Similar to most public and government organizations, the U.S. Postal Service is considered a bureaucratic organization. These types of organizations have a tendency to be structured in a hierarchical fashion, rely on rigid structure and regulations, and employ traditional or transactional management practices (Trottier, Wart, & Wang, 2008). Transformational leadership practices are not necessarily absent from bureaucratic organizations, but employees tend to rate their managers as being more proficient in transactional practices (Trottier et al., 2008). The area that employees tend to rate their supervisor the lowest is in inspirational motivation. This area of transformational leadership involves employee empowerment and ownership of one’s work (Trottier et al., 2008).
Both transactional and transformational leadership tactics are necessary in a bureaucratic organization. Since employees tend to derive more satisfaction from their jobs when transformational leadership tactics are employed, the optimal mix in a bureaucratic organization is sixty percent transformational and forty percent transactional. It is possible, as studies have revealed, to employ both styles in a bureaucratic organization. In order to do so, managers within these organizations must be educated on what behaviors and actions constitute each style. Managers within bureaucratic organizations must also understand the effects of transformational leadership and be willing to relax some of the organization’s structures.
Discussion and Analysis
One of the reasons why government organizations tend to fail is that leaders are reluctant to move away from conventional or transactional leadership practices (Golembiewksi & Gabris, 1994). Instead of embracing the qualities of leadership, supervisors become merely managers. This means that they enact management by exception (either passive or active) and contingent rewards (Golembiewski et al., 1994). Supervisors in bureaucratic organization have a tendency to focus on controlling employee performance by providing negative feedback and intervening when employees deviate from the standard. Supervisors enact a system whereas employees receive a reward in exchange for acceptable behavior (e.g. an extra day off the following week in exchange for overtime during the present week). By focusing on conventional management, supervisors enact control over their employees (Golembiewski et al., 1994) instead of empowering them to make decisions and carry out their work.
Modern management theory has revealed that bureaucratic management practices are no longer effective in motivating employees or ensuring job satisfaction (Weymes, 2004). Being an effective manager means that one must learn how to consider individual employee perspectives, encourage active employee participation in the decision-making process, encourage employee initiative and creativity, inspire employees to strive towards personal improvement, invest in individual employee development, and modify structured procedures that prohibit employees from personal ownership.
The problem with relying solely on transformational leadership practices is that at times transactional practice is needed. Employees need feedback and need correction when they deviate from performance standards. In addition, some employees are motivated by contingent rewards. A reward system can increase job satisfaction in employees (Trottier et al., 2008). For these reasons, a combination of transformational and transactional leadership practices is best.
Bureaucratic organizations have traditionally relied on transactional leadership practices to control and manage employees. Transformational leadership practices are also needed in order to increase job satisfaction and motivate employees to perform at their best. Bureaucratic organizations are mired in structure, regulations, and hierarchical control. Implementing transformational practices, especially empowerment and ownership, requires that leaders re-evaluate current procedures, regulations and structures. These mechanisms often prevent employees from lending their knowledge, ideas and expertise.
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