Kirkus Reviews QR Code
MANAGERS AND WORK REFORM: A Limited Engagement by Ivar; Marcia Kohl Freedman & Michael Freeman Berg



Pub Date: March 1st, 1978
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan

At the very least an inconvenience to uncritical convictions about work reform,"" is the authors' characterization of a study that will discomfit both assembly-line pragmatists and ivory-tower theorists. On examination, they find that the disaffection of the American labor force may be neither as widespread nor as economically enervating as proclaimed by ""academic entrepreneurs"" in search of professional glory and consulting fees. The authors--a Vanderbilt University sociologist and two researchers from Columbia's Human Resources Project--do not pretend all is idyllic between employers and their hired hands; they simply state that there's not enough valid evidence to define any real problems, let alone suggest viable solutions. The focus of the book is on the manager who, as a practical matter, is ""largely powerless to deal with many worker discontents."" This conclusion, of course, challenges the interventionist assumption that executives can improve employee morale and hence organizational productivity. But in a lengthy review of work-reform literature, the authors present a convincing case for the complexities of job satisfaction. These extend to the demands of the job, the education and skills a person brings to an assignment, evaluation of income adequacy and equity, and the quality of resources made available by management. Through nesotiation, the authors note, many unions already have secured what amount to job-enrichment and worker-participation programs on their own; organized labor must be taken into consideration. As for European work reform: ""Many American admirers. . . have been unaware of the slippage in these efforts and of the movement in the direction of US collective-bargaining patterns."" Berg and his colleagues concentrate on factory work and ignore the mushrooming service occupations; some of their prose will also prove tough going for casual readers. These quibbles apart, the text provides a provocative and valuable brief on the state of the work-reform art.