William Joseph Deeley.

Labour difficulties and suggested solutions, a manual for technical students, cashiers; foremen, departmental or works managers and employers online

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Labour Difficulties


Suggested Solutions













34 Cross Street



The present Manual is designed to introduce technical
students our only recruits in training to become
captains of industry to one of the most difficult
problems they will have to face in their chosen career.
Very little research has hitherto been done to solve
problems whose human elements are much more various
than those of chemistry.

History fortunately provides us with problems suffi-
ciently parallel to give the main direction of our search
for a solution. This Manual, then, is mainly a series of
semi-detached cases treated so as to expose a few general
principles or rules in order to stake out a claim for man
management to be given the status and attention due to
a scientific study. A few cases thus discussed in a
student's course will awaken interest in them, and furnish
him with centres of growth and comparison for right
treatment during his works career, so that afterwards he
will readily understand contemporary progress, and
assimilate its results as they occur.

Fortunately, too, this method is also best for foremen
and others now fully occupied in man management.
Labour difficulties increase daily, and must be solved at
once. Reconstruction and a better understanding
between man and management, rather than between
labour and capital, cannot wait for a race of supermen.
The salvation of British industry and the building up
of another merrie England depend on those engaged in
it to-day.

It is with some appreciation of their solemn trust
w r hether assumed or imposed all unwittingly that this
short Manual is addressed and dedicated to all present
workers, foremen, cashiers, managers, and employers.

The present material was prepared in answer to an



invitation to give a course of six lectures to third-year
undergraduates in the Manchester School of Technology.
The limitations of time and of works experience on the
part of the intended hearers will explain, to some extent,
the limitations of treatment, its thought provoking form,
and the definiteness of some apparently premature judg-
ments on matters which will always remain in a state
of partial solution.

When the course was thrown open to others the wide-
spread interest and sacrifice of scanty leisure by those
fully occupied with responsible management problems
day by day was very gratifying, but it disturbed our
plans. As explained above, however, it did not invalidate
them ; on the contrary, it suggested immediate publica-
tion to reach a wider circle of students and responsible
managers equally interested, no doubt, in this subject.

Whatever may be the success of the Lectures or Manual
in bringing to terms our stubborn labour difficulties,
the thanks of the author and his readers are due to the
initiative and organisation of Principal Garnett.

Acknowledgment is also due to the Editor of " The

Automobile Engineer " for permission to re-publish

Chapter III, and every chapter will remind the reader
of the author's debt to two large Manchester firms
Messrs. Hans Renold Ltd. and The Calico Printers'



Manchester, March, 1918.




CHAPTER I. Labour Difficulties : Managing
Workers. Position not unprecedented.
Reconstruction essentially a human
problem. Solution suggested by
history. How to solve the Exercises - I

CHAPTER II. Foremen : Requirements of a fore-
man. How to get and reward the
right type. "Acting" foremen.
Hints to young foremen - - 8

CHAPTER III. Managers and Employers : Require-
ments of a Works Manager.
Absentee owners. Management a
profession. Maxims for Managers.
A Managers' Seminar - - 19

CHAPTER IV. Selection for Stability of Staff: The
Employment Department Organi-
sation and forms required. The
interview. Combing out candidates
for promotion - - - 29

CHAPTER V. Wage Payments : Daywork, Piece-
work, "Mind "-study Bonus, Holi-
day Pay, Profit-sharing and Co-
partnership, War Grants and
Arbitration A National Scheme
wanted - - 40


CHAPTER VI. Welfare Work and Workshop
Committees : Works Sick Clubs.
Pensions for Foremen. Accidents.
Visitors' Days. Suggestions from
Employees. Self-government in
Industry The Drafting of Works
Instructions and Notices. Re-
employment of partly - disabled
soldiers - - 86

CHAPTER VII. Suggested Solutions to Exercises -122



Any previous solution of the same problem will tend
to cheer the despondent \and suggest the means of
improving the present state of things. The shortage of
labour has removed the dread of the " sack " from many
workers, and employers are now selling employment
instead of buying labour. The rise in wages has
naturally affected the lowest-paid labour first, while the
absence of fathers has specially increased the independ-
ence of younger people. Open confession of impotence
on the part of employers and foremen on occasion has
confirmed delinquents in their disobedience or open
defiance of authority.

It is beside the point to apportion blame or bewail
the past, but two balancing considerations will indicate
our best course that of seeking causes and then apply-
ing the proper remedy to each. The first impulse one
feels is to punish the insubordinate, and, undoubtedly,
it must, at least, be demonstrated that insubordination
does not pay.

