Study Notes

Diseconomies of Scale

AS, A-Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

Diseconomies of scale occur when a business grows so large that the costs per unit increase. As output rises, it is not inevitable that unit costs will fall. Sometimes a business can get too big!

Diseconomies of scale occur for several reasons, but all as a result of the difficulties of managing a larger workforce.

Poor communication

As the business expands communicating between different departments and along the chain of command becomes more difficult. There are more layers in the hierarchy that can distort a message and wider spans of control for managers. This may result in workers having less clear instructions from management about what they are supposed to do when.

In addition, there may be more written forms of communication (e.g. newsletters, notice boards, e-mails) and less face-to-face meetings, which can result in less feedback and therefore less effective communication.

Lack of motivation

Workers can often feel more isolated and less appreciated in a larger business and so their loyalty and motivation may diminish. It is harder for managers to stay in day-to-day contact with workers and build up a good team environment and sense of belonging. This can lead to lower employee motivation with damaging consequences for output and quality. The main result of poor employee motivation is falling productivity levels and an increase in average labour costs per unit.

What can a business do about this? Possible solutions include:

Delegation of decision-making (empowerment)

Making jobs more interesting (job enrichment)

Splitting employees into teams (teamworking)

There is also a close link between communication and motivation (which the motivational theorist Elton Mayo recognized) and so as communication becomes harder, motivation will decline. This is particularly true as managers are less able to take a personal interest in the workers.

Loss of direction and co-ordination

It is harder to ensure that all workers are working for the same overall goal as the business grows. It is more difficult for managers to supervise their subordinates and check that everyone is working together effectively, as the spans of control have widened. A manager may be forced to delegate more tasks, which while often motivating for his subordinates, leaves the manager less in control.

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