Human Relations Management Theory: Summary, Examples | NanoGlobals (2022)

Definition of Human Relations Management Theory

Human Relations management theory is a premise of organizational psychology from the early twentieth century, which suggests that employee productivity and motivation can be increased through positive social bonds in the workplace and acknowledgement of the worker as a unique individual. It holds that improved working conditions (empowerment, participation, positive treatment) lead to increased productivity.

If you’re getting educated on management and leadership theory, you can’t go long without hearing the term Human Relations Theory.

While some aspects of Human Relations Theory show their age since the 1920s, the overall impact of the school of thought is still cited as a source for the popularity of “startup” perks like on-site daycare and employee wellness programs.

In this post, we’re going to cover:

  1. What “Human Relations Theory” is
  2. The history of Human Relations Theory
  3. The key principles of Human Relations
  4. Which other schools of thought have a relationship with Human Relations Theory
  5. The ongoing relevance of Human Relations for startups and tech companies today

A Brief History of Human Relations Theory

Human Relations management theory originated between 1924 and 1932 during experiments conducted at the Hawthorne plant of the Western Electric Company in Cicero, Illinois.1

These studies were started by scholars from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), but Elton Mayo and Fritz J. Roethlisberger of the Harvard Business School became involved in 1927 and eventually popularized the subject.

Human Relations Management Theory: Summary, Examples | NanoGlobals (1)

Around that time, Western Electric had begun to look for ways to “inspire company loyalty, discourage high employee turnover and unionization, and present a good face to the public.”2

They attempted to accomplish these goals by increasing total compensation and improving employee well-being in the workplace. The latter of the two methods, increasing employee well-being in the workplace, is what prompted the Hawthorne Experiments and marked a shift in management theory from strictly scientific to multidisciplinary.

Human Relations Management Theory: Summary, Examples | NanoGlobals (2)

In fact, the Hawthorne studies were the first to focus on the work life of employees. From then on, companies would have an interest in the applications of behavioral, social, and medical sciences to management and productivity, and scholars (like George Lombard, Paul Lawrence, and others) began to develop the field of Organizational Behavior.

(Video) The Human Relations Movement: Definition and Significance to Organizational Behavior

What Are the Key Principles of Human Relations?

During the Hawthorne Experiments, researchers discovered that employee motivation is influenced by many factors.

These factors are categorized in a number of ways, but the simplest for understanding Human Relations is to do it by actor.

Using this method, you can see that four primary categories of actors influence employee motivation:

Four "Actors" in Human Relations theory

  1. The employee
  2. Groups of employees
  3. Supervisors and managers
  4. The organization

By understanding each actor category’s role in the process, an organization can put in place working conditions that optimize employee motivation and, in turn, productivity.

In each of the following sections, I’ll go over what was discovered about the category and the Human Relations principles that came as a result.

1. Treat employees well as individuals

As we all know intuitively, a large portion of employee motivation comes from each person as an individual. Each individual’s motivation is influenced by their unique personality, experiences, capabilities, circumstance, thoughts, behaviors, and other factors.

As such, a key principle of Human Relations is for organizations to consider individual factors and how they can be influenced to increase motivation. This can include initiatives that look to change/improve an employee’s personal circumstance in and outside the workplace as well as their personal desires, perceptions, and attitudes.

(Video) Elton Mayo Human Relations School of Thought | Theory of Motivation | Hawthorne Experiment |

2. Promote positive group values and relationships

Since individuals have social needs and interact together in the workplace, group factors must also play a role in employee motivation.

As discovered during the Hawthorne Experiments, cliques form and establish informal rules within the workplace, in turn exercising power and influence on the attitudes and behaviors of all the individuals involved.

Therefore, a key principle of Human Relations is that an organization must promote positive group values and relationships so that social pressure will produce teamwork and positive employee attitudes and behaviors.

If this can be done, results from the study indicate that group productivity will improve as desired.

3. Ensure effective management and supervision

In addition to individual and group influences, managers and supervisors also impact employee motivation.

In fact, the Hawthorne studies showed that “many worker behaviors, attitudes, and emotions have their genesis in their supervisor’s actions” and that “stress and fatigue can be the result of interactions with supervisors and coworkers.”

In particular, it became clear that an authoritarian leadership style was substantially less effective than a more democratic/participative approach.

