Is Paternalism Killing Your Work Culture? Let’s Find Out!

Is Paternalism Killing Your Work Culture? Let’s Find Out!

A leader is often characterised by the qualities of an ideal parent, the one who nurtures and helps us grow. However, a deeper analysis between a parent-child and an adult-adult relationship makes it easier for us to draw a comparison and distinguish between a nurturing well as critical parent and a leader, especially in the context of a workplace. While the former relationship is considerate and developmental, the latter might be mechanistic, controlling and punitive.

Paternalistic leadership is a managerial approach which involves a dominant authority figure acting as a patriarch and treating employees and partners as though they are members of a large, extended family. In exchange, the leader expects loyalty, trust, and obedience from his/her employees.

Considering the broader view, paternalistic attitude considers others as weak, unworthy of decision making and unable to act independently.

Therefore, this approach could possibly lead to a crumbling work culture in an organisation. Let’s find out how paternalism can hurt a company’s culture in the long run!

How Paternalism is Killing Your Work Culture?

Pitfalls of Paternalism

Paternalistic leadership is built around the idea that the leader is the person with the power to decide. This means, the leader has the final say in decision making and any further consultation thereafter is not required, as he/she is expected to make choices in favor of the subordinates.

There are, however, some serious pitfalls associated with a company that follows paternalistic attitude, like:

1. Employee Dissatisfaction:

Work environment plays a very important role in mounting the satisfaction level of the employees. Leaders who have a strong relationship with their employees tend to have a more motivated workforce and, thus, job satisfaction among the employees gets to the highest level.

Paternalistic attitude focuses on disciplining employees in non-traditional ways, which might backfire and result in employee dissatisfaction.

2. Dependency:

In a paternalistically driven workplace, the employees become more and more dependent on the employer. This results in a need for increased supervision in order to get things done in a timely and appropriate manner. Employees find themselves handicapped while taking even day-to-day decisions and need constant hand-holding, thus becoming crippled. When employees are treated like children, they act like children and do not think for themselves, waiting to be told what to do and not wanting to be held accountable.

3. Unsustainable:

A workplace rife with paternalism is highly unsustainable. It may work well when a company’s business is stable, profits are expanding and innovation and development aren’t a priority. As soon as these things do not hold true, the organisation finds itself fighting against its own culture to thrive. Whenever the company goes into a growth phase or when the times change, a paternalistic workplace starts to dwindle.

4. Higher Employee Turnover:

Employees value a great salary, benefits, and other perks, but they also place equal importance on having their ideas heard and considered, and having the opportunities to learn and grow. In fact, employees value these aspects so much that they are easily lured to join some other organisation in this pursuit. A paternalistic attitude in an organisation experiences more employee turnover and might also lose some of its best employees.

5. Lack of Motivation:

Imagine a workplace where your ideas are not heard, opinions are not taken into consideration or feedback is never implemented; this sort of organisation is bound to suffer. Even if the leaders are advised through feedback that a particular approach to a problem might not give the best result, but they insist on using this approach anyway, the workers might lose motivation. They will do the job but will definitely be dissatisfied with their leaders.

Advantages of Paternalism

An open and accessible line of communication between the managers and employees keeps the latter feeling important and satisfied.

This also gives a feeling and confidence to the employees that the manager genuinely wants everyone to succeed. This results in a lower amount of competition among the employees.

The managers are given the power to rule with the belief that they are most capable in making the best decisions for the team and fostering trust and loyalty among employees.

Managers know employees on a personal level and this makes the employees feel more connected to their workplaces.

Why Paternalism Should be Replaced by Servant Leadership?

Simply put, a servant leadership style is characterised by giving rather than delegating. In the minds of a true servant leader, organisational success depends on the employees’ ability to do their jobs well. This, in turn, depends on the leader’s willingness to provide the tools they need. Thus, instead of coming across as a commander for the employees, a servant leader promotes success by way of a simple question… “How can I help you succeed?” This gives the employees a sense of purpose and motivates them to be more proactive while building a sense of teamwork.

When it comes to paternalistic leadership style, the servant leadership style is often given precedence for several reasons. The servant leadership style does have paternal overtones to it, but the paternalistic style somehow has traditional domination and an autocratic leadership inherent to it, which is not at all in tune with the principles of servant leadership.

Here’s why paternalism should be replaced by servant leadership…

1. Stronger Team:

The servant leadership model focuses on people than the process of the work. This helps to build a compassionate and humanised work environment, encouraging stronger relationships on the basis of a mutual goal. In this scenario, everyone plays a different but equal role. This sentiment energises workers to step up to the plate, be proactive, reach for higher goals, and see how they can serve others.

2. Increased Social Responsibility… And The Benefits Thereof:

Servant leadership also encourages social responsibility both inside and outside of the office. This leads to an increased appeal of your brand, thereby increasing your market size.

A corporate conscience comes with many other benefits as well. It’s no secret that the modern consumer is more than happy to pay a premium for companies who are engaged in social good. This is because the majority of individuals these days are eco-conscious. This further helps with customer loyalty, as people love to associate with brands that are in line with their personal values.

Another upside is the prospect of receiving financial grants or support from the government, under the various social welfare schemes.

All of this ultimately leads to the business becoming more appealing to investors.

While paternalism does have its downfalls, it may not be all that bad. With the right approach, companies can benefit from paternalism, while gradually making the shift towards the servant leadership structure.


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