Saturday, August 3, 2013

Personal Relations Between Employers and Employed - F.W. Taylor


Regarding the personal relations which should be maintained between
employers and their men, the writer quotes the following paragraphs from
a paper written in 1895. Additional experience has only served to
confirm and strengthen these views; and although the greater part of
this time, in his work of shop organization, has been devoted to the
difficult and delicate task of inducing workmen to change their ways of
doing things he has never been opposed by a strike.

"There has never been a strike by men working under this system,
although it has been applied at the Midvale Steel Works for the past
ten years; and the steel business has proved during this period the
most fruitful field for labor organizations and strikes. And this
notwithstanding the fact that the Midvale Company has never prevented
its men from joining any labor organization. All of the best men in the
company saw clearly that the success of a labor organization meant the
lowering of their wages in order that the inferior men might earn more,
and, of course, could not be persuaded to join.

"I attribute a great part of this success in avoiding strikes to the
high wages which the best men were able to earn with the differential
rates, and to the pleasant feeling fostered by this system; but this is
by no means the whole cause. It has for years been the policy of that
company to stimulate the personal ambition of every man in their employ
by promoting them either in wages or position whenever they deserved it
and the opportunity came.

"A careful record has been kept of each man's good points as well as his
shortcomings, and one of the principal duties of each foreman was to
make this careful study of his men so that substantial justice could be
done to each. When men throughout an establishment are paid varying
rates of day-work wages according to their individual worth, some being
above and some below the average, it cannot be for the interest of those
receiving high pay to join a union with the cheap men.

"No system of management, however good, should be applied in a wooden
way. The proper personal relations should always be maintained between
the employers and men; and even the prejudices of the workmen should be
considered in dealing with them.

"The employer who goes through his works with kid gloves on, and is
never known to dirty his hands or clothes, and who either talks to his
men in a condescending or patronizing way, or else not at all, has no
chance whatever of ascertaining their real thoughts or feelings.

"Above all is it desirable that men should be talked to on their own
level by those who are over them. Each man should be encouraged to
discuss any trouble which he may have, either in the works or outside,
with those over him. Men would far rather even be blamed by their
bosses, especially if the 'tearing out' has a touch of human nature and
feeling in it, than to be passed by day after day without a word, and
with no more notice than if they were part of the machinery.

"The opportunity which each man should have of airing his mind freely,
and having it out with his employers, is a safety-valve; and if the
superintendents are reasonable men, and listen to and treat with respect
what their men have to say, there is absolutely no reason for labor
unions and strikes.

"It is not the large charities (however generous they may be) that are
needed or appreciated by workmen so much as small acts of personal
kindness and sympathy, which establish a bond of friendly feeling
between them and their employers.

"The moral effect of this system on the men is marked. The feeling that
substantial justice is being done them renders them on the whole much
more manly, straightforward, and truthful. They work more cheerfully,
and are more obliging to one another and their employers. They are not
soured, as under the old system, by brooding over the injustice done
them; and their spare minutes are not spent to the same extent in
criticizing their employers."

The writer has a profound respect for the working men of this country.
He is proud to say that he has as many firm friends among them as among
his other friends who were born in a different class, and he believes
that quite as many men of fine character and ability are to be found
among the former as in the latter. Being himself a college educated man,
and having filled the various positions of foreman, master mechanic,
chief draftsman, chief engineer, general superintendent, general
manager, auditor, and head of the sales department, on the one hand, and
on the other hand having been for several years a workman, as
apprentice, laborer, machinist, and gang boss, his sympathies are
equally divided between the two classes.

He is firmly convinced that the best interests of workmen and their
employers are the same; so that in his criticism of labor unions he
feels that he is advocating the interests of both sides. The following
paragraphs on this subject are quoted from the paper written in 1895 and
above referred to:


"The author is far from taking the view held by many manufacturers that
labor unions are an almost unmitigated detriment to those who join them,
as well as to employers and the general public.

"The labor unions--particularly the trades unions of England--have
rendered a great service, not only to their members, but to the world,
in shortening the hours of labor and in modifying the hardships and
improving the conditions of wage workers.

"In the writer's judgment the system of treating with labor unions would
seem to occupy a middle position among the various methods of adjusting
the relations between employers and men.

"When employers herd their men together in classes, pay all of each
class the same wages, and offer none of them any inducements to work
harder or do better than the average, the only remedy for the men lies
in combination; and frequently the only possible answer to encroachments
on the part of their employers is a strike.

"This state of affairs is far from satisfactory to either employers or
men, and the writer believes the system of regulating the wages and
conditions of employment of whole classes of men by conference and
agreement between the leaders of unions and manufacturers to be vastly
inferior, both in its moral effect on the men and on the material
interests of both parties, to the plan of stimulating each workman's
ambition by paying him according to his individual worth, and without
limiting him to the rate of work or pay of the average of his class."

