A study of the problem of workers' participation in management: a case study in Kenya
The rapidly growing awareness that in one way or another the concept of workers' participation has to be operated in virtually all organisations make it one of the most important concepts in human relations. Governmental agencies, businesses, educational institutions - among others in many countries have employed workers' participation in decision-making to improve not only productivity, but a host of other relations relating to human and technological phenomena. The purpose of this study was three fold. First, it was intended to place workers' participation into its perspective and arrive at a workable definition. Second, the study was to examine the development and operation of the concept with special reference to Yugoslavia and the United Kingdom. Lastly, the operation of the concept was to be examined in a company operating in a developing country - namely Kenya. Two major and two corollary hypotheses were investigated. Major hypotheses were: Workers' participation in management may not be a workable concept in a less developed country; and, only collective bargaining functions as workers' participation in Kenya. The first corollary hypothesis was that given the high rate of unemployment in Kenya and the prevailing low educational standards, workers are not likely to assert themselves further than fighting for the basic terms and conditions of service. The second corollary hypothesis was that with the historical hierarchical structures, members of management in a typical Kenya company do not favour the idea of workers sharing in the decision making processes of the company. The study was based on a company in Kenya. A questionnaire was distributed to the entire management and responses were obtained from 31 individuals. Data pertaining to workers were derived from interviews based on another questionnaire, held with a sample of 50 workers. Major hypothesis (ii) could not be upheld. The evidence also did not support the corollary hypotheses. However, major hypothesis (i) was conditionally upheld. An analysis of the data collected in this study therefore led to principal conclusions which may be broadly outlined as follows:- (i) Collective bargaining is not the only method through which workers can influence managerial decisions. (ii) Management attitudes were fairly favourable towards the idea of workers sharing in the decision - making processes of the company. (iii) Although workers currently would appear not to have adequate potential to participate in decision-making, their attitudes towards participation were positive despite their limited opportunities to participate. (iv) Under appropriate circumstances, the not too poor performance of certain aspects of the existing participative practices can be improved. (v) The forces which usually encourage the growth of participative practices were weak. The means of communications are poor and inadequate. There is no suggestion scheme in the company. The Works council is now defunct. Decision-making is concentrated in the top and upper management of the company. These characteristics may not be uncommon in other companies in Kenya and for that matter in most organisations in developing countries.