Michigan Studies

PSYCH-105 Industrial Psychology

Chapter 7: Leadership

Unit 1

Unit 2

Unit 3

Unit 4


Michigan Studies (1940’s to 1960’s)

The institute of social research at the University of Michigan followed in 1947 with an extensive study of leadership that resulted in many similar findings to the Ohio State studies. They investigated the relationship between supervisory behaviour and employee productivity and satisfaction. The University of Michigan group identified two styles of leadership – Employee-Centered and Production-Centered. 

  1. Employee-Centered (Relationship oriented): Leadership style emphasising delegation of authority and concern for employee welfare, needs, advancement and personal growth. Supervisors spent more time in actual, supervisory activities, less time performing tasks similar to those performed by subordinates, used general rather than close supervision, took a personal interest in employees and their gods, and were less punishing when mistakes were made. Employees of employee-centered supervisors felt that their supervisor took a personal interest in them, let them know how they were doing on the job, and would support them. 
  2. Production-Centered (task oriented): Leadership style emphasizing the use of rules, procedures and close supervision of subordinates. Supervisors spent less time in actual supervisory practices such as planning, more time performing tasks similar to those subordinates performed, used close supervision, and punished mistakes. Employees of production-centered supervisors tended to feel as if they were treated only as instruments of production and responded with poor performance. 

Leaders who are described as employee-oriented stress the relationship aspect of their job. They feel that every employee is important and take interest in everyone, accepting their individuality and personal needs whereas, production-oriented emphasis on production and technical aspects of the job, employees are seen as tools to accomplish the goals of the organization.

In the earlier studies, employee-centered and production-centered supervisors were treated as if they represented opposite ends of a single continuum. However, in later studies it was discovered that these two dimensions were independent and could occur simultaneously.

It was found in the Michigan studies that both the styles of leadership led to increase in production, but it was slightly in case of production or job-centred style. However, the use of direct pressure and close supervision led to decreased satisfaction and increased turnover and absenteeism. The employee centred approach led to improved work flow procedures and more cohesion in interactions which resulted in increased satisfaction and decreased turnover and absenteeism. This suggested the superiority of the employee centered leadership style.

Author – Dr. Niyati Garg

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