Human Relations Vs Classical Approach To Management

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This essay will explore the main features in both the “Human Relation Approach” & “Classical Approach” to the management of organisations. The essay will compare both approaches and explain why? In my view, the human relation approach is superior to the classical approach in the management of organisations.

Before we can declare that the human relation approach is superior to the classic approach in the management of organisations, we must first explore the main features of the two approaches.

The Classical Approach

The classical approach to management began to come to the fore of management in the first half of the 20th century as organisations looked for more ways in which to improve the number of issues that were surrounding industrial management from that time.

Management were striving to find new ways in which to increase productivity, lower costs, increase quality of their products, improve employee/manager relationships and increase efficiency at their factories. The main concern for management using the classical management approach was to find the “Best Possible Way” in which employees were to perform and manage their daily tasks.

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What were to come from this were 3 separate branches of the classical approach to management. The 3 branches were as follows, Bureaucratic Management, Classical Scientific Management and Classical Administrative Management. Each of these branches had the one goal of finding the “Best Possible Way”.

Bureaucratic Management

The example I will use to explain Bureaucratic Management is Max Webber’s theory on bureaucracy. In the late 1800’s Max Webber criticised organisations because of the way they ran their companies, in some cases like a huge extended family.

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An example of a company running the business like this would be for a manager to promote a family member for a job position over another employee simply because he is a relation. The other employee may even be better skilled to carryout the job on offer but this won’t make a difference when the decision is being made. Another scenario would be for management to pick an employee for promotion simply because he gets along with this employee better than he does with the other employees. Webber believes this informal organisation of supervisors and employees inhibited the potential success of a company because power was misplaced. Webber believed in a formal rigid structure of organisation called bureaucracy.

This non-personal view of an organisation follows a certain structure of rules, authority and competence. Webber believed that a supervisor’s power within an organisation should only be based on the individual’s position within the organisation, the level of professional competence and the supervisor’s adherence to the organisations rules and regulations. In other words if a company was to make you a supervisor it would be on merit alone or to reverse an old saying “it’s not who you know it’s what you know”. Following the organisations rules and regulations will ensure that an organisation follows the correct procedures that facilitate consistency in management practices.

An example of these rules and regulations would be when an employee calls in sick, the employee must follow the correct procedure i.e. call supervisor before 10am, all employees are expected to follow this procedure and the supervisor is expected to enforce it. The division of labour and work specification was another one of Webbers theories. If an organisation has a workforce of 50 people and management had 4 specific jobs to carry out, the organisation would distribute the jobs to the employees who had the most experience in the specific field in which the job required. Impersonal management was also an important part of Webber’s theory. He believed that while management should be friendly and active with employees they should maintain an impersonal relationship as to promote fair and equal treatment of employees so that unbiased decisions can be made.

Classical Scientific Management

This branch of classical management focused on the methods and theories in the creation of specialized work processes and workforce skills to complete a number of the organisations production tasks efficiently. Frederick Taylor, Henry Grant and Frank & Lillian Gilbreth are some of the people who pioneered the classical scientific management theory. They spent their time researching how specific jobs in their companies were being carried out, what steps were taken by an employee to complete the work and the amount of time it took for the worker to complete a task using different methods. These steps were used to determine which way was the most effective. This research led to the 4 principles of scientific management.

Number 1, management provide employees with a precise, scientific approach for how a worker completes individual tasks.

Number 2, management should choose and train each employee on one specific task.

Number 3, management must communicate with staff and ensure the method used to complete the task is in fact the most efficient way to do a task.

Number 4, management should create the appropriate division of labour.

Following these 4 principles ensured that any organisation that used classical scientific management was left with “Best Possible Way” of doing things The division of labour allowed management to break down complex and difficult tasks into much smaller and manageable jobs and tasks that single employees could complete. Each employee is given precise instructions and training, specifically in how to best perform their jobs and tasks, each tasks is then watched closely by management who will ensure that the method used is the most efficient method for completing the task. When management is happy with all the methods being used they will watch as the product is passed on from employee to employee. If you think of an assembly line in a factory were each worker has one single job to do over and over in the production of a product on an assembly line, the product is finally ready for sale after each worker completes their specific tasks along the assembly line.

Henry Ford’s mass production of the Model T car is a great example of how the assembly line really worked within an organisation. Ford used the classical scientific management theory along with his own engineering background to determine the “Best Possible Way” in which he could mass produce the Model T car using the assembly line. First he rationalized the most effective way to build the car based on the size of parts. He then determined the best order to assemble similar sized parts. Workers were trained in assembling these parts on an assembly line. Once the process was defined in only took 93 minutes to produce a Model T car using the assembly line. This allowed Ford to mass produce the car.

Classical Administrative Management

When systematic management grew in popularity, the number of people who where interested in defining and improving the practice, the likes of Max Weber & Henry Fayol to name a few were among the theorists who sought an alternative more general approach from the specialized functions of scientific management. Where scientific management focused on the workers productivity, administrative management focused on management processes and principles of the organisation. The goal of management theory shifted from exact work methods to the development of managerial principles, which in turn led to the birth of administrative management.

The administrative theorist tackled the idea of management from many angles with the goal to designating management as a profession the can be taught to companies anywhere in the world. Weber & Fayol researched topics such as organisational principles, philosophy of management & organizational structure to list a few in order to make management a legitimate force within organisations. For Weber & Fayol management was a profession and an important role within an organisation. Scientific management focused on how to best get a job done administrative management focused on the best way to pull all the jobs together to organise a business. Simply put scientific management was concerned on the parts and administrative management was concerned on the sum.

