human relations

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human relations

a concept of the MANAGEMENT of human resources based on the belief that the character of social relationships at work has a profound effect on employee performance. The task of management is to understand and influence these so as to gain employee commitment to organizational goals and to improve individual and collective performance. The main way of doing this, according to human relations theory, is for management to be seen to be taking an active interest in employee aspirations and welfare, which in turn will stimulate the development of work GROUPS which cohere well and are committed to the formal objectives of the organization.

The main architect of human relations was Professor Elton Mayo (1880-1949) of Harvard University. He based his work on the investigations known as the HAWTHORNE STUDIES, though it is debatable how far Mayo was actually involved in these. The key findings of these studies were that informal work groups which operate against the organization's objectives could emerge and that friendly supervision was correlated with steady improvements in employee performance. Mayo placed these findings in a broader philosophy of modern industrial society. He claimed that people had a fundamental ‘need to belong’ (more powerful than economic needs) which had not been actualized in industrial society (see ANOMIE), and they therefore suffered a sense of loss which could be overcome by the creation of a community at work. The Hawthorne studies, according to Mayo, showed how managerial action could achieve this: the friendly supervisor had helped workers to cohere in an effective social group.

The upshot of this is that MANAGEMENT STYLE is a key consideration in the management of people. Managers should display concern for people as well as simply getting the job done. It can be argued that human relations put a welcome emphasis on the human dimension at work. However, the concept can be criticized for its manipulative character in that it advocates that managers should mould social relationships in a way that is conducive to organizational goals. It also requires that managers stifle the expression of interests which are contrary to those of the organization. Hence human relations practice can be hostile to trade unions. Human relations has also been criticized on the grounds that it understates the influence of other factors, such as financial incentives and job design (see JOB DESIGN AND REDESIGN), on worker behaviour and JOB SATISFACTION. Despite these criticisms human relations was an important stage in the development of the SOCIOLOGY OF WORK, in that it focused attention on the role of work groups and social factors in influencing individual attitudes and behaviour. Human relations was fashionable amongst managers in the UK in the 1940s and 1950s but lost favour subsequently. It has had something of a revival recently in the guise of such management methods as TEAM BRIEFING. See SOCIOLOGY OF WORK.

References in periodicals archive ?
Throughout, Harwell cites the prophetic call to heal the world as a basis for Northern Jewish women's leadership in this human relations movement in the Deep South.
In general, the management theories can be classified into three different groups: the classical theories, the human relations movement, and contemporary management.
The Human Relations Movement came as a reaction to the classical theories which neglected the behavioral aspects associated with the human element.
In short, Taylorism ignored the topic; the human relations movement was naive about it; and Weber-Marx theorists correctly, according to the authors, placed it in terms of resistance and class struggle.
The human relations movement of the 1940s and 1950s accepted scientific management's goal of efficiency, but, focused on individual and small group processes rather than on large organizations, stressing communication, particularly, between employees and their bosses.
The principles developed by the deductive reasoning of these scientific management thinkers and exponents of human relations movement, underwent a "revision" during the period from the mid 50s when researchers like Simon, March, Likert, and others perceived that the management was at the threshold of new and exciting discoveries in the field of organization and administration.
Mayo's contribution marked a shift in organization theory and began the human relations movement.
All told, these efforts established Sears as the corporate center of the human relations movement during the 1940s and early 1950s, a position formerly held by Western Electric.
At Sears and elsewhere in the human relations movement during the 1940s, this view led to an extreme and almost dogmatic belief in the secondary status of pay and other economic rewards.
In the first of the conceptual pieces, "Diversity, Perceptions of Equity, and Communicative Openness in the Workplace," Doloris McGee Wanguri offers a framework for thinking about communication and diversity based in the human relations movement.

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