Q&A - Explain Taylor’s theories of motivation at work

Taylor put forward the idea that workers are motivated mainly by pay.  His Theory of Scientific Management argued the following:

• Workers do not naturally enjoy work and so need close supervision and control
• Therefore managers should break down production into a series of small tasks
• Workers should then be given appropriate training and tools so they can work as efficiently as possible on one set task. 
• Workers are then paid according to the number of items they produce in a set period of time- piece-rate pay. 
• As a result workers are encouraged to work hard and maximise their productivity.

Taylor’s methods were widely adopted as businesses saw the benefits of increased productivity levels and lower unit costs. 

Taylor’s approach has close links with the concept of an autocratic management style (managers take all the decisions and simply give orders to those below them) and Macgregor’s Theory X approach to workers (workers are viewed as lazy and avoid responsibility).

However workers soon came to dislike Taylor’s approach as they were only given boring, repetitive tasks to carry out. Firms could also afford to lay off workers as productivity levels increased.  This led to an increase in strikes and other forms of industrial action by dissatisfied workers

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