The Professional employee

Supervisors are not alone in being described as part of management. The same assertion is made for and usually by the professional employee. And as in the case of the supervisor, the fact that this assertion has to be made bespeaks growing uneasiness over the organization of the work of the professional employee and the way he is being managed.

Professional employees constitute the most rapidly growing group in the business enterprise. At the end of World War II, for instance, seventy-five industrial companies in the USA had research laboratories employing more than a hundred professional people apiece. At that time this was considered by many a wartime phenomenon abetted by excess profits tax largesse. But five years later, at the outbreak of the Korean War, the number of such large research laboratories in American industry had almost doubled. Counting large and small together, we now have well over three thousand industrial laboratories engaged in scientific research.

The scope of professional employment has also been widening steadily. To the layman and to great many businessmen professional employee still means research engineer or chemist. But in addition to the physicists who have entered industry so spectacularly during these last ten years, business today is employing thousands of geologists, biologists and other natural scientists and at least hundreds of economists, statisticians certified public accountants and psychologists not to mention lawyers.

The new technology will greatly accelerate the trend and again widen the scope of professional employment. In addition to creating entirely new fields of research engineering, it will bring into the business enterprise in large numbers mathematical economists to study market and income patterns, experts in logical methods and mathematicians.

How can we manage the professional specialist? Almost every large company is working on the problem. And it seems to be as acute in non-business organizations for instance, in the Armed Services as it is in business.

Yet so new is the phenomenon that we do not even really know what to call the professional employee. Only General Electric has coined a term; it calls these men individual professional contributors. Debatable as the term is (or these people usually do not work individually but in teams), it will have to do until better one comes along.

Even the best term for the professional employee would not show us what the problem is or how to tackle it; it would show us only that a problem exists.

Neither Management nor labor: Whenever it is asserted that the professional employee is “a part of management,” the purpose is to, emphasize that the professional employee is not labor. If a manager makes the assertion, he usually means that professional employees must not be permitted to unionize.

If a professional makes the assertion, he usually means that the promotional opportunities, pay and status ought to be equal to that of a manager rather than of a highly skilled worker.

There is no such thing as labor that is human beings considered as a purely material, if not inanimate, resource. It is its thesis that management of worker and work has as its ultimate goal the realization of the managerial vision for all members of the enterprise, and as its major means the assumption of significant responsibility and decision making power by every worker.

Altogether therefore it is spurious logic to divide industrial society into managers and labor, and to assume that anyone who is not a manager must be a worker and vice versa. It is essential to realize, first that everybody in the enterprise is a worker, that is, that managing is in itself a distinct kind of work; and also that everybody in the enterprise, whatever his work, requires the managerial vision. It is equally essential to realize that the professional employee represents a distinct group which though it partakes of the characteristics of both manager and worker has distinct traits of its own. For only if we understand what the professional employee is we can organize his job properly and manage him adequately.