The « Laissez faire » Management Style – Independent and Happy Workers

The laissez faire management style doesn’t work in every workplace, but in those where it does, it often works spectacularly well. In this style of management, the manager has a more hands-off approach and allows staff to manage their own areas of responsibility. It usually works best in groups that are highly professional, competent, and / or creative.

The laissez faire manager sets the tasks and is minimally involved in micromanaging the tasks carried out by staff. The manager, however must be available to coach staff members, supply information, and answer questions. When staff members are able to...

successfully take responsibility for their work, morale usually improves. But like any management style, there are advantages and disadvantages to the laissez faire style.

Advantages of laissez faire management style

Disadvantages of laissez faire management style

Proponents of this style of management point to one of the most successful American businessmen of all time, investor Warren Buffett, who is head of Berkshire Hathaway. Buffett is known for giving his subsidiary workers plenty of freedom and not constantly looking over their shoulders. “We tend to let our many subsidiaries operate on their own, without our supervising and monitoring them to any degree. Most managers use the independence we grant them magnificently,” he says in his 2010 Berkshire Hathaway annual report.

But rest assured, successful laissez faire managers like Warren Buffett do oversee performance to ensure they get the best results. It is a real balancing act between giving employees enough slack to be effective, but not enough to slack off. A certain degree of autonomy is very empowering for most people, but particularly for creative types or highly educated workers. Getting out of the way and letting employees do their job is the idea, and in many cases it works amazingly well.

At the same time, under-management can create problems when they people managers hire are not well qualified for their work. But with highly competent and experienced workers, over-management is seen as more demoralizing. The best laissez faire managers are the ones who are available to hear workers’ ideas and who are alert to the possibility of management problems and the potential for unrestrained workers to cause legal problems, as happened with companies like Enron in 2000.

The message of a good laissez faire manager is that as long as workers exceed expectations, everything will move along just fine, and incompetent leaders will eventually sift themselves out. It doesn’t work for every organization, and even leaders like Buffett have had their occasional setbacks. But in organizations where workers are competent, motivated, and confident, this management style is one of the best going.

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