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Working Climates

Each individual supervisor creates her (or his) own special climate, or atmosphere, under which you must operate. The following analysis of three kinds of climates may give you some indication of the adjustments you might have to make in the future.

  1. The Structured Climate. Some supervisors are more strict than others. They operate a tight department by keeping close, and sometimes restrictive, controls. They frequently expect employees to be precisely on time, orderly, and highly efficient. They permit foolishness only when a special occasion calls for it. Ninety-eight percent of the time they stick strictly to business.

    The supervisor who creates this kind of atmosphere often appears cold, distant, and unfeeling to the new employee. He (or she) seems unreachable. As a result, the new employee may begin to fear this person.

    Some jobs force supervisors to be autocratic. Some kinds of work require very high safety standards and efficiency. For example, a producer of a television program might have to be autocratic in order to maintain the split-second efficiency required. Work of a highly technical nature, in which certain precision standards must be met, will call for a different climate than work in a service field.

    Although the supervisor who establishes a structured atmosphere may appear cold and unapproachable, the opposite is often true. The supervisor is probably more interested in you and more willing to help than you suspect.

  2. The Permissive Climate. The direct opposite of the structured climate is the permissive atmosphere. Some supervisors have a free-and-easy leadership style. There is no apparent intervention, and there are few controls or restrictions.

    The permissive climate can be the most dangerous of all, especially for the inexperienced employee because his (or her) need for self-discipline is so great. The employee who does not feel the presence of a leader may not make good use of time. The employee may find it difficult to develop self-motivation. If things are too easygoing, the employee may relax too much and become too friendly with fellow workers. All of this can create bad habits that will ultimately lead to mutual dissatisfaction. Instead of being an ideal situation, then, the permissive climate becomes a trap that can destroy the desire to succeed and eventually cause great unhappiness.

    Whether we like to accept it or not, a structured climate often gives us more job security and forces us to live closer to our potential. Beware of a climate that is too relaxed unless you are a self-starter and can discipline yourself. You might discover that too much freedom is your downfall.

  3. The Democratic Climate. The goal of most supervisors in modern organizations is to create a democratic climate. A democratic atmosphere is the most difficult of all to establish. In fact, purely democratic action is often a goal rather than a reality.

    A democratic climate is one in which employees want to do what the supervisor wants done. The supervisor becomes one of the group and still retains her (or his) leadership role. The employees are permitted to have a lot to say about the operation of the department. Everyone becomes involved because each person works from inside the group rather than from outside. The supervisor is the leader and a member of the group at the same time. As a result, a team feeling is created. Many isolated cases of research indicate that most people experience greater personal satisfaction and respond with greater productivity if the supervisor can create and maintain a democratic atmosphere.

    Then why can’t more supervisors achieve a democratic climate? There are many reasons.

    In the first place, the democratic climate is the most difficult climate to create, and once created, the most difficult to maintain. It requires a real expert, an individual with great skill and sensitivity; one should not expect to find a large number of supervisors with this ability.

    In the second place, not all workers respond to a democratic climate, ideal as it may seem. You may like it best, but others in your department may like a more autocratic approach. This is especially true when there are young workers in a department where many more experienced and older employees work. You will often hear employees say: “I wish he would quit fooling around and tell us what to do” or “I wish she would tighten up things around here—people are getting away with murder” or “He is too easy. I can’t enjoy working for someone who doesn’t set things down clearly and specifically from the beginning.”

    In the third place, the supervisor who aspires to build a true democratic climate always exists somewhere between the structured and the permissive. The supervisor may approach the ideal situation for a while, only to find that a few employees are taking advantage of the situation. When this happens it is necessary to tighten up again and become more structured.

    All supervisors must create and maintain what some people refer to as a discipline line. A discipline line is an imaginary line or point beyond which the employee senses she (or he) should not pass lest some form of disapproval and possible disciplinary action take place. It is important to keep a consistent discipline line. Some supervisors claim that keeping a firm but comfortable line is a tightrope they walk each day on the job.



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