In management, people make decisions that have far-reaching consequences to the life of individuals, communities, and organisations. A five-step typology shows the developmental state of organisational management, writes Professor Anna-Maija Lämsä from Jyväskylä University School of Business and Economics.

There has been much discussion in this autumn about the harsh working conditions of fast-food chains. One of these chains is Hesburger, which has earlier appeared mainly in a quite positive light. The entrepreneur’s route from running a snack bar and becoming eventually The CEO of a big enterprise and the “father” of a family company has been an admired story in public.

Fast-food bars are often the first job and workplace for young employees, based on which they conceive a perception of the rules and practices of working life.

Hesburger and also some other chains have suffered a serious damage to their reputation in this autumn. In particular, the mistreatment of personnel has been taken up in public discussion. According to the media, a key problem here seems to be associated with managing and leading people. Hesburger, like many other chains as well, promises a variety of things on their website. The promises also have to do with the principles and means of responsible management. Evidently, these are not currently manifested in practice.

What does responsible management include?

It is now generally called for that fast-food chains correct this flaw and adopt a more responsible management behaviour.

But what is responsibility all about? The issue is rather complex to solve. There are various views and interpretations on the issue – both among researchers and practitioners. In general, responsibility refers to accordance with something or reaching something.

In management, standing by the promises made, what is said, and jointly agreed matters and deeds is a good start and carries a long way already.

Responsibility involves acting according to rules, expectations, and promises. Personnel is an important stakeholder in management, and their expectations need to be taken into account. Their expectations include such things as meaningful work, adequate pay, safe work environment, pleasant work community, experiences of success, and appreciative and fair treatment.

Often management also involves difficult choices and decision-making because of many contradictory expectations and demands. In many cases, financial profit is set against investments in the personnel, such as sufficient human resources and promotion of well-being.

Based on information presented in the media, in the Hesburger case financial profit has gained too much weight in this respect.

If management stares at the financial side only, it will be reduced to management by numbers.

Such management is solely financially oriented, which leads to a biased organisational culture. This causes problems in the long run. The personnel will become frustrated and tired with the situation. The old Aristotelian wisdom, moderateness in everything, is probably in order in management as well.

A five-step typology describes the prevailing state of company management

How people are treated at the workplace tells about the state of the human quality of the organisation and its management as well. According to one classification system, the developmental state can be defined in the following terms:

Mistreatment involves acting against moral and even juridical expectations.

Indifference typically refers to a setting where employees are treated with disrespect and arrogance, even though without actual mistreatment or dishonesty.

In organisations characterised by fairness, people can trust not only in official agreements but also in one’s word.

In caring, attention is paid to genuine caring about people and taking care of their matters.

Developmental approach refers to strengthening the self-respect of employees as well as promoting reforms, empowerment, and creativity.

In management, people make decisions that have far-reaching consequences to the life of individuals, communities, and organisations.

Management can change and shape people’s course of life – for the better or for the worse. For this very reason, responsibility and ethics are perhaps even more important in management than in many other areas of organisational activities.

The writer, Anna-Maija Lämsä, is a Professor and Vice Dean of Jyväskylä University School of Business and Economics. She investigates with her research team organisational ethics and management as well as HR management.

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