What is participatory management?

You have surely heard about (or experienced!) the four types of management that are most often encountered in companies: directive management, delegative management, persuasive management and participatory management.

Among these 4 management approaches, it seems that participatory management is particularly popular. Participatory management echoes the new expectations of employees and is very well suited to current developments in the world of work. It is no wonder in a connected world, where everyone is used to interacting and sharing their thoughts and where more and more people are looking to get involved in work that makes sense.

Let’s have a look at the 5 pillars of participatory management, how to set it up as well as some of its limits.

The origin of participatory management

Let's start with some history! Participatory management appeared in the 1950s in the United States as a reaction to a more authoritarian and directive management, attached to a more traditional and hierarchical way of leading. At the time, this type of management was evoked in the work of Frederick Herzberg (The Motivation to Work, 1959), in which he identified the factors of job satisfaction, among which we find the motivational factors: the need for  self-accomplishment, to have responsibilities, to take initiatives, to grow.

In short, participatory management relies more on individuals as persons endowed with behavioral skills (soft skills), and less on a simple workforce.

The 5 pillars of being a participatory manager

This new vision of management involves changing the role of managers. To switch to a participatory management style, each manager must follow 5 fundamental principles:

  • Mobilize: by sharing their strategy for the company with their collaborators, managers inspire and commit their teams towards a common goal.
  • Delegate and consult: participatory managers do not keep everything to themselves, they trust and listen. In order to delegate in a relevant way, they encourage discussions and debates, raise questions and provide answers. This is what enables collective decision making. They therefore ask everyone's opinion to empower each member of the team.
  • Encourage and challenge: the idea is to encourage employees to surpass themselves, to acquire new skills, be it human skills (soft skills) or technical skills (hard skills). One of the challenges of participatory management is to help employees gain self-confidence, question and challenge codes to find the most relevant solutions.
  • Anticipate problems and find solutions: managers are there to arbitrate conflicts, identify roadblocks and  their teams to achieve it. It is those who are at the heart of the problem who are best placed to find a solution.
  • Regulate reports: participatory management does not mean anarchy! The participatory manager must encourage autonomy and participation, but must also define rules and ensure that actions are properly coordinated.

How to set up participatory management?

Participatory management cannot be decreed, it is experienced and takes shape through concrete actions and attitudes on a daily basis.

To establish this type of management, certain rules must be established to ensure optimal cooperation and coordination:

  • reserve time for dialogue and collective listening every week, but also for individual interviews. To make these discussions a habit, you can schedule them, prepare them  and write down notes on the Popwork app;
  • give regular feedback and have good management of conflicts when they arise
  • set up a personal development system and collaborative tools to facilitate interaction and employee development
  • initiate brainstorms, create an idea box

Of course, needless to say that clear communication, real transparency and careful listening are prerequisites! These qualities are highly appreciated in particular by Gen Y and Gen Z, who above all seek to be well informed in order to better engage in a meaningful project.

Participatory management: its benefits and its limits

Participatory management improves the quality of life at work by capitalizing on collective intelligence. It also improves the working atmosphere thanks to healthy relationships between managers and employees, but also to the involvement and autonomy of each. Accountability tends to erase the balance of power and subordination, and therefore any frustrations. All these factors contribute to the increase in skills of the employee and the efficiency of their work.

However, setting up this type of management can sometimes be time consuming for managers and teams. To avoid this pitfall, don't reinvent the wheel and rely on a proven method and adopt tools that have already proven their worth.

Popwork can help you do this: by asking a few questions each week to each member of your team, you empower your team, identify the topics that matter most to them. This is a great way to engage everyone on your team and deal with issues in a concerted and effective manner.