Second thoughts show that for the first time in
industrial history labour as a whole has got the initiative,
and management is only reaping what it has long sown.
Generally speaking, the result of any defiance has been
dismissal without much inquiry into extenuating
circumstances. This action has been a perfect preventive
of any future clash between the two individuals
concerned. Open lamentation for the departure of this


old remedy is now made in some works or other every-
day of the year. If the long tradition of controllers
who are, on the whole, more enlightened, more secure,
and, therefore, more tolerant has been crude and
undiscriminating, can we expect labourers in the first
flush of their independence to be more tolerant and less
hasty or drastic in their action ? The broader view
must come from those who are nearer the top. The man
who had ten talents was the first to be asked for results.
Further, each individual must make a start at once and
not wait for the magician's wand to change all controllers

A parallel from history is instructive, and always
puts a pressing problem into something like its true
perspective. Does a farmer who has lost a lamb openly
bewail the days when the thief could be hanged ? Does
the tradesman who has been robbed of goods to the
value of 5/- long for the same simple and complete
remedy? Was hanging as complete a "cure " for each
crime as it was for the convicted criminal ? With such
an example in mind can captains of industry and their
general staffs at each works bring about a similar change
of feeling and improved practice into their present labour
difficulties? With history as our guide we may, at least,
safely assert that the remedy, when found for each
delinquent, will not be so simple and complete as hanging,
so that it would be well not to start out with extravagant

Let us take an extreme case in point. A half-timer of
13, after working for about two weeks in a department,
was told by the under-foreman to look after another
machine for a time. The boy replied that it was not his
job, and with some addition of forcible language told
the foreman to do it himself. The latter intimated what
he would have done if he had not been so short-handed,
but, as a matter of fact, his responsibility for the
department decided him apparently to obey the boy.


Nothing could afterwards wholly efface the injury thus
done to the boy or to the authority of that foreman.

This incident came to the knowledge of others on
the staff, but no action resulted. The general comments
implied that such conduct was inevitable, and must
be endured until the labour shortage was over and the
boy could be " sacked." But, even granting that such
boys must now be employed, it does not follow that all
foremen would have been treated alike. The natural
character and experience of some men would have carried
them through triumphantly, or the boy would never have
thrown down the challenge at all, so we may come to the
conclusion that if young or old workers continue to come
to us in that frame of mind our only remedy is for man
managers to be selected and trained to deal with such

But such difficulties are only part of the problem
they are only the amount we are behind scratch for the
progress of industry and civilisation largely depends on
goodwill and hearty co-operation between all grades of
people, and even if insubordination never occurred, and
rigid, prompt obedience was obtained, the most valuable
asset of a good foreman or manager might still be
wanting. The development of interest, zeal, keenness
and teamwork is the standard by which we shall win the

It was precisely this latter difficulty by which schools
were nearly overwhelmed by the passing of the com-
pulsory Education Act in 1870. It had been compara-
tively easy to teach the children who willingly came to
learn, whose parents valued education and supported the
efforts of the teacher, but when largely increased numbers
of the opposite kind and quite unused to control at home
were forced into the artificial conditions of the class-room
the teachers' job became far more difficult. As the
character and disposition of the children could not be
transformed before they came to school, and since ability


to control children is not an indispensable condition of
parenthood, the only remedy left was to train the teacher.
This conclusion, so obvious now, was evolved and
adopted slowly and by painful degrees. The method of
training is not and never will be perfected, but no one
can doubt that progress has been made and will con-
tinue. The wonderful results obtained with the deaf,
blind and dumb, with defective or criminal material is
such as to remove the despondency of those who consider
labour difficulties unique or unprecedented and certain
to lead to national disaster.

Anyone who has attended a Sunday School has some
material on which to base an estimate of the difference
made by training teachers. Each one's natural ability
for the task is thus raised to a higher power, while those
which are inevitable failures get sorted out in the course
of training. Similarly, no manager of workers will ever
be perfect, but each one can be improved, so that by
individual effort and a general scheme of recognition and
encouragement the total result in comfort and efficiency
to all concerned will be very great.

The provision of a course of instruction in all technical
schools can be trusted to develop treatment to suit the
ends of future controllers of men, and it may also tend
to functionalise the requirements so that such duties may
be discharged almost entirely by those who have special
aptitude for such work. But it is to those who are
to-day grappling with the difficulties to whom we must
look for immediate help. All employers and managers
should show increased discrimination of the qualities
needed for success in managing men, and give increased
facilities for rewarding the individuals who succeed. In
this Manual there will be some attempts to define what is
wanted, and how it can be rewarded when found, but no
material recognition can ever take the place of personal
sympathy and appreciation of good work as it is done.
An immediate expression of this is an encouragement of


the utmost value, but it is far commoner to take good
work for granted and only blame the bad, just as one
sore toe will attract more attention than ten healthy ones.


