Management styles in the oil and gas industry
An OPITO case study

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Page 4: Autocratic and democratic

Autocratic management is where decisions are made at a higher level without consultation or input from below. An autocratic manager decides what is best and instructs others. In the oil and gas industry, an autocratic style of management is often necessary. This occurs especially when matters of safety are concerned, for example, adhering to the Minimum Industry Safety Standard (MIST) which applies across the entire UK offshore oil and gas sector. The MIST standard deals with assessing risk, manual handling, working safely, working at height or lifting. It also specifies the hazards in the offshore environment. Employers view these basic safety principles as critical to safe working, therefore they are applied to all offshore workers.

A key role in the industry is the Offshore Installations Manager (OIM). This experienced manager has vital responsibilities such as the safety and well-being of everyone on board the installation. Employees must comply with instruction at all times due to the nature of the work. An offshore facility must be fit for its purpose; the working environment on it must be managed; every worker must have completed the correct safety training. In this context the management style must be autocratic. Rules and procedures must be followed to assure safety.


Democratic management on the other hand tries to involve employees to find out their opinions before reaching a decision. Certain matters can be decided through discussion and consultation. As an example, there may be a complex decision to be made about shutting down a piece of equipment and the effect of this on other production systems. Here, a top down approach would be unwise. This is because other members of the team might have ideas - or specific information - that will assist in getting to the right decision. An engineer, for instance, might have knowledge that tells the OIM that shutting down equipment is essential to ensure production in the long term but that it may create a potential risk not yet fully assessed. In this situation information is being passed up through the hierarchy to aid the decision making.

OPITO The Oil & Gas Academy uses an industry-wide, employer-led Skills Forum to get feedback and input from many people in the industry. This ensures its work continues to be aligned to the changing or emerging needs of the workplace. In this, the Academy uses a proactive democratic style by providing current and relevant information about the Academy's work. It then uses a responsive democratic style by evaluating requirements for skills and training that will address the needs of the whole industry.

OPITO | Management styles in the oil and gas industry