Comparing ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ management styles

For police investigations in crime dramas, a common theme is for officers to play the “good cop” or the “bad cop” to balance a strict approach with a more gentle one in an effort to try and get a witness or suspect to talk. While it’s a mainstay of TV plots, does it work in the business environment?

A recent story Training Mag, professional development publication, tried to answer that very question.

The piece, which was written by the former CEO of the Zain Group, Dr. Saad Al Barrak, looked into how different companies operate when it comes to choosing between levels of “hard” and “soft” management. In Barrak’s eyes, far too many businesses place too much emphasis on the former, focusing strictly on the bottom line and not on the people who made is possible, a mindset that he believes is a byproduct of the industrial age.

Barrak expanded on his ideas of two types of management, defining “soft” as “the people-friendly management based on emotions” while saying the “hard” is “based on consistency.”

He then went on to say that all companies must operate with some type of hard management, otherwise there is no structure to the way the business operates. However, he did emphasize that, even through hard management is known to bring expected results, even greater success can be achieved when using soft management.

“An overemphasis on the hard side, the linear part, can at best achieve a linear increase in performance,” Barrak wrote. “But a focus on the soft, non-linear side can lead to an exponential improvement in performance.”

When deciding on a management strategy for a given business, it’s important to work with an HR consulting company to ensure that the company has structure, but doesn’t limit potential.

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