A few practical exercises will be given at the end of
each chapter, and solutions, more or less approximately
correct, at the end of the Manual. Students of all kinds
will derive much encouragement from the limits of error
permissible even to experts in this subject. For
example, the official Old Age Pension Act solution of
the poverty problem has been found subject to the
considerable "maximum error" of encouraging thrift-
lessness by giving io/- a week to any old couple who
have spent all their income as they went along, and
probably left unliquidated debts at intervals in their
career. Whereas another couple, who have pinched and
scraped to bring up a family, pay their way, and insure
or save for old age, certainly get less, and may get
nothing at all from the State.

The quickest way to solve any particular exercise is to
turn to the solution at the end of the Manual, but this
is not the way to learn how to deal with new problems,
which will demand prompt solution from present
students when they become managers. The power to
find right solutions to problems when there is no book
to refer to will increasingly become the test for selecting
managers, and displace the varying methods of the past.
Some appointments have been accounted for by the
recipient being born lucky, looking clever or impressive,
marrying the owner's daughter, arriving with half-a-
crown in his pocket, or by picking up a pin during his
first interview, etc. Those who rely on earning their
promotion by solving new problems must learn to ask
themselves the right questions, play for time to think them
over or to discuss them with others, correlate new points
whenever the brain automatically brings such to the


surface of consciousness, and finally commit themselves
to a reasoned opinion in black and white. This opinion
should be compared with the one in the Manual and
with any others available.

Individuals vary, but I find that a refractory problem
yields the best solution under the gentle heat of the
retort courteous in a half-humorous discussion, which is
followed by a tabulation of the pros and cons. This
method requires some adaptability in taking sides
according to the views of the person available for
discussion, and this adaptability is needed only till the
principles become clear, but it does give as a by-product a
completer understanding of the points of view of those
who finally differ on questions of principle. This process
may be compared with the testing of " working hypo-
theses." The worst possible attitude is that attributed
to politicians, namely, to choose one side and then stick
to it because it is yours, adopting without criticism all
the arguments in its favour and rejecting the others as

The method of solving the exercises, then, is simply
for the student to ask himself questions, and the first
exercise is thus treated as an example. From Plato
down to present day viva voce examiners it is agreed
that the chief difficulty of such problems is that of asking
questions not answering them. Any student capable of
stating a converse proposition accurately will derive
much benefit from it as does an American humorist in
his professional career. Every opportunity of reading
trade union literature and history or of attending strike
meetings should be used, in order to test one's power of
seeing at least two sides of a question and forecasting
objections to one's own proposals. No student in his
works experience or apprenticeship should fail to join
the trade union if he is eligible to do so. The money
thus spent will probably yield him his best return, for
it will admit him to a professional debating society


dealing with matters of living interest to its members,
and this experience will be of increasing benefit to him
the higher he rises in managerial rank. Each exercise
must be treated as a scientific research problem, and
must be studied quite apart from personal or class
animosities, just as chemical problems were put into
the way of solution and development. What research
chemist ever has his " knife into " oxygen ? In scientific
research the first operation is to test the balance before
any substance is weighed. In business this has been
too often taken for granted or left to Government

Exercise I. Youths leaving work without notice
whenever they hear of a better job. How should a
manager deal with such a case, seeing that if permission
is refused the youth may hinder production or spoil
goods, thus causing loss to the firm and fellow-workers
in a piece set ?

The following questions are given to indicate the
method of arriving at a solution :

1. What is the law as to leaving work?

2. Should a minority of one or more rule the majority ?

3. Could the manager enlist the help of the majority ?

4. If one such case is allowed to occur, would others
imitate his action ?

5. If the manager and workers are to suffer by
insubordination, why should they not prefer to suffer in
a better cause that of enforcing discipline ?

6. If one case occurred, as no remedy seemed possible,
should the manager get a remedy ready for the next
case ? What book or authority should he refer to ?

7. If a manager allowed such youths to run his works
what part of his salary should he allot to them ?

Exercise II. If one of two workers larking in a
department was hurt and off work for some days, discuss
the case from the manager's point of view with regard
to the two workers and the foreman.



The first attempt to state the requirements of a foreman
arose from the sad experience of an excellent workman
who, after several years' service, had been promoted to
foreman. A few months of this showed that he had not
the necessary power of control and general oversight of
the department, i.e., he could not throw off his lifetime's
habit as a worker of confining himself to one job, and
acquire the new habit of seeing that the whole team of
jobs ran well together. Of course, he lost his higher pay
as a salaried man, and his extra allowance for sickness
and holidays, but with these were lost other distinctions
such as the use of the foremen's dining-room and
special clock. The two latter must have been much
more galling to him, as they were public daily
reminders of his failure.

