Critically evaluate how far technology employed in an industry is the prime cause of alienation in the workplace

Topics: Technology, Marx's theory of alienation, Employment Pages: 6 (1805 words) Published: February 10, 2014


Critically evaluate how far technology employed in an industry is the prime cause of alienation in the workplace

Employee satisfaction is an important aspect that every company should carefully consider as this can have a major impact on overall productivity and can also be an important source of strategic competitive advantage. Employee satisfaction is an area looked after by the Human Resource department in big firms and general managers in smaller companies. However, no matter the size of the company employee contentment should be regarded as a priority. According to Gregory, 2011 employee satisfaction is essential for any business that aims to be successful as employee dissatisfaction is directly related to a lower rate in turnover. Having established that employee satisfaction is highly important, this essay will analyse a cause of employee dissatisfaction, namely the introduction of technology in an industry and the degree to which thisis responsible for employee alienation in the workplace. Bearing in mind that employees are humans with feelings and emotions, all employers should consider this when making important business decisions such as the introduction of new technology. Humans have basic needs that have to be met if satisfaction is to be attained such as the need for gratification. The introduction of new technology replacing humans or reducing human input can reduce the degree of gratification that an employee can experience leading to employee dissatisfaction. A good example marking the beginning of the technology implementation comes from the automotive industry with Henry Ford’s introduction of the assembly line. This essay will consider the Henry Ford’s example and the impact on his employees linking the introduction of technology to alienation in the workplace and based on academic theory will establish to which degree the introduction of technology can be a cause of employee alienation.

In order to explore the alienation phenomenon and determine if technology is actually a cause one needs to first understand its meaning. According to the Business Dictionary, 2014 from the human resource perspective alienation refers to the estrangement felt by the employees in an organisation which can be observed in their lack of warmth towards the organisation and their belief that the job they are performing is not meaningful for their lives. Alienation commonly derives from the lack on involvement in the process of decision making, lack of human interaction and limited opportunities for personal development within the company (Business Dictionary, 2014). Considering the impact of technology in the workplace, mainly the fact that it limits human interaction and eliminates the need for human input, making the employee an operator more than a developer it can be stated that the introduction of technology can have an impact on workplace alienation.

A recognised name in sociology and not only, Karl Marx developed a sound theory of alienation in the modern society. According to the sociologist all major parts of society present signs of alienation including religion (Coser, 1977). As described by Coser, 1977, Marx’s belief was that alienation occurs when humans become dominated by forces created by them (Coser, 1977). Applying this theory to religion, from a Marxist perspective the creation of a higher forces such as God and other entities puts human in a situation of alienation as they become susceptible to the influence of these forces. Returning to the situation where alienation occurs in the workplace, Marx’s theory is still valid and according to Cox, 1998 Marx stated that in the modern society the fruits of people’s own labour are threatening their very existence at an unprecedented level. Technological achievements are shortening the need for human input and involvement and affecting the communication between management levels. Thus, taking the computer...

References: Bloom, H (2009).Alienation. New York: Infobase Publishing.
Business Dictionary (2014).Alienation. [online]. Available at: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/alienation.html. [Accessed 05/02/2014].
Coser, L. A. (1977).Masters of sociological thought: ideas in historical and social context. 2nd ed. United States of America: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Cox, J. (1998).AN INTRODUCTION TO MARX 'S THEORY OF ALIENATION.INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM, quarterly journal of the Socialist Workers Party (Britain). 79, July 1998.
Kellner, D. (1997). New Technologies and Alienation: Some Critical Reflections. [online]. Available at: http://pages.gseis.ucla.edu/faculty/kellner/essays/technologyalienation.pdf. [Accessed 06/02/2014].
Simpson, D. and Inkson, K. (1975).The assembly-line and alienation: A participant-observer study in the meat-freezing industry.New Zealand Psychologist.4(2). Pp. 44-55.
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