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Human Relations Movement Essay

In the first twenty-five years of 20th century owners and managers assumed that people came to work primarily because of economic needs which led to the development of classical management supported by Taylor and then to the scientific management of Fayol. However, by the 1930s, it has become a certainty, on the basis of research, that people have other needs primarily related not to financial fulfillment but to personal involvement. Since then, there were a lot of theorists that tried to explain what was that triggered and sustained human behaviour. As a result, the research of these “behavioural scientists” (kreitner 1999) became to what today is called the human relations movement. This study will be demonstrating the need for human relations movement and also if it has completely replaced classical and scientific management. (131) Before the human relations movement, companies were looking for a way to grow their profit by increasing the productivity and efficiency of the workers.

The first and most important model user of the scientific method was F.W.Taylor. As an experienced worker, Taylor focused on the design of the manual tasks (David Buchanan, 1997) by rationalizing and standardizing production techniques. Taylor, in the words of Aitken, ‘was the first to synthesize and systemize the best that was known about the management of men’. (80) This researcher’s primary interest was the individual worker that was motivated by financial incentives. Although the planning, organizing and leading the worker’s tasks increased productivity and profit, when it came to methodology of people Taylor showed no concern. It is true that financial incentives kept workers motivated for a while but the closely controlled conditions of work which promoted a militaristic and mechanistic organization (Buchanan) led to a low employee morale. (70) Apart from Taylor, H. Fayol also analyzed the complexity of organizations .

This theorist viewed organizations as akin to living organisms, possessing a life of their own and requiring the maintenance of harmony in order to function satisfactorily. As a result, he developed 14 principles designed to facilitate discipline and high productivity in a company. One of Fayol ’s principles was ‘Division of work’ which directed workers in completing certain tasks; other one was ‘Unity of direction’ which meant that all people in the organization had common goals such as making profit. Indeed, this code of principles is indispensable in organizations and seem to be of the utmost importance in the achievement of an effective organization. (113) However, the major disadvantage of both Fayol and Taylor’s ideas was the lack of concern with the interaction between people. Both theorists aimed to analyze and control the activities of people but did not include the employee in the decision-making processes of the organization.

Also, these methods neglected the importance of other rewards apart from financial incentives such as job satisfaction, recognition between team-workers and personal achievement. As a result, the human relations movement needed to appear. (77) The notions of human relations movement and the social person, which gathered momentum through the 1950s, took shape in relation to the work of Elton Mayo. The theorist conducted the Hawthorne experiments which concerned the effects of scientific management on the worker in terms of absenteeism and fatigue (Cole). Therefore, Mayo did not exclude scientific management but wanted to help in improving the method. The experiment involved observing a group of six women in their workplace.

Although there was some obvious criticism about the outcome of the research carried in five stages, the Hawthorne studies provided some important conclusions that contributed to a better understanding of human behaviour in organizations. (108) Probably the most important conclusion of the Hawthorne studies was that social relationships are at least as important as financial incentives and working conditions. Moreover, Mayo came to the conclusion that the person’s individual needs, supportive supervisors and team work had a powerful impact on job performance. Therefore, scientific management was not denied as an efficient method for the company but was questioned when it came to the social effects. (70) The Hawthorne studies were not considered important only for the conclusions provided but also for opening a path for other theorists who also focused on this approach.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, McGregor’s theory X and Y and Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory brought to managers’ attention the important roles played by individuals in determining the success or failure of an organization. Moreover, Mary Parker Follett who was not only a woman management consultant (kreitner) but also a writer saw employees as complex combinations of attitudes, beliefs and needs. (85) The human relations movement began to expand in time and organizations started to understand the vital importance of groups and social relationships at work and managers began to attend to employees emotional needs.

Therefore, the working conditions were improved and workers received recognition as a distinct human being. Social researchers and managers also created new techniques intended to improve employees motivation: job enrichment, employee of the month awards, self-managing teams, incentives and corporate entertainment programmes. (73) In the new millennium, scientific management is still alive and plays an important role by offering companies a way of meeting their technical, economic and social objectives.(Buchanan) Assembly line si today examples


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