The amount of work which a man should do in a day, what constitutes
proper pay for this work, and the maximum number of hours per day which
a man should work, together form the most important elements which are
discussed between workmen and their employers. The writer has attempted
to show that these matters can be much better determined by the expert
time student than by either the union or a board of directors, and he
firmly believes that in the future scientific time study will establish
standards which will be accepted as fair by both sides.


There is no reason why labor unions should not be so constituted as to
be a great help both to employers and men. Unfortunately, as they now
exist they are in many, if not most, cases a hindrance to the prosperity
of both.

The chief reasons for this would seem to be a failure on the part of the
workmen to understand the broad principles which affect their best
interests as well as those of their employers. It is undoubtedly true,
however, that employers as a whole are not much better informed nor more
interested in this matter than their workmen.

One of the unfortunate features of labor unions as they now exist is
that the members look upon the dues which they pay to the union, and the
time that they devote to it, as an investment which should bring them an
annual return, and they feel that unless they succeed in getting either
an increase in wages or shorter hours every year or so, the money which
they pay into the union is wasted. The leaders of the unions realize
this and, particularly if they are paid for their services, are apt to
spend considerable of their time scaring up grievances whether they
exist or not This naturally fosters antagonism instead of friendship
between the two sides. There are, of course, marked exceptions to this
rule; that of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers being perhaps the
most prominent.

The most serious of the delusions and fallacies under which workmen, and
particularly those in many of the unions, are suffering is that it is
for their interest to limit the amount of work which a man should do in
a day.

There is no question that the greater the daily output of the average
individual in a trade the greater will be the average wages earned in
the trade, and that in the long run turning out a large amount of work
each day will give them higher wages, steadier and more work, instead of
throwing them out of work. The worst thing that a labor union can do for
its members in the long run is to limit the amount of work which they
allow each workman to do in a day. If their employers are in a
competitive business, sooner or later those competitors whose workmen do
not limit the output will take the trade away from them, and they will
be thrown out of work. And in the meantime the small day's work which
they have accustomed themselves to do demoralizes them, and instead of
developing as men do when they use their strength and faculties to the
utmost, and as men should do from year to year, they grow lazy, spend
much of their time pitying themselves, and are less able to compete with
other men. Forbidding their members to do more than a given amount of
work in a day has been the greatest mistake made by the English trades
unions. The whole of that country is suffering more or less from this
error now. Their workmen are for this reason receiving lower wages than
they might get, and in many cases the men, under the influence of this
idea, have grown so slow that they would find it difficult to do a good
day's work even if public opinion encouraged them in it.

In forcing their members to work slowly they use certain cant phrases
which sound most plausible until their real meaning is analyzed. They
continually use the expression, "Workmen should not be asked to do more
than a fair day's work," which sounds right and just until we come to
see how it is applied. The absurdity of its usual application would be
apparent if we were to apply it to animals. Suppose a contractor had in
his stable a miscellaneous collection of draft animals, including small
donkeys, ponies, light horses, carriage horses and fine dray horses, and
a law were to be made that no animal in the stable should be allowed to
do more than "a fair day's work" for a donkey. The injustice of such a
law would be apparent to every one. The trades unions, almost without an
exception, admit all of those in the trade to membership--providing they
pay their dues. And the difference between the first-class men and the
poor ones is quite as great as that between fine dray horses and
donkeys. In the case of horses this difference is well known to every
one; with men, however, it is not at all generally recognized. When a
labor union, under the cloak of the expression "a fair day's work,"
refuses to allow a first-class man to do any more work than a slow or
inferior workman can do, its action is quite as absurd as limiting the
work of a fine dray horse to that of a donkey would be.

Promotion, high wages, and, in some cases, shorter hours of work are the
legitimate ambitions of a workman, but any scheme which curtails the
output should be recognized as a device for lowering wages in the long
run.

Any limit to the maximum wages which men are allowed to earn in a trade
is equally injurious to their best interests. The "minimum wage" is the
least harmful of the rules which are generally adopted by trades unions,
though it frequently works an injustice to the better workmen. For
example, the writer has been used to having his machinists earn all the
way from $1.50 to seven and eight dollars per day, according to the
individual worth of the men. Supposing a rule were made that no
machinist should be paid less than $2.50 per day. It is evident that if
an employer were forced to pay $2.50 per day to men who were only worth
$1.50 or $1.75, in order to compete he would be obliged to lower the
wages of those who in the past were getting more than $2.50, thus
pulling down the better workers in order to raise up the poorer men. Men
are not born equal, and any attempt to make them so is contrary to
nature's laws and will fail.

Some of the labor unions have succeeded in persuading the people in
parts of this country that there is something sacred in the cause of
union labor and that, in the interest of this cause, the union should
receive moral support whether it is right in any particular case or not.

Union labor is sacred just so long as its acts are fair and good, and it
is damnable just as soon as its acts are bad. Its rights are precisely
those of nonunion labor, neither greater nor less. The boycott, the use
of force or intimidation, and the oppression of non-union workmen by
labor unions are damnable; these acts of tyranny are thoroughly
un-American and will not be tolerated by the American people.

