's role is to find a good balance between control and maintaining a positive work environment where both the employees and the organization can contribute and grow.

Mike Ridpath was raised in Ferndale, Washington, currently is a senior manager for Evergreen Team Concepts Products and Services. He is responsible for the development and implementation of multiple projects at Evergreen Team Concepts and is on the board of directors for the Lean Leadership Institute.

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