Relations between female workers and their bosses deteriorate markedly when profit-sharing schemes are introduced, although the same is not true of men, according to research.
A paper released by Dr Colin Green from Lancaster University’s Management School revealed that males were largely unaffected by pressure from their line managers and colleagues to hit group targets, while the potential for conflict rose in the case of women.
The findings challenge the assumption that giving workers a share in an organisation’s success by apparently aligning their interests with those of managers can lead to increases in productivity, innovation and financial performance, while reducing staff turnover.
The coalition government has presented mutual ownership as a key part of its plans to spin out public sector services to the private sector, holding up retailers such as John Lewis as a successful example of a workers co-operative.
But the study raises questions for employers over whether such renumeration schemes are appropriate for all types of working environment. Green said: “If you are working at a feminised, non-union workforce, you might want to have this in mind that profit-sharing is going to increase ill feeling among the workforce.”
The problem was that women were often in less of a position to respond to pressure from their manager to worker harder and for longer hours due to commitments outside of the workplace. But this situation could upset colleagues who felt that any failure to work harder could jeopardise their own potential share of the profits. As a result, they were inclined to report any shortcomings to line managers.
“Suddenly your boss and co-workers care a lot more about your effort than before. Women have more responsibilities outside the workplace and so find it more difficult to increase their effort,” Green said. “The pressure does not necessarily have to all originate from your boss. If your co-workers see you are not performing, they tell the boss. It increases conflict.”
But the study entitled ‘Profit Sharing and the Quality of Relations with the Boss’ revealed that line managers were also more likely to put workers under pressure, while female staff were more likely to feel resentment over the boss’s pay, status or management style, leading to a deterioration in relations. Trust between colleagues also dropped, although overall job satisfaction remained largely the same.
“The method through which profit-sharing influences productivity and effort remains in doubt. Profit-sharing may increase cooperation and help effort; it may also increase monitoring and pressure,” Green said. “We have emphasised that much of either influence will flow through the supervisors. As a consequence, the way in which profit-sharing changes relations between workers and supervisor helps identify which influence may be predominant.”