A Synopsis
of M.J. Arul's doctoral dissertation

Interpersonal Needs* of Managers and Management Students:
An Exploratory Study


Interpersonal relations have been found to be an integral part of the managerial job the world over and several studies have established their importance in formal organisations, especially for effective decision making and implementation of decisions. The domain continues to receive the attention of academicians, managers and management consultants. Despite interesting insights offered by numerous studies of interpersonal relations over the past four decades, more remains to be known about the underlying bases of interpersonal behavior.

The Problem

Studies addressing managers' interpersonal needs that underlie their interpersonal behavior are necessary both for the sake of knowledge and for practical interventions in terms of designing need-based management development programs. The present study attempted to appraise the prevailing interpersonal needs of people who had taken up management as their career in the cooperative dairy industry of India. The study based its approach on the revised version of the theory of FIRO (Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation) and set out to pursue the following objectives:

  • To identify the relative strengths of FIRO needs among the managers and managers-to-be in the chosen sector;
  • To examine the differences, if any, of FIRO needs between the two major groups: managers and management students;
  • To scrutinize the FIRO-need differences, if any, between or among various sub-groups of the managers and management students.

Research Design and Methodology

In pursuit of the above objectives, a cross-sectional research design was adopted, involving a fairly large sample from the Indian cooperative dairy sector. In all, 575 subjects from the sector were studied, of whom 253 were managers and 322 were management students. The managers were sub-grouped on the bases of age, academic discipline, success, department and region of origin. The students were similarly subdivided on the same bases, save for department and gender: the students comprised boys and girls, but they had no departments; and there were hardly any women managers.

As for the research tools, the FIRO theory-based Inventory, called Element-B (the revised version of FIRO-B), was the primary instrument. It was to elicit data on the interpersonal behavior needs of Inclusion, Control and Openness as Expressed and Received, each at the Perceived as well as at the Wanted or Would-like-to levels. For raising a list of successful and not-so-successful managers, judgment by peers and superiors was used.

Analyses of Data

After a descriptive analysis, the data were subjected to univariate, bivariate and multivariate statistical analyses to extract associative inferences (Klecka, 1975). The ANOVA or Analysis of Variance, the Student-t (both for independent groups and for paired variables), Pearson's Correlational Analysis and Multiple Discriminant Analysis (MDA) were the statistical techniques used.

Major Findings

The interpersonal behavior of the Indian cooperative dairy managers was found to be characterized most by Inclusion, followed by Control and least by Openness. The managers' desire to engage in these three dimensions of interpersonal behavior also showed the same order of preference, indicating that the interpersonal profile of these managers is akin to what McClelland (1976) calls the "affiliative" manager.

Significant differences were observed in the managers of different departments. While managers across the four departments in the study wanted a fairly high degree of Inclusion (WEI and WRI), actual socializing (PEI and PRI) seems to have been engaged in more by managers of the Marketing and Procurement & Inputs (P&I) departments than by managers of the Production and Quality Control departments. The production and quality control managers also came off as less open in their interpersonal interactions than the other managers. The production and the marketing managers showed a dislike for received Control, while the P&I managers wanted more of it.

Successful managers scored significantly higher on their control scores (PEC and WEC) than did unsuccessful managers. The control scores of the former were significantly higher than their inclusion (PEI and WEI) scores, whereas the inclusion (PEI) score of the unsuccessful managers was significantly higher than the latter's control (PEC) score. These results mean that the successful managers in the sample do and want to exert more control than the unsuccessful managers do or want to. Additionally, Control turned out to be higher than Inclusion among the successful managers, while the reverse was the case among the unsuccessful managers. This finding corroborates McClelland's (1976) finding that successful managers score higher than unsuccessful ones on their need for Power and that successful managers' need for power is higher than their need for Affiliation.

In addition to corroborating McClelland's findings, the present study identified a set of six interpersonal variables which discriminated the successful managers from the unsuccessful ones. They are: PEI, PEC, PRC, WEC, WEO and WRO. Over and above their differences on PEI, PEC and WEC, already discussed in the preceding paragraph, the successful managers seem to accept moderate control from others (PRC), as against greater submission of unsuccessful managers to others' control. They are also ready to disclose (WEO) more and want to receive more disclosures (WRO) from others than unsuccessful managers want to. The openness or disclosures that the successful managers in the sample seem to have received from others (PRO) is also more (p<.05) than what the unsuccessful managers seem to have done -- although it didn't find a place in the discriminant function.

