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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.