Paternalistic management and managerial agility

management paternaliste

Obsolete manager or topical manager?

The paternalistic manager once had his credentials, but is perhaps becoming a bit ‘has-been’, especially in avant-garde environments.

Paternalistic management has had its heyday, but it may be getting a little old in the 21st century.

  • What’s good about paternalistic management?
  • How did it come about, and why is it no longer popular?
  • What can we take away from this rather controversial form of management?

General description of the paternalistic manager

management paternaliste
  • He provides his employees with the working conditions he deems necessary for the proper performance of their tasks and their well-being. They are firm.
  • He believes more in reward-based management than in punishing his teams in order to achieve their objectives.
  • He is the guarantor of compliance with the rules and often shows an exemplary attitude. As a result, he can easily inspire confidence.
  • In meetings, the agenda is set in advance, and he masters the steps and the plan, which he prefers to follow scrupulously.
  • His colleagues may expect a more global vision of the tasks than those presented by the paternalistic manager.

A comprehensive study on management (comparative results from over 8,000 people) and the profiles of managers and executives will also give you a better idea of who uses paternalistic management styles and which skills are most developed according to the level of responsibility occupied.

To assess yourself and identify how much paternalistic management you potentially use with your teams, you can take the Assess Manager management test, which also values other management styles and measures your degree of maturity in a range of management skills.

Extract from the book “Le management à porter demain” on the paternalistic manager

“After the Second World War came the era of reconstruction and the industrial age, which had begun in the previous period. Productivity was the driving force behind this era. Employees were guided by totalitarianism and needed a direction embodied by a leader. But the leader had to want them well. Fordism and Taylorism launched the new trend of paternalism.

The company is a second family, and it is within the company that families are created. The manager is a father figure who must be trusted. He protects his employees, guides them in their lives, makes them loyal and proud to belong to the great house that is the company”

How does the paternalistic manager behave today?

He’s being tossed about, jostled around, pushed towards change: he doesn’t understand the new generation, feels he’s losing control when it comes to teleworking. They need to see their employees and take the temperature every morning, even though they are almost always the first to arrive at the office.

While teleworking is reassuring for low-skilled staff, it has become ‘has-been’ for many employees, who no longer want to be infantilised or held back in their development. They are looking for other forms of management, such as participative management.

There are still a lot of them in the agri-food industry and in family businesses where the new generation has not yet taken over. The civil service also has its share of paternalistic managers. This type of management is more likely to be found in the 50+ age bracket, and is becoming rarer as we look at the new generations.

What is positive about paternalistic management?

As with any management style, not everything about paternalistic management is bad. It’s a reassuring management style when you’re feeling destabilised, either by something new or because, on a personal level, life isn’t going as well as you’d like.
The paternalistic manager, as the name suggests, has strong family values. He is a real support and pillar. Although he may sometimes seem harsh, his humanism is very much in evidence and he knows how to prioritise family welfare if an employee needs it.
He’s also a fan of company meals, where conviviality is the order of the day. It’s a moment that brings his professional family together, and he feels proud of what he has created, like the patriarch who sits at the head of the table in traditional families. In his eyes, his employees are an extension of himself, in good times.

So why does the paternalistic manager have such a bad reputation?

  • The paternalistic manager takes a long-term view, provides a great deal of security and takes a long time to make decisions and develop employees.
  • So, in a world where everything is speeding up, they sometimes seem quite out of touch with today’s pace. The younger generation in a company where paternalism is strong won’t stay. Waiting 4 years for a promotion is far too long!
  • The paternalistic manager lacks confidence in his staff, he hasn’t understood that he can rely on them, or if he has, he also sees that this generation is going to overtake him and make him obsolete, unless he’s prepared to learn all over again.
  • He has acquired this wisdom where time solves problems through patience, whereas the market sometimes moves too fast for this wisdom to be virtuous in this particular case.

It’s a real paradigm shift for him, and he’s not always in a position to make that shift.
Crises in this sense are positive, as they can push them to change, to develop a little more trust-based management, and gradually move towards delegative or participative management.

Your assistant has just returned from maternity leave and is feeling rather nervous. She’s no longer sure she’s motivated enough, due to her lack of confidence, which you’ve already noticed in the past. Her “off” period only reinforces this feeling. You’ve got tasks for her to do, but you can feel that she’s not ready.

What management style do you choose?

In the case described above, you can use a paternalistic management style for a while.
Just long enough to reassure her, to support her with family values, to show her that you’re counting on her and that she’s regaining confidence.
On the other hand, this management style will then have to make way for other management styles, at the risk of infantilising her and making her resistant to change out of comfort.

If you liked this page, you can find the author and many other subjects of reflection on management in the book “Le management à porter demain” published by EMS Coach, which details all the managerial skills.

You are a manager. Do you ever use paternalistic management? Ever? Often?

The free management test will give you a very precise answer, and will also show you the other management styles that you are capable of using, or that you already use.

Key points about paternalistic management

Paternalistic management is a management style. It often underpins skills and shortcomings that are unique to it

The management test developed by Assess Manager does not deduce skills, it measures them in concrete terms, in particular: the ability to take decisions, to develop a corporate vision, and the ability to support change.

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