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What Is Laissez-Faire Management?

Jim B.
Updated May 17, 2024
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Laissez-faire management is a style of management in which supervisors choose to delegate great responsibility to their employees without providing much in the way of guidance or direction. This style of management is often referred to as a "hands-off" approach, since the manager generally leaves the employees alone to do their work. The chief benefit of laissez-faire management is that it forces employees to be proactive in helping the company, thereby creating a more skilled workforce in the process. Unfortunately, this style can also be construed as lazy management and it can allow less-motivated employees to neglect their work.

One of the key tasks performed by any business manager is the motivation of his or her employees. Having a staff of workers doing their jobs to the best of their capabilities and providing extra benefits to the company through their own initiative is a luxury that all companies would like to have. Managers have different techniques by which they can achieve such positive results. Laissez-faire management is generally thought to be the most passive of all of these possible methods of management.

Those managers adopting a laissez-faire management style are essentially entrusting their employees to do their jobs without much leadership. In this style, managers may simply set out the tasks that need to be done and allow the workers to figure out how to do them. In some cases, managers may not even go that far if they trust that their employees have enough knowledge and experience to figure out what needs to be done on their own.

There are certain occasions when a laissez-faire management approach might be for the best. If a company has developed a group of employees that has proven itself over time to be capable of performing any tasks thrown at it, management may be able to take a more relaxed approach to their guidance. This frees up managers to use their time in other ways to benefit the company.

Of course, there are some disadvantages to laissez-faire management if it is used in the wrong situations. Some managers may use this technique as a way of avoiding responsibilities that they should accept, leaving employees without necessary guidance or leadership. In addition, some employees may not be motivated by this tactic and could fail to be productive. If this happens on a widespread basis, the company's overall production might suffer as a result. Managers need to understand their workers and devise a style of motivation that best suits them, even if it has to be done on a worker-by-worker basis.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jim B.
By Jim B.
Freelance writer - Jim Beviglia has made a name for himself by writing for national publications and creating his own successful blog. His passion led to a popular book series, which has gained the attention of fans worldwide. With a background in journalism, Beviglia brings his love for storytelling to his writing career where he engages readers with his unique insights.
Discussion Comments
By Logicfest — On Oct 03, 2014

@Markerrag -- That management style can work in some situations. Let's say you've got some professional employees -- journalists, for example. Trained reporters should be able to do their jobs without much management. They are assigned articles to investigate and should know how to do their jobs. If they do not, then they probably need to be trained or shipped off to other publications until they figure out how to do their jobs.

When it comes to highly skilled, professional employees, then that hands-off management can work well. In fact, those employees might do better if they don't have a manager second guessing their every move.

By Markerrag — On Oct 02, 2014

I have never seen this management style work out well and, in fact, it is often unfair to employees. Here's the situation. Let's say you've got one of those hands-off, laissez-faire management types who tells his or her employees to do a job and leaves it at that.

The employees tackle the job without guidance and do it to the best of their ability. The job was not done to the satisfaction of the company, so the employees get fired.

That is unfair to their employees because they had no guidance and did the best they could. The job of a manager is to oversee what employees are doing and correct them if they are heading in the wrong direction. A laissez-faire manager doesn't do that.

Jim B.
Jim B.
Freelance writer - Jim Beviglia has made a name for himself by writing for national publications and creating his own...
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