As a result, another key principle of Human Relations is that an organization must ensure that managers and supervisors:

(Video) Human relations approach & Hawthorne experiments (explained in great detail!)

  1. Understand psychology (including motivation and behavior);
  2. Are sensitive to employees’ individual and group needs;
  3. Communicate effectively;
  4. Are supportive and motivating (including giving positive feedback to employees); and
  5. Empower employees and allow for some degree of autonomy/control.

To the other extreme, if managers disagreed with company policies and/or become too closely allied with workers, they were found to limit production and sabotage performance.

Therefore, an organization must also ensure that managers and supervisors fulfill their roles and responsibilities as leaders and work in the best interests of their company as well.

4. Establish effective organizational conditions

As you may have noticed in the previous three categories, the organization is clearly at the center of Human Relations. This is because the organization houses and controls the underlying conditions for all of the aforementioned parties and interactions.

Thus, a key principle of Human Relations is that the organization must create working conditions that allow for/promote increased individual and group attitudes toward work. This includes the organization ensuring that:

  1. Physical working conditions are safe and conducive to employee performance;
  2. Social and other related working conditions promote employee productivity;
  3. Employee compensation and benefits are appropriate and effective;
  4. Managers and supervisors have and use appropriate leadership skills;
  5. Input from managers, supervisors, and employees is incorporated into the organization’s policies and procedures; and
  6. All parties’ interests are aligned.

As was discovered during the Hawthorne Experiments, if an organization can apply these key principles, then it can achieve the original goals of inspiring company loyalty, discouraging high employee turnover and unionization, and presenting a good face to the public.

The simplest way to determine which schools of thought have a relationship with Human Relations Theory is to examine the theory’s contemporaries.

In the next few sections, we’ll dig deep on the historical context of management theories that took root around Human Relations Theory:

Management Theory Prior to Human Relations

Just prior to Human Relations Theory, in the late 1800s to early 1900s, the management theories of Frederick Winslow Taylor, Max Weber, Henri Fayol, and others were most prominent. They all shared a similarity with Human Relations in that they were a departure from managerial norms in favor of improvement. That said, they did have their differences.

Human Relations Management Theory: Summary, Examples | NanoGlobals (3)

Taylor, who is known as the father of Scientific Management, used science to determine “the most effective and efficient way to accomplish a given task.” Instead of focusing on the performer of the task (i.e. the employee) as in Human Relations, this approach focused primarily on the task itself.

Weber, who is known as the father of Sociology, developed the Principles of the Ideal Bureaucracy, which provide justification of and rules for management decisions. This theory shared a focus on the individual with Human Relations, but approached things from a management and leadership perspective rather than a worker’s perspective.

(Video) Human Relations Management Theory (Evolution of Management Theory - Lesson 5 of 9)

Fayol, who is known for Fayolism or Administrative Theory, developed the 14 Principles of Management, which detail the responsibilities of managers. This theory considered human needs and relationships between parties in the workplace like Human Relations, but it focused primarily on administrative rather than psychological aspects.

Management Theories Developed Alongside Human Relations

As Human Relations Theory was gaining popularity, the management theories of Chester Barnard and Mary Parker Follett were gaining ground as well.

Barnard is best known for his work called “the zone of indifference.” This work examined what could make a worker disobey orders, thus focusing on the individual like Human Relations. Conversely, unlike Human Relations, his theory promoted logical rather than social or emotional influences on behavior.

Follett is best known for her work on conflict resolution. In particular, she showed that social concerns were important to employee relations and that integrative solutions were paramount. While her work differed by having a more Taylor-like foundation, her work also focused on social and emotional influences like Human Relations.

In What Ways Is Human Relations Theory Relevant Today?

Despite originating in the late 1920s, Human Relations principles are still very relevant.

Human Relations Management Theory: Summary, Examples | NanoGlobals (4)

First, since organizations are still made up of people, understanding how individual factors influence motivation is important. In addition to utilizing the psychology of motivation, caring for employees through internal and external benefits — like parental leave, onsite wellness and healthcare services, fitness centers, personal and professional development, and more at Google — is still effective at improving employee productivity (as many studies3 have shown).

Second, while the use of remote technology and groups continues to grow internationally4, producing in groups is still the norm in business. Thus, it is still true that organizations must foster positive group dynamics in order to produce teamwork and positive employee attitudes and behaviors.

