Automation, autonomy and social integration: A study of office clerical workers
The rationalization of the production process through automation and the concomitant management expectations and control, in contrast to traditional mechanization and management control, affects worker autonomy or control over the work process and the social integration of workers within the workplace. However, any effects that automation and management control exert upon worker autonomy and social integration may be mediated by the attitudes, orientations or other background characteristics that worker import to the workplace. All clerical workers of an automated and an unautomated division of a large social service agency were surveyed by questionnaire in the workplace. A total of 121 workers responded. Although their jobs are limited in substantive complexity, most workers possess some autonomy due to their perceptions that their jobs are nonroutine and not closely supervised. Evidence of social integration exists based upon the workers' perceptions that social interaction, social solidarity and knowledge of the job and other unit activities are adequate. However, evidence of social disintegration exists based upon the workers' perception that management/worker relationships are highly unsatisfactory and considerable worries, tensions and uncomfortable feelings are experienced in the workplace. Automation strongly affected management expectations and control. It had some impact upon intrinsic job satisfaction and worker solidarity but minimal impact upon autonomy. However, automation's effects were considerable for workers in the automated division when orientations to people in contrast to object and orientations to intrinsic in contrast to extrinsic job aspects were introduced as intervening variables. It was concluded that automation not only complements management control in rationalizing the work process. It also augments management control. In addition, automation can affect worker autonomy and social integration when analyzed in context of the orientations that workers import to the workplace.