Human Relation Approach

As a result of developing the classical management theory by the likes of Frederick Taylor, Henry Grant and Frank & Lillian Gilbreth was that critics began questioning classical management theory for the potentially harmful effects on employees. It was not so much the way in which management went about finding the most effective way to complete a task that concerned critics, but the assumption of classical management theorist that management and workers would meet half way on their attitudes on standardisation. Many believe that the emphasis on standardisation had in avertedly created an attitude among managers that employees were merely just the clogs in a machine, in this case the organisation. While machines and processes could be standardised, it was unrealistic to expect that standardisation among emotional human beings. Instead the 2 needed to be looked at individually.

While Taylor and other classical management theorist continued to study and rollout the standardisation of jobs and processes, others began to look at a new research and approaches that involved the employee. This led to the creation of the human relation approach. The human relation approach attempted to incorporate the behavioural sciences into management thought in order to solve the problems that were encountered when incorporating the classical approach to management. The theory behind this idea was that the roll of management was to use employees to get the work done in organisations, rather than focus on production, structures or technology the human relation approach was concerned with the workers. Human relation theorists concentrated on questions that concerned how to best way to motivate structure and support employees within the organisations.

A study during this time called the Hawthorn study was originally devised by a company called Western Electronics and was carried out by their own industrial engineers in 1924. The company was the manufacturing division of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company. The Hawthorn Works employed up to 30000 people and at the time was considered a prime example of the techniques and processes that are involved in the mass production of products and the work organisation methods that were advocated by the likes of Fredrick Taylor and Henry Ford. However, there was a difference mainly being the company’s personal and welfare policies that included pensions, medical care, disability benefits and recreational facilities.

The first phase of the study aimed at examining the effects of various lighting levels in the workplace and how these lighting levels could affect workers productivity. They divided workers into 2 groups, one that would have the light varied in the room and one that would have a constant illumination level in the room. Engineers expected to see various results in the group with changing light levels in order to determine the correct level of light, however the opposite happened. The group with the changing light levels in their room surprised engineers by actually increasing their output. The only time their work actually decreased was when the light in the room was actually so dim that the work could not continue. Even more startling was that the group with the same constant light levels also increased their work output.

The second phase of the study wanted to establish the effects on productivity with increased rest periods, for example shorter working days, reduced working week, refreshments and better friendly communication between workers and supervisors. They tested a group of 6 women in an assembly test room and gave them the new privileges. The initial results were noted by Gillespie (1991:59) [Their] privileged status and a modicum of control over work days brought about a strong identification with the test room among the workers . . . With the introduction of refreshments during the morning rest period, the women’s status soared higher still.

Within 2 years of phase 2 starting productivity in the group of 6 had increased up to 30%. This led to the commissions of even more tests being carried out on various groups of people using the new techniques of reducing working hours and providing better care for their employees. The great results in output and employee job satisfaction undermined the assumptions regarding human behaviour that had been previously perceived by other classical management theorists.

The study concluded that it was not the changes in the environment such as lighting and refreshments that had improved the production output in the group, but it was in fact the personal and special attention that the workers were receiving that made them perform better. It was in fact that they were being studied that made them improve performance. This later became known as the “Hawthorn Effect”. This was the reason why the group had that had same consistent lighting in there room also showed increased performance levels. They also felt special because they were being studied which led to them wanting to impress the people who were studying them.

Two major propositions came from the core of the Human Relations approach. The first proposition related to the importance of informal groups within organisations. The Hawthorn Study had proved that employees performed better when they worked as a collective force that cooperated throughout the organisation with no barriers between higher management and the employees. The second proposition was that humans are emotional beings who have a deep need for recognition and the feeling of belonging to something or someone. The Hawthorn Study found that employee’s performance and attitude can change dramatically once these needs are met. This also did not go un noticed by the organisations who also needed to gain the collaboration of these new working groups if they were to get the best performance from their employees.


For me the Human Relation Approach to management is by far the most rewarding and fair approach between the two. Using this approach to management is both rewarding to the employee and the organisations for which they are working for. The employees get the job satisfaction, acknowledgment and felling of belonging to an organisation through this type of management. The employees will feel proud and honoured by the work that they carryout for the company and will feel secure and happy by the rewards offered. For the organisations, they get a work force that is happy to work for an organisation that treats its employees so well and fair. The production levels increase as a result of this. We as human beings need to be acknowledged in the work place and made to feel we belong to something, in turn we will continue o perform to the best of our abilities.


Bernard Burns (2009). Managing Change a Strategic Approach to Organisational Dynamics. 5th ed. Harlow England: Pearson Education Limited. P9-90.

Bureaucracy: Max Weber’s Theory of Impersonal Management, Education Portal, YouTube 9th October 2014, Viewed 11th November 2014

Classical Management Theory, Education Portal, YouTube 31st December 2013, Viewed 02 November 2014,

Classical Management Theory, Education Portal, YouTube 9th October 2013, Viewed 04 November 2014,

Classical Administrative School of Management, Education Portal, YouTube 14th October 2014, Viewed 10 November 2014

Classical Administrative School of Management, Education Portal, YouTube 14th October 2014, Viewed 15th November

Neoclassical Theory of Management: The Human Relations Approach, Education Portal, YouTube 14th October 2014, Viewed 16th November 2014

Cite this page

Human Relations Vs Classical Approach To Management. (2016, Sep 15). Retrieved from

Human Relations Vs Classical Approach To Management

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