One of the most interesting and difficult problems connected with the
art of management is how to persuade union men to do a full day's work
if the union does not wish them to do it. I am glad of the opportunity
of saying what I think on the matter, and of explaining somewhat in
detail just how I should expect, in fact, how I have time after time
induced union men to do a large day's work, quite as large as other men
do.

In dealing with union men certain general principles should never be
lost sight of. These principles are the proper ones to apply to all men,
but in dealing with union men their application becomes all the more
imperative.

First. One should be sure, beyond the smallest doubt, that what is
demanded of the men is entirely just and can surely be accomplished.
This certainty can only be reached by a minute and thorough time study.

Second. Exact and detailed directions should be given to the workman
telling him, not in a general way but specifying in every small
particular, just what he is to do and how he is to do it.

Third. It is of the utmost importance in starting to make a change that
the energies of the management should be centered upon one single
workman, and that no further attempt at improvement should be made until
entire success has been secured in this case. Judgment should be used in
selecting for a start work of such a character that the most clear cut
and definite directions can be given regarding it, so that failure to
carry out these directions will constitute direct disobedience of a
single, straightforward order.

Fourth. In case the workman fails to carry out the order the management
should be prepared to demonstrate that the work called for can be done
by having some one connected with the management actually do it in the
time called for.

The mistake which is usually made in dealing with union men, lies in
giving an order which affects a number of workmen at the same time and
in laying stress upon the increase in the output which is demanded
instead of emphasizing one by one the details which the workman is to
carry out in order to attain the desired result. In the first case a
clear issue is raised: say that the man must turn out fifty per cent
more pieces than he has in the past, and therefore it will be assumed by
most people that he must work fifty per cent harder. In this issue the
union is more than likely to have the sympathy of the general public,
and they can logically take it up and fight upon it. If, however, the
workman is given a series of plain, simple, and reasonable orders, and
is offered a premium for carrying them out, the union will have a much
more difficult task in defending the man who disobeys them. To
illustrate: If we take the case of a complicated piece of machine work
which is being done on a lathe or other machine tool, and the workman is
called upon (under the old type of management) to increase his output by
twenty-five or fifty per cent there is opened a field of argument in
which the assertion of the man, backed by the union, that the task is
impossible or too hard, will have quite as much weight as that of the
management. If, however, the management begins by analyzing in detail
just how each section of the work should be done and then writes out
complete instructions specifying the tools to be used in succession, the
cone step on which the driving belt is to run, the depth of cut and the
feed to be used, the exact manner in which the work is to be set in the
machine, etc., and if before starting to make any change they have
trained in as functional foremen several men who are particularly expert
and well informed in their specialties, as, for instance, a speed boss,
gang boss, and inspector; if you then place for example a speed boss
alongside of that workman, with an instruction card clearly written out,
stating what both the speed boss and the man whom he is instructing are
to do, and that card says you are to use such and such a tool, put your
driving belt on this cone, and use this feed on your machine, and if you
do so you will get out the work in such and such a time, I can hardly
conceive of a case in which a union could prevent the boss from ordering
the man to put his driving belt just where he said and using just the
feed that he said, and in doing that the workman can hardly fail to get
the work out on time. No union would dare to say to the management of a
works, you shall not run the machine with the belt on this or that cone
step. They do not come down specifically in that way; they say, "You
shall not work so fast," but they do not say, "You shall not use such
and such a tool, or run with such a feed or at such a speed." However
much they might like to do it, they do not dare to interfere
specifically in this way. Now, when your single man under the
supervision of a speed boss, gang boss, etc., runs day after day at the
given speed and feed, and gets work out in the time that the instruction
card calls for, and when a premium is kept for him in the office for
having done the work in the required time, you begin to have a moral
suasion on that workman which is very powerful. At first he won't take
the premium if it is contrary to the laws of his union, but as time goes
on and it piles up and amounts to a big item, he will be apt to step
into the office and ask for his premium, and before long your man will
be a thorough convert to the new system. Now, after one man has been
persuaded, by means of the four functional foremen, etc., that he will
earn more money under the new system than under the laws of the union,
you can then take the next man, and so convert one after another right
through your shop, and as time goes on public opinion will swing around
more and more rapidly your way.

I have a profound respect for the workmen of the United States; they are
in the main sensible men--not all of them, of course, but they are just
as sensible as are those on the side of the management There are some
fools among them; so there are among the men who manage industrial
plants. They are in many respects misguided men, and they require a
great deal of information that they have not got. So do most managers.

All that most workmen need to make them do what is right is a series of
proper object lessons. When they are convinced that a system is offered
them which will yield them larger returns than the union provides for,
they will promptly acquiesce. The necessary object lessons can best be
given by centering the efforts of the management upon one spot. The
mistake that ninety-nine men out of a hundred make is that they have
attempted to influence a large body of men at once instead of taking one
man at a time.

F.W. Taylor, Shop Management

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