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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Implications of organizational correlates of technology for supervisory behavior Hostetter, Frederick Herbert


This study deals with the indirect effects of industrial technology upon the behavior of first-line supervisors. Homans' paradigm of the constituents of social behavior, and Woodward's observations regarding organizational correlates of technology provide the rationale for the enunciation of specific hypotheses pertaining to the nature of supervisory activities, interactions and sentiments associated with each of three categories of industrial technology. The validity of the specific hypotheses is tested thru a secondary analysis of data reported in a number of observational studies of organizational behavior. The perennial "man in the middle” concept of the first-line supervisor is rejected. It is not a valid ideal-type concept that is representative of supervisory behavior in all forms of contemporary production organizations. It appears that the dominant mode of technology within a production organization or work unit affects organization structure and processes. The latter phenomena seem to be important factors shaping supervisory role demands, characteristics of work environment, and, hence, supervisory behavior. Thus, the study suggests the utility of three ideal-type constructs of supervisory behavior; one for each of the three categories of technology. Unit-and small-batch-production technology Role demands include an important technical element. Administrative activities include personally attending to personnel matters, production reports and specifications, and coordinating and monitoring work flow through the unit. Interactions with fellow supervisors along the work flow are minimally required. Interactions with both subordinates and staff specialists are typically task-oriented, face-to-face and devoid of conflict. Interactions with superiors may be mediated by the reports of staff specialists if the latter are found in the organization. Sentiments toward subordinates, superiors and staff specialists tend to be neutral to friendly in tone and fairly constant over time. Mass-production-assembly-line technology The supervisor typically neither possesses, nor is required to possess, a significant body of technical knowledge or set of technical skills. Administrative activities are directed toward coordinating and monitoring work flow through the unit, and, in general, achieving the collaboration of others. These activities are effected by verbal interactions, mainly with non-workers such as staff specialists. The requirement for interactions with fellow supervisors along the work flow ranges from being minimally required to inherent in the productive process. Interactions with staff specialists are face-to-face, task-oriented, and typically hostile. Interactions with superiors tend to be task-oriented, hostile and heavily mediated by the reports of staff specialists. Supervisory interactions with subordinates tend to be face-to-face, frequently hostile, and primarily task-oriented. The sentiments of supervisors toward subordinates, and particularly superiors, are characteristically those of defense and hostility; they are unstable over time. Sentiments toward staff specialists tend to be neutral to hostile and generally stable over time. Continuous-process technology Role demands of the supervisor include an important technical element; technical advice is both sought from and given to subordinates and staff specialists. As the degree of automaticity of production control increases, the need for coordination of work flow within and between units decreases; similarly for the requirement for exclusively task-oriented interactions with other organization actors. Administrative activities include inspection and control functions designed to assure the safety of both personnel and the process and equipment. Interactions with subordinates and staff specialists tend to allow for the mutual evaluation of technical issues. As the degree of automaticity of production control increases, such interactions tend to be characterized by the exchange of advice and information. Sentiments are generally neutral to friendly and slightly unstable over time. V.V. Murray, Supervisor

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