There is no denying the success that stemmed from Frederick Taylor’s monograph on the application of the scientific method into the workplace. However there are parts of his essay that concern me because I must question at what cost to the worker are these ideas presenting. It seems to me that the principles Taylor suggests drastically increases the monotony of work and lacks certain dimensions of job skills and the autonomy for the worker. In relating to my everyday life I could easily see these principles only benefiting the employer in the long term and in essence dehumanizing the worker.
The basis of Frederick Taylor’s Scientific Management lies in the fact that “every single act of every workman can be reduced to a science.”(Taylor 31) Yet it seems to me that Taylor is also saying that the workers are also being reduced to a science. For example, Taylor says many times during his essay that the use of stopwatches to time the workers should be used to attain the speed at which is most efficient. Are the workers just looked upon as “machines” made to become, as Taylor says, “a man of the type of ox” (Taylor 30), a tailored type of human fit for that specific job. This raises serious red flags because although this man will be fit for the job and increase productivity for the employer the other workers who were not qualified may be out of a job and forced into another. Taylor says that each person will be fit for some type of job, yet if that certain person is not happy in his new position but simply put there because he wasn’t qualified for a heavily skilled job then how is that bettering the individual? And if each menial job is scientifically turned into a position that requires a skilled worker many of those turned away will be permanentaly without jobs. It seems to me that, in essence, the employer is the one who benefits at the end of the day no matter what because if the employee is specifically chosen for the job and has perfected his skill then the manager will be able to produce a great amount of the product regardless.
It seems that for each example given by Taylor, pig iron, shoveling or brick-laying, the worth of the employee is first evaluated then they proceed to exclude those not qualified. A specific passage was very disturbing to me, “For the ultimate good of the girls as well as the company it became necessary to exclude all girls who lacked a low “personal co-efficient”. And unfortunately this involved laying off many if the most intelligent, hardest working, and most trustworthy girls merely because they did not possess the quality of quick perception followed by quick action.” This seems exactly like discrimination to me and also a mindset that the ends justify the means. Yes, it may in fact benefit the company but it seems highly unjust to simply get rid of those employees who are qualified for the job and have already been working there.
In addition to the Taylor’s second principle, scientifically selecting and training each worker rather than a passive approach, there is another point that must be discussed. The lack of essential job elements of variety of skills, task importance and most importantly autonomy all are missing from the Principles of Scientific Management. It seems to me from the readings we have already done in class that this new technology or scientific management is exactly what Joy argued against. It seems we are trying to turn the workplace into a laboratory and the test subjects are the human workers. On the exterior the idea seems great, higher productivity and more profit for the employer and shorter hours and higher wages for the employee but the “means” which Taylor is using to get to the “ends” must be questioned. His ideas may work but at what cost? Dehumananizing workers to be tested and studied for the betterment of the company, Is it really benefitting the worker as much as Taylor boasts, I doubt it and honestly am not a fan of turning humans into specially skilled robots working at maximum speed for a predetermined time period. “In one respect no doubt some people will say that these girls were brutally treated. They were seated so far apart that they could not conveniently talk while at work”. (Taylor 47) The one great thing that is unique to humans is their personality and individualism, which is the essence of being human. Taylor’s principles strip this away for the betterment of the company.
The principles of scientific management may be efficient and increase productivity but they also end up stripping individuals of their ability for skill variation and autonomy. These ideas are flawed and are not benefiting the overall good of the worker.