Employment Relationship

Employment relationships according to Budd and Zagelmeyer can be explained using four models. They show the employee and employer relationships, and they include; the model of the unitarist employment relationship, the model of the pluralist employment relationship, critical employment relationship and the egoist employment relationship. The unitarist employment relationship is a model that dismisses the idea that labor should be treated as a commodity. Instead, it advocates for an employee and employer relationship whereby the psychological factors of those offering the labor is put into consideration. As such, it advocates for employees to be allowed to take part in decision making and be given fair and equal treatment.

Pluralist employment relationship, on the other hand, goes beyond mare recognition of the psychological aspects of employees and calls for employers to let them participate in the full decision making processes and putting for them standards such as better wage. Similarly, the critical employment relationship is a model that perceives the employee and employer relationship as a form of conflict since the fundamental issue should be to allow employees to participate in decision making and be treated equally and fairly at work. On the contrary, employers intend to maximize profit. The two, therefore, presents a form of conflicting interests. The egoist employment relationship either portrays efficiency as the most important aspect of employment (Royle, 2011). Employees, therefore, are oriented to offering their best as labor is treated as a commodity. This model ignores the psychological aspects of human beings in the employment contract.

Adam Smith can be categorized as an egoist theorist judging from his theory of the Wealth of the Nations. In this theory, Smith advocates for the idea of division of labor. This would automatically lead to specialization by the employees in offering their labor. This means that employees will only focus on being efficient in offering labor which is treated as a commodity. All these features are in agreement with the egoist model of employment relationship which places efficiency in the first position while ignoring the idea of employees’ participation in decision making and equity.

Frederick Taylor, just like Adam Smith is an egoist theorist. This is because he also emphasizes on efficiency as the basic element in employment which treats labor as a commodity and as such, employees have to increase their effectiveness in offering the labor. He emphasizes this in his theory of scientific management and does not pay attention to the idea of equity and participation of employees in the process of decision making. However, Taylor is slightly different from Smith because he believes in employees’ motivation when they perform well.

Karl Marx, on the other hand, can be categorized as both a unitarist and a pluralist theorist. The reason behind this is that Karl Marx does not merely advocate for efficiency in labor alone. He goes a notch higher and challenges thinkers in his capitalist theory that employees are alienated in their labor which they offer. By so saying, Marx insinuates that the employees, who offer labor, should not allow themselves to be subjects and should seek for fairness, equity and be allowed for full participation in decision making. All these features show that Marx put into consideration the psychological aspects of humans in the employee and employer relationship.

The Orthodox economists, similar to Karl Marx can fit in both the category of pluralists and unitarist theorists. This group of economists presented one of the problems facing labor as the idea of self-interest in offering labor by employees (Kaufman, 2005). This means that they dismissed the notion of egoist theorists who prioritize efficiency alone. This group, however, presents that as a problem facing labor and which should be solved. They advocate for a relationship where employees are given fair and equal treatment as well as an opportunity to participate in important decision making.

Sidney and Beatrice Webb, on the other hand, can be categorized as critical theorists judging from the fact that they address the issue of the unequal bargain in the employment relationships. Bargaining means that some form of equity is being sorted. This brings in a contradicting situation whereby the employee will be seeking equity while the employer intends to maximize profit. This feature agrees with the assertion by the model of critical employment relationship which addresses the issue of conflict of interest between employees and employers.

The old institutionalists, on the other hand, can be put under the category of pluralists as they are opposed to efficiency alone as the fundamental element in the employment relationship. This group identifies long working hours to be among the problems facing labor in employment contracts. This means that they do not perceive labor as a commodity but an element that goes beyond offering a commodity. In this sense, it advocates for considerations of psychological features of humans by allowing them to air their thoughts and giving them better conditions such as standardizing their working hours.

In conclusion, Budd and Zagelmeyer suggest that in any employment relationship, there will always be different ways of relations between employees and employers. The models of unitarism, egoism, pluralism and the critical model can best explain these relations. There are those who are efficiency oriented while others go beyond the mere rhetoric of efficiency and cater to human nature separate from labor. Such models do not perceive labor as a commodity, but they put into consideration the person offering the labor. They advocate for fairness and equity in the employment relationship as well as allowing employees to take part in decision making.





Royle, T. (2011). Book review: A Wilkinson, P Gollan, M Marchington and D Lewin, The Oxford Handbook of Participation in Organizations. Work, Employment And Society, 25(4), 826-827. doi: 10.1177/0950017011419712

Kaufman, B. (2005). Historical insights: The early institutionalists on trade unionism and labor policy. Journal Of Labor Research, 26(1), 1-32. doi: 10.1007/bf02812222