Wednesday, February 12, 2020


One important characteristic of “natural law” in this case is that help is always defined by the recipient.

Douglas McGregor, Sloan School, MIT
The Human Side of Enterprise
Boston: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1960, 163-164

The Appropriate Role of Staff

    The appropriate role of any major staff that of providing professional help to all levels of management. In some cases, such as engineering, the help is provided primarily to one or two functions, e.g., manufacturing and sales. In other cases, such as accounting and personnel, the help is provided to all other functions.

    The hierarchical nature of the organization has tended to focus attention on help given to the level at which the staff group reports. Rewards and punishments for staff members come from there. Moreover, prestige and status are greater the higher level of “attachment.” In large companies, where there are both headquarters and field staff groups, it is particularly important that the headquarters groups recognize and accept their responsibilities for providing help to all levels of management.

    The provision of professional help is a subtle and complex process. Perhaps the most critical point—and the one hardest to keep clearly in mind—is that help is always defined by the recipient. Taking an action with respect to someone because “it is best for him,” or because “it is for the good of the organization,” may be influencing him, but it is not providing help unless he so perceives it. Headquarters staff groups tend to rationalize many of their activities on the field organization in a paternalistic manner and, as a consequence, fail to see that they are relying on inappropriate methods of control. When the influence is unsuccessful, the usual reaction occurs: The recipients of the “help” are seen as resistant, stupid, indifferent to organizational needs, etc. The provision of help, like any other form of control or influence, requires selective adaptation to natural law. One important characteristic of “natural law” in this case is that help is defined by the recipient...

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