Third, over time, it has become more and more apparent5 that effective leadership is critical to an organization’s success. This must be true given that managers across industries spend about 75% of their time in verbal interaction, most often with subordinates. Therefore, it is still important that an organization ensures managers and supervisors are equipped to support and motivate employees.

Finally, it is clear that organizations still must create working conditions that allow for/promote increased individual and group attitudes toward work. A great example of establishing positive individual and group working conditions is the work flexibility offered by Cisco. There, you can time swap 20% or 100% of your job on a temporary or permanent basis and work across various business groups within the company.

Through these and other types of initiatives, businesses are certain to have a more fulfilled workforce who will perform better and remain loyal to their company.

Future developments based in Human Relations Theory

While there have been many developments in management theory since, Human Relations Theory is certainly still relevant today.

If you incorporate its principles into your organization and work as a leader, you’ll surely be rewarded with better workplace relationships and employee performance.

(Video) The Hawthorne Effect (Definition + Examples)

Further Reading

FAQs

What is the human relations management theory? ›

Human Relations management theory is a premise of organizational psychology from the early twentieth century, which suggests that employee productivity and motivation can be increased through positive social bonds in the workplace and acknowledgement of the worker as a unique individual.

What will best describe the main contribution of human relations theory? ›

Human Relations Theory focuses specifically on the individuals needs and resultant behaviors of individuals and groups. It takes an interpersonal approach to managing human beings. It presents the organization is made up of formal and informal elements.

What is the main theme of human relation theory? ›

Human relations theory: a school of organizational thought which focuses on worker satisfaction, informal workplace organizations, and a means of influencing employee productivity. Unlike scientism, human relations theory does not view workers as essentially interchangeable parts.

What is human relations example? ›

Human relations skills such as communication and handling conflict can help us create better relationships. For example, assume Julie talks behind people's backs and doesn't follow through on her promises. She exhibits body language that says “get away from me” and rarely smiles or asks people about themselves.

What is the purpose of human relations? ›

The goal of human relations is to ensure that your employees are as happy and productive – not the latter at the expense of the former – as possible. Human resources somewhat disregards interpersonal interactions and treats your employees primarily as, well, resources.

What is human resources and why is it relevant to human relations? ›

A Human Relations manager strives to make employees happier in order to receive a higher productivity from them; while a Human Resources' manager would see employees as resources that contribute to the functioning of an organization and needs of an individual.

What are the factors influencing human relations in an organization? ›

Four Factors Influencing Human Relations in an Organisations are: (I) work environment (II) work-group (III) individual (Iv) leader. Organisation should be viewed as a social system.

How can we improve our human relations? ›

So here are a few tips to help you to develop more positive and healthy relationships in all areas of your life:
  1. Accept and celebrate differences. ...
  2. Listen effectively. ...
  3. Give people your time. ...
  4. Develop your communication skills. ...
  5. Manage mobile technology. ...
  6. Learn to give and take feedback. ...
  7. Learn to trust more. ...
  8. Develop empathy.
21 Mar 2013

How good human relations in an organization creates a positive impact? ›

Good human relation practices such as understanding needs and expectations of employees, providing comfortable work conditions, resolving conflicts between management as well as co-workers creates satisfied and motivated employees. It results in improvement in their overall productivity & performance.

What are the key concepts in human relations? ›

Seven major themes emerge from a study of human relations: communication, self-awareness, self-acceptance, motivation, trust, self-disclosure, and conflict resolution.

What are the main components of human relations? ›

The following components human relations should be considered when developing a plan.
  • Self-Respect. Self-respect refers to the confidence that someone has in their own abilities. ...
  • Mutual Respect. ...
  • Self-Awareness and Self-Disclosure. ...
  • Communication Skills. ...
  • Group Dynamics. ...
  • Motivation.
20 Jun 2017

Why is relationship theory important? ›

Relationship theory is built around the emotional impact of leadership, the connection between employee and leader. A lot of the time an employee is not buying into the success or efficiency of the organisation, or how it operates, but the charisma and compelling attractiveness of the leader.

What is the importance of human relations in the workplace? ›

Human relations in the workplace play a huge role in employee productivity, job satisfaction, employee retention, culture, customer engagement, and even resource management. Human relations skills improve communication and collaboration amongst employee groups and teams in the workplace.

