Saturday, June 22, 2013

Human Relations School

The emphasis on "physiological and mechanical" aspects given by the classical thinkers though increased the efficiency and productivity of organizations but it did not bring about a positive response in the work behavior. It was in this respect that human behavior at work was studied and the human relations school found out that the factors which affected the human behavior at work were other than mere physiological and mechanical aspects. Human beings were the subjects of study of these researchers and this gave rise to human relations approach to administrative theory.

Human Relations School


The Human Relations Movement

In 1930s as a response to the scientific management movement, human relations movement was born. Psychologists, sociologists and anthropologists were critical of the narrow and limited view of organization held by the classical thinkers. According to them, in view of the classical thinkers, people were treated as mere cogs in machine. During the 1920s, Elton Mayo and others conducted the Hawthorne experiments and came out with some new paradigms in organization theory. Some of the new ideas their findings brought were:

  • Physical or engineering approach to motivation was challenged.

  • Structural and hierarchical approach to organization was opposed strongly.


Must Read --> Elton Mayo and His Experiments

Must Read --> Hawthorne Experiment

Premises of Human Relations School

Based on the above conclusions drawn from the Hawthorne studies, the human relations school of management was build which was laid on the following premises:

  • Organizational effectiveness depends on the social norms not much on the factors such as division of work or capability of workers.

  • Workers do not act as individuals but as members of the group. Group behavior influences the attitude of the worker e. g. group sets its own norms of productivity which may be different from the organizational norms.

  • Non-economic incentives such social rewards and group sanctions are strong motivators for guiding the behavior of the workers. Economic incentives do not matter much.

  • The style of supervision in which management consults the workers from time to time and communicates with them properly is the most effective style.

  • The management should have a willingness to allow workers to participate in the decision making process of the organization.

  • Human Relations School believes in "democratic administration" i. e. the workers should be allowed to have a control over their conditions and should take initiatives to improve them. This also eliminates bossism from the organizations.

Human Relations School vis-a-vis Classical School of Management

  1. Both the human relations school and the classical school of management accept the role of "management" in production but the two approaches differ in viewing the organization. The former school sees the organization as a social system comprising of individuals, informal groups, inter-personal and inter-group relationship and the formal organizational structure.

  2. Both the schools of thought accept efficiency and productivity as the virtues to be achieved by the organization. But there is difference in approach between the two on how to achieve these objectives. Hence both the schools accept the same end but differ in means employed to achieve the ends.

  3. The human relation approach seeks to eliminate the dehumanization approach of the classical school of management.

  4. The classical school focuses on structure, order, economic incentives, formal organization and rationality etc. while the human relations school sees the informal organizations as the main determinant of the human behavior.

  5. Classical theory believes in formal structuring of jobs along with job descriptions and presented in the form of manuals etc. The job classification represents rigid lines in this approach while in human relations approach social relationships of individual workers within the organization are given importance.

  6. Classical theory treats men as mere "cogs in machine". This is called "atomistic" view of man. In human relations school men are treated as social being who are part of a group and react in group to the management, organization and the work itself.

  7. Classical theorists regard economic incentives and physical conditions of work as the most important motivators to work while the scholars of human relations school give importance to the socio-psychological factors such as social rewards and group sanctions.

  8. Democratic and participative styles of supervision and leadership are emphasized by the human relations school of management while classical school emphasizes on authoritarian style.

  9. Classical School emphasized on building the formal structure of organization while the human relations school emphasized on integrating the informal channels of  authority with the formal structure of organizations.

  10. The classical school favoured up gradation of techniques and technology to improve the efficiency of the organisation while the human relations school advocates exploiting the "will" of the employees i. e. motivating the employees through social motivators.

The above points makes it amply clear that the classical and human relations schools of thought view the organizations in two different ways. Each of the approaches is only partially right not fully right. In reality an organisation comprises of both the formal structure as well as the informal relationships among the people. These two things are not mutually contradictory to each other but are complementary to each other. It is now a widely accepted view that informal organisations exist in all formal organisations and that the informal organisations may facilitate the overall functioning of the organisation instead of hindering it. They may also build a team spirit. The human relations school theorists believe that if the group behavior & aims of these informal organizations are in consonance with that of the formal one then there are better chances of harmony and high productivity. Therefore it is the duty of management to recognize the goals of both type organisations and to synchronize them to achieve overall harmony and effectiveness.


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