Every time there has been occasion to refer to the note
then made it has undergone modification, but the state-
ment has proved useful in arriving at sound judgments,
because no good part is lost, and every time it has been
found that experience has added to the store.


Some good workmen prefer to remain as such rather
than face the anxiety, responsibility and risk of a more
highly paid post, but men who wish to rise to positions
of influence should consider the following requirements,
for the best workman does not always make the best
foreman :

i. Skill as a worker. A foreman must be good


enough at the work to be able to judge it, and not to be
put off with a second-rate standard. He must also be
good enough to show poor workers how to do the job,
but the best men do not need to be shown. Nothing
beyond this stage of skill is essential, though further
stages will be useful and inspiring as an example.
Resource and sound judgment in dealing with men and
with sudden emergencies will develop with experience if
the right kind of man is chosen for the foremanship.

2. Not to do the work himself or he would be paid
at a workman's rate but to teach others how to do it
and to see that it is done. The good foreman has time
to stand around and watch how the work is going on,
considering meantime how the method of working can
be improved upon.

3. To be responsible : that is, to take blame for what
is wrong in his department, not to lay it on sub-
ordinates but to have it put right.

4. To be a good leader, i.e., to be able to inspire
others to make them keen on their work, their depart-
ment and their firm. You can tell a good foreman by
watching his men, as they will be active, confident and
cheerful in their work.

5. To be able to understand a problem thoroughly :
that is, to find out how it is to be carried out, to divide
up the job, and to see that each subordinate understands
the part he is to do ; hence, he must be able to give
short, clear instructions, to be able to explain things.
A good foreman is not misunderstood by his men. They
know exactly what he means without his having to do
the job himself.

SUGGESTION : These notes should be printed in the
foremen's rule book, and also brought to the knowledge
of candidates for promotion beforehand, because a
candidate who fails after trial has delayed the appoint-
ment of a good foreman, besides being an embarrassment
to the firm, who may have to degrade one who must


have proved successful in his previous work. The
worker suffers more, however, for he does not like to go
back to his old grade, and probably seeks work else-
where at the lower grade. Hence a definite probationary
status as " acting" foreman should be recognised during
holidays or other absence of any regular foreman. The
American Army has just adopted the English rank of
" acting" captain, etc.

Every student has material in his school experience of
teachers for judging the relative value of different
characteristics required in a manager of men. His works
experience should be continually brought under criticism
for the same purpose, and the following examples will
also show some of the qualities we expect in a good

(1) A foreman, disheartened by repeated cases of
neglect, stupidity or unreasonableness of his men, began
to take a more just and hopeful view by the following
reply : " That is why you are paid to think for them;
otherwise there would be no foreman's job for you."
The efficiency of a worker is in inverse ratio to his need
for supervision, and the efficiency of a foreman is in
direct ratio to the energy, forethought and intelligence
he can induce in or supply to his workers.

(2) Take an example from a compensation case like
those which the Board of Trade Gazette gives each
month. A foreman saw a worker doing something over
a machine in motion, and told him : " You ought to get
the proper appliance for reaching that." Shortly after-
wards the man's coat caught and he was injured, so
that the firm had to pay him compensation. The man,
of course, suffered great pain, lost half wages, and was
lamed for life.

MORAL : A good foreman is not merely a finger-post to
point out or advise. He must observe, judge any
circumstances, and assume responsibility ; that is, take


the risk of seeming fussy. He must give definite orders
and see that they are carried out. He protects his men
even against their own ignorance or carelessness, and in
spite of themselves, if necessary. If such an accident has
occurred how can sympathy and condemnation be
blended, or handed out separately ? What is the use of
preaching to that man after he is hurt ?

(3) Some boys larking in a department injured very
seriously and permanently a youth who was passing in
the course of his duties. The staff and all the workers
were greatly shocked, and subscribed for the sufferer, but
nothing could really compensate the innocent victim.
The lawsuit to settle some legal point brought out the
fact that such larking was fairly common, though its
danger was known. This, again, shows the danger of a
foreman ever making terms with laxity of discipline and
oversight. Lack of judgment and resource in dealing
with the previous larking seems to be indicated, for
when the same events coincided with bad luck they led to
an accident, though they had done not so previously.

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Online LibraryWilliam Joseph DeeleyLabour difficulties and suggested solutions, a manual for technical students, cashiers; foremen, departmental or works managers and employers → online text (page 1 of 13)