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Should Work Be Authoritarian or Democratic?

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Most of us know that boss who yells “it’s my way or the highway!” Some of us have met teams that decide everything together in agonizingly long meetings. What’s the best way to run a company?

Some of your employees may not want to be involved in every decision being made in their work environment. They like to receive very clear instructions as to what is expected of them with their giving very little or no input. Others like to be involved in all decisions. The third group is the employees who offer their input when they want. All these types of employees can contribute to the organization, but is it at the level of productivity that is needed?

Team Meeting

© Flickr user Hollywood Branded.

There are lots of styles of leadership, but individual employees tend to gravitate toward one of these three mindsets. Let’s look at each group, starting with the employees who like to give their personal suggestions with regard to assignments.

Democratic Contributors – They like a democratic environment, which they find most fair. These individuals can be highly productive because they function at a higher level when they have been allowed to offer their own suggestions—when they have buy-in. What can sometimes slow this group down is their need to give their input into everything, even in areas where they may not have any expertise.

Group input can be very useful in some situations and very counter-productive in others. Managers will need to make the call regarding when and at what level they want or need input. If this group reports to a manager who allows minimal or no discussions or input, it can lead to these employees feeling overlooked or not valued, and they will possibly even become confrontational.

Authoritarian Contributors – On the other end of the spectrum we have those employees who like and need to be given very clear instructions as to what is expected of them. They will then do exactly as instructed—but be aware that they want everybody to work by the same rules. If they see you, their manager, playing favorites among employees, letting deadlines slide, or allowing what they perceive to be sloppy work compared to theirs, you will lose their respect.

Mixed-Style Contributors – The middle group has a lot of solid ideas to add to work assignments. This can be your most productive group. Some of them want different levels of direction. This group wants to be able to share their ideas, but they don’t want the work environment to become a drama stage. They want to give their opinions and suggestions in a pleasant and low-key manner, and then get to work. An area to work on with this group is to ask them to become contributors in more than just the areas they’re totally comfortable in. Think of this group as your idea generators, and when you hit one of those proverbial brick walls with a project, be open to their input.

Understanding Your Team

Which type of employees are you working with? There are a few different ways to determine how your employees prefer to receive their work instructions. One way is to simply observe the employees when you make a request. Is the request taken by the employees as more of a suggestion than a firm “no questions allowed” order? Do the employees offer additional insights on how the task could be accomplished in the most efficient way, in support of your request? If so, this is our first type of employee. If the employees accept the request with no questions, you have the second type of employee.

Another way to determine your employees’ preferred method of receiving requests would be for them to take an assessment that can rate their level of desired involvement in the decision-making process.

We all have an ideal environment in which we work at our best ability. We also all have our desired level of involvement. When an organization can get the employees’ desires met, productivity soars. For those employees, it’s no longer work!

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Mike Hill
As one of America’s leading experts on improving your employee and your companies’ performance, Mike shares his proven tips, and explains; How, Why, and When to implement them. Mike has spoken to and trained hundreds of people from all over the world. His unique approach to empowering employees will improve every organization's bottom line.
Mike Hill


Speaker; Helping companies to get maximum performance from their employees/Consultant/Coach/Workshop Facilitator/Author
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