Older management students were found to be more willing to take directions from others than were younger students, as indicated by their age-related WRC scores. One's academic subject background showed no association with one's interpersonal orientations, either among the managers or among the students.

Gender differences were noted in some aspects: While the male and the female students did not differ in their expressed behavior of Inclusion and Openness (PEI and PEO), the males had a significantly greater desire to be more outgoing (WEI) than the females. Although both desired a high level of openness from others (WRO), the females wanted significantly more of it than the males; the females also seemed to receive more openness from others (PRO) than the males seemed to do. As for received control (WRC), the female students showed a distinct dislike for it more than the male students.

The students' interpersonal orientations showed no association with their performance or regional affiliation. Such associations were found among the managers.

Overall-FIRO compatibility within groups was found to be associated with satisfaction of members working in the group, but not with the performance of the group. Specific compatibility on the Openness dimension, however, seemed to influence group performance: groups which had higher compatibility on Openness performed significantly better than those which had lower compatibility on that particular FIRO dimension.

Some Implications

While several wide-ranging implications could be derived from the present study, we shall confine ourselves here to a few that may be taken as indicative.

The managers in the study were found to be more Inclusion oriented or affiliative in their interpersonal dealings than were concerned about Control or Openness. High Inclusion, without commensurate Control, can engender an atmosphere of what Blake & Mouton (1980) call a "country club management", whose associated costs for the organisation may not be affordable by the farmer-owned sector ever -- or by any business organisation for that matter, in the competitive market that characterizes today's business world. Training and development programs for the managers, therefore, must focus on reorienting the managers so as to align their interpersonal concerns in favor of a Control orientation.

Control orientation has been found to differentiate successful managers from unsuccessful ones in this study, corroborating McClelland's (1976) findings. While the actual interpersonal orientations of the managers in the study are dominated by Inclusion, their desire to control (WEC) is desirably very high. There are research reports to suggest that task-related competence has a direct effect on the development of interpersonal influence or control (Bachman, 1968; Wall & Adams, 1974; Gabarro, 1978). Custom-designed management development programs to upgrade the relevant professional competence of these managers can, therefore, be of help in converting the current WEC to an effective PEC orientation.

The present study has pointed to the possible criticality of the Openness dimension in managerial effectiveness; it has also revealed that the current level of Openness is low. Low Openness would adversely affect the performance of teams as well as of individuals to the extent task-related information is withheld from one another. Low Openness may signify a low level of trust. Lack of trust may lead to frittering away of organisational resources in endless policing and punitive measures, which will ironically further reduce trust and openness, setting off a vicious circle. Extreme distrust may sire active sabotage, too. It is, therefore, important to create and sustain an atmosphere of trust in the organisation, by appropriate structural and control mechanisms.

The high and positive correlation between perceived-received control (PRC) and wanted-received control (WRC) suggests that increased subjugation to external control mechanisms may in due course lead people to adaptation, inclining them to want more and more of it! More and more of external control will, as seen earlier, erode trust and openness, depriving organisations of people's commitment, initiative and creativity -- attributes which no organisation can afford to sacrifice today.

The study found the management students to be quite low on WRC, indicating their dislike for external influence, which would be necessary in the initial phase of their socialisation and learning on the job. The study also found that, while academic performance is independent of one's FIRO needs, managerial performance is significantly related to one's FIRO. These findings can inform the curricula and pedagogy followed in institutes of management education in the country.

Organisation of the Thesis

The presentation of the study is organised in five chapters. Chapter-I introduces the topic and depicts an overview of the study. Chapter-II presents a review of literature, related to interpersonal behavior. Chapter-III deals with the methodology adopted in pursuit of the objectives set forth at the end of the first chapter. Chapter-IV contains the results and discussion. And finally, a "Summary and Conclusion" is presented in Chapter-V, which also discusses some implications of the findings, specifies the limitations of the study and indicates avenues for future research.

A copy of the instrument is displayed in Appendix:1. The three cardinal terms (Inclusion, Control and Openness) are defined in Appendix:2. A section on Bibliography and References is given at the end of the thesis.

* In the later versions of the theory and literature on FIRO, the term "need" was replaced by want, desire or preference.

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