What are the 5 importance human relation skills? ›

Bottom line: Communication, conflict resolution, multitasking, negotiation and organization are all vital to human relations. Leaders who develop these skills are on their way to successfully implementing human relations management practices.

What are the 4 types of human relations? ›

An interpersonal relationship refers to the association, connection, interaction and bond between two or more people. There are many different types of relationships. This section focuses on four types of relationships: Family relationships, Friendships, Acquaintanceships and Romantic relationships.

What are three reasons why human relations management is important? ›

Without human resources management, companies would not be able to effectively recruit and retain employees, improve and enhance the organization, and they wouldn't be able to maintain a healthy, accepting workplace culture and environment.

What is good human relationship? ›

A positive relationship can be shared between any two people who support, encourage and help each other practically as well as emotionally. According to Dr. Fisher, the most important part of a healthy relationship is healthy communication.

What is HRM in simple words? ›

Human resource management, HRM, is the department of a business organization that looks after the hiring, management and firing of staff. HRM focuses on the function of people within the business, ensuring best work practices are in place at all times.

What are the limitations of human relations approach? ›

The human relations approach lacks adequate focus on work. It puts all the emphasis on interpersonal relations and on the informal group. It tends to overemphasize the psychological aspects at the cost of the structural and technical aspects.

What is the role of time and human relationship in management? ›

Time and human relationships are crucial elements in the process of making decision. Decision making connects the organization's present circumstances to actions that will take the organization into the future.

How is effective human relations related to effective leadership? ›

Effective human relations are directly linked to effective leadership. The fact is due to the benefits accruing upright human relations skills in the working place. Basically, leaders should promote an environment that is capable of addressing employees? needs as well as supporting a conducive working environment.

How do you maintain human relations at work? ›

Here are some guidelines to follow when trying to improve your working relationships:
  1. Communicate often. ...
  2. Be consistent and trustworthy. ...
  3. Avoid gossip. ...
  4. Support fellow team members. ...
  5. Remain positive in interactions. ...
  6. Know company guidelines. ...
  7. Deliver quality work on time.

How can you improve human relations skills and having a positive attitude? ›

Nine Tips for Improving Your Interpersonal Skills
  1. Cultivate a positive outlook. ...
  2. Control your emotions. ...
  3. Acknowledge others' expertise. ...
  4. Show a real interest in your colleagues. ...
  5. Find one good trait in every co-worker. ...
  6. Practice active listening. ...
  7. Be assertive. ...
  8. Practice empathy.

Why are positive relationships important? ›

Not only does building positive relationships make us happier, improve our feelings of security, and provide meaning to our lives, it also affects both mental and physical health. Health Benefits of Relationships: Relationships play an important role in our mental health.

Why are human relations skills important for your future? ›

People with strong human relations skills are better able to work with others and are more likely to succeed in their careers and in life. Studying human relations will help you understand why beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors can sometimes create relationship problems at work or in your personal life.

What are the 3 important characteristics of human relations? ›

Human Relations – 3 Basic Themes in Human Relations: Communication, Motivation and Empathy. The basic themes in human relation are related to communication, motivation and empathy. Communication is the way in which information and understanding are transmitted.

How would you describe the study of human relations? ›

Human Relations is an applied, innovative, interdisciplinary field of study that examines human behavior, interactions, and relationships within the workplace and society.

What are the implications of human relations theory? ›

The implication of Human Relations Theory of Management to university practice and crisis management. The theory views human beings as individuals with differing psychological motivations, distinct and dynamic behaviour affecting performances.

Who developed human relations theory? ›

Elton Mayo, an Australian psychologist from Harvard University, developed the Human Relations Theory. He conducted a series of experiments, which are now known as Hawthorne Studies or Hawthorne Experiments. He concluded that people have unique preferences and can't be treated as machines.

How do you become a leader in a relationship? ›

How to take the lead in a relationship
  1. Define your intentions upfront.
  2. Don't try to fix when it's time to listen.
  3. Exit the emotional rollercoaster.
  4. Demonstrate leadership over talking about it.
  5. Do what you say you're going to do.
  6. Avoid one-itis.
  7. Don't be a one-hit-wonder.
  8. Remember this for taking the lead in a relationship.

