Participative management

Participative management, what is it?

Participative management, otherwise known as employee involvement or participative decision making, encourages the involvement of stakeholders at all levels of your business in the analysis of problems, development of strategies, and implementation of solutions.

Teams are invited to share in the decision-making process of your business by participating in activities such as setting goals, determining work schedules and making suggestions. Other forms of participative management include increasing the responsibility of employees (job enrichment); forming self-managed teams, quality circles, or quality-of-work-life committees; and soliciting survey feedback.

Participative management does however involve more than allowing employees to take part in making decisions. It also involves management treating the ideas and suggestions of employees with consideration and respect. The most extensive form of participative management is direct employee ownership of a company.

Four processes that influence participation

  • Information sharing, which is concerned with keeping employees informed about the economic status of the company
  • Training, which involves raising the skill levels of employees and offering development opportunities that allow them to apply new skills to make effective decisions regarding the business as a whole
  • Employee decision making, which can take many forms, from determining work schedules to deciding on budgets or processes
  • Rewards, which should be tied to the generation of suggestions and ideas as well as performance

What are the benefits of participative management?

A participative management style offers various benefits at all levels of your business:

  • Creates a sense of ownership in the company, participative management instills a sense of pride and motivates employees to increase productivity in order to achieve their goals
  • Employees who participate in the decisions of the company feel like they are a part of a team with a common goal, and find their sense of self-esteem and creative fulfillment heightened
  • Managers who use a participative style find that employees are more receptive to change than in situations in which they have no voice. Changes are implemented more effectively when employees have input and contribute to the decision making process
  • Participation keeps employees informed of upcoming events so they will be aware of potential changes. Your business can then place itself in a proactive mode instead of a reactive one, as managers are able to quickly identify areas of concern and turn to employees for solutions.
  • Participation helps employees gain a wider view of your business. Through training, development opportunities and information sharing, employees can acquire the conceptual skills needed to become effective managers or top executives. It also increases the commitment of your employees to the decisions they make
  • Creativity and innovation are two important benefits of participative management. By allowing a diverse group of employees to have input into decisions, your business benefits from the synergy that comes from a wider choice of options. When all employees, instead of just managers or executives, are given the opportunity to participate, the chances are increased that a valid and unique idea will be suggested.

What are the requirements of participative management?

A common misconception by managers is that participative management involves simply asking employees to participate or make suggestions. But effective programmes involve more than just a suggestion box.

In order for participative management to work, several issues must be resolved and several requirements must be met:

  • Managers must feel secure in their position in order for participation to be successful. Often managers do not realise that employees' respect for them will increase instead of decrease when they implement a participative management style.
  • The success of participative management depends on careful planning and a slow, phased approach. Changing employees' ideas about management takes time, as does any successful attempt at a total cultural change from a democratic style of management to a participative style. Long-term employees may resist changes, not believing they will last. In order for participation to be effective, managers must be genuine and honest in implementing the program. Many employees will need to consistently see proof that their ideas will be accepted or at least seriously considered. The employees must be able to trust their managers and feel they are respected.
  • Successful participation requires managers to approach employee involvement with an open mind. They must be open to new ideas and alternatives in order for participative management to work. Although the manager may not agree with every idea or suggestion an employee makes, how those ideas are received is critical to the success of participative management.
  • Employees must also be willing to participate and share their ideas. Participative management does not work with employees who are passive or who simply do not care. Where employees do not have the skills or information necessary to make good suggestions or decisions it is important to provide them with training so they can make informed choices.
  • Another important element for implementing a successful participative management style is the visible integration of employees' suggestions into the final decision or implementation. Employees need to know that they have made a contribution. Offering employees a choice in the final decision is important because it increases their commitment, motivation, and job satisfaction. Sometimes even just presenting several alternatives and allowing employees to choose from them is as effective as if they thought of the alternatives themselves. If the employees' first choice is not feasible, management might ask for an alternative rather than rejecting the employee input. When an idea or decision is not acceptable, managers should provide an explanation as to why not. If managers repeatedly reject employee ideas then employees will begin to distrust management, thus halting participation. The key is to build employee confidence so their ideas and decisions become more creative and sound.

What are the concerns about participative management?

Participative management is probably the most difficult style of management to practice. It is challenging not only for managers but for employees as well.

Usually, a senior management team will not support a participative management programme if they believe that employees are not meeting their daily or weekly goals. To overcome this issue, a manager can set aside a particular time each week for each team member so that they can share ideas or allow them to work on their ideas during less busy times of the day or week.

Managers should remember that participative management is not always the appropriate way to handle a situation. Employees often respect a manager that uses his or her authority and makes decisions when necessary. There are times when, as a manager, it is important to be in charge, make a decision, and then accept responsibility for the choices made. For example, participative management is probably not appropriate when disciplinary action is needed.


If you would like to discuss the different forms of participative management with one of our HR experts, contact us.