Workplace Democracy definition

Workplace democracy is the application of democratic principles, such as voting, referenda and public debate, to the workplace. Applications of workplace democracy vary widely, from full-scale, direct democracy where everyone’s vote in the company essentially carries the same weight to smaller initiatives that may only apply to a specific area or department of the business.

Workplace democracy has been a big field of study in areas such as industrial and organisational psychology and management science. Part of the workplace democracy movement grew out of ideas in the 1960s that top-down decision-making by a select few led to unengaged employees and potentially biased decisions being made.

An increasingly popular form of workplace democracy is employee ownership, where employees gain an equity share in the business and therefore have both voting rights and a greater emotional stake in the organisation’s success. Some companies combine employee ownership with participatory management as a way to cement democratic principles in the organisation’s decision-making processes.

Cited advantages of workplace democracy include an easier time when it comes to attracting top talent, a boost to employee engagement and therefore productivity and the benefits of group decision-making that come from an engaged, innovative, collaborative idea-generating process. Disadvantages may include gridlocked decision-making processes and tyranny of the majority.


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