What is Elton Mayo's human relations theory? ›

The Elton Mayo Human Relations Theory showed that relationships are highly influential for human productivity. Employers and managers need to have a vast array of skills to effectively carry a human relations-focused workplace culture.

What was Elton Mayo's theory? ›

Broadly speaking, Elton Mayo's management theory promotes the hypothesis that workers are motivated by social and relational forces more than financial or environmental conditions. It holds that managers can increase productivity by treating employees as unique individuals rather than interchangeable cogs in a machine.

Who proposed human relations theory? ›

Elton Mayo is considered the founder of the Human Relations Theory of Management. Prior to this trend, Elton Mayo already started an experiment in the Hawthorne plants in 1924; the Hawthorne experiment.

What is Mary Parker Follett theory of management? ›

Follett's incredibly modern-seeming approach has a simple central message: employees will be more engaged, productive, and happy if they're given autonomy within their roles, if they're treated as intelligent individuals, and if they're allowed to work cooperatively.

What is the conclusion of human relations theory? ›

The fundamental conclusion of human relations approach is that management must recognize the significance of the human factor towards increasing human efficiency at work; and must take decisions based on human considerations (like needs, values, aspirations, beliefs, attitudes of people) rather than only on physical- ...

What are the 5 importance human relation skills? ›

Bottom line: Communication, conflict resolution, multitasking, negotiation and organization are all vital to human relations. Leaders who develop these skills are on their way to successfully implementing human relations management practices.

What are the main points of Mayo's theory of motivation? ›

Mayo management theory states that employees are motivated far more by relational factors such as attention and camaraderie than by monetary rewards or environmental factors such as lighting, humidity, etc. Elton Mayo developed a matrix which he used to illustrate the likelihood that a given team would be successful.

What are the characteristics of human relation theory? ›

Human Relations – 3 Basic Themes in Human Relations: Communication, Motivation and Empathy. The basic themes in human relation are related to communication, motivation and empathy. Communication is the way in which information and understanding are transmitted.

Who is the father of HRM? ›

From being recognized as the “Father of modern HR” to being ranked as #1 educator & management Guru, Dave Ulrich is one of the world's leading business thinkers who have made a significant impact on the HR industry.

What are the disadvantages of human relations theory? ›

The human relations approach lacks adequate focus on work. It puts all the emphasis on interpersonal relations and on the informal group. It tends to overemphasize the psychological aspects at the cost of the structural and technical aspects.

How can we improve our human relations? ›

So here are a few tips to help you to develop more positive and healthy relationships in all areas of your life:
  1. Accept and celebrate differences. ...
  2. Listen effectively. ...
  3. Give people your time. ...
  4. Develop your communication skills. ...
  5. Manage mobile technology. ...
  6. Learn to give and take feedback. ...
  7. Learn to trust more. ...
  8. Develop empathy.
21 Mar 2013

Why is relationship theory important? ›

Relationship theory is built around the emotional impact of leadership, the connection between employee and leader. A lot of the time an employee is not buying into the success or efficiency of the organisation, or how it operates, but the charisma and compelling attractiveness of the leader.

What are the advantages of human relations approach? ›

Advantages of Human Relations Theory

Human Relation Theory improves productivity of employees. Human Relation Theory removes grievance among the employees. Human Relation Theory improves Employee Retention. Human Relation Theory creates good human relationships.

What is an example of a theory in business? ›

40+ Useful Business Theories
Absolute AdvantageAdverse Selection
How The World Became FictionHygiene Factors
Information AsymmetryNudge Theory
Organizing PrinciplePlateau Effect
Precautionary PrinciplePrice Umbrella
17 more rows
20 Aug 2016

Who is the mother of modern management theory? ›

Lillian Gilbreth was the mother of modern management. Together with her husband Frank, she pioneered industrial management techniques still in use today. She was one of the first "superwomen" to combine a career with her home life.

What practice did Mary Parker Follett advocate? ›

She advocated non-coercive power-sharing in the workplace based on the use of her concept of “power with” rather than “power over.” Follett coined the term “win-win” in conflict resolution.

Videos

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3. Human Relation Theory. UGC NET PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION
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4. Human Relation Theory of Management, Hawthorne Experiment by Elton Mayo, UGC NET Commerce Management
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6. UGC NET Public Administration | Elton Mayo | Human Relations Approach
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