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Examine the major contributions to the understanding of human behavior in organizations by the
Classical and Human Relations Theory. (25 Marks) due date 27/02/15
Human beings are regarded as the most important resource of any organization. Over the years
several theories have been coined to try and explain human behavior at the work place. It is
against such a background that this discussion seeks to scrutinise the major contributions to the
understanding of human behavior in organizations by two schools of thought; namely the
Classical and Human Relations Theories. Relevant examples will be cited as the essay
progresses work.
The discussion will give a brief background of the each school of thought and the underpinning
assertions that differentiate them. A comparison of the two theories will also be vital in
highlighting the different contributions that these theories have made to the modern day
understanding of human behavior at the workplace. The understanding of human behavior in
organizations evolved from the Industrial revolution during the first half of the century. Industrial
revolution bought about the demand to an increase capital, production and efficiency of workers
within the organization. The emergence of theories of efficiency evolved from early classical
management theories into more and more complex school of thought and it continued to change
in response to the dynamic workforce in which businesses operate today. Understanding of
human behavior in organization was concerned with being able to describe, understand, predict
and control human behavior in an organizational environment.
The Classical approach was developed during the Industrial Revolution are in Europe and some
of its major contributors include scientist such as Frederick W. Taylor, Henri Fayol, Urwick, and
others. Most of them were laying the fundamental for a comprehensive theory of management
(Mullins, 2005).

For example Frederick W. Taylor came up with the so-called Scientific

Management through his book The Principle of Scientific Management. His theory emphasizes
in obtaining increased productivity from each worker through structuring the technical work
organization and providing monetary incentives as the motivator for higher results. This concept
is still true to in the current environment where money and incentives are still being used to
encite employees to work.
Taylor believed there is a most efficient working method by which employee should do their
jobs. He argued that all jobs processes can be determined into discrete tasks, so that tasks, by
scientific method, was able to find the best way to undertake each task, these terms recognized
as division of labour. Taylor found out the major cause of inefficient work is lack of employee
initiatives on his job. This issue obtain another negative impacts for company such as waste of
human effort, waste of material things, waste of time, (Freedman, 1992). In other words, Taylor
thought the basic cause of these waste was because companies focused too much on the
output of the job rather than focusing on every single process by which the work was finished.
The theories were developed mainly to cope with the problems that arose in the factories during
those days. The classical approach attempted to find the best way for performing and managing
tasks. The approach suggested the development of standard methods for doing jobs and the
people were trained and they worked more like machines. Every person has his own specialized
work and he had to do it. This approach emphasizes on the work element and does not see the
workers as human beings but machines. Even in todays environment we still experience the
remnants of the Classical approach in aspects such as job designs and job descriptions though
in a more refined form.
The Scientific school which is one branch of Classical theory is more concerned with increasing
efficiency of workers. It is based on scientific methods of managing workers and executing
tasks. For example the theory contributed in the advent and use of tools and equipment in trying
to achieve operational efficiency. This approach is even evident in modern day organisations

were we are now focusing on issues such as division of work and responsibilities between
management and workers and also employees are now being employed according to their skill.
According to an article by Stacy Zeiger on her blog on the internet, Classical management
theory involves creating multiple levels of workers to improve productivity. Employees at the
lowest levels find their tasks overseen by supervisors who, in turn, are overseen by managers.
At every level, employees are expected to perform tasks according to specific procedures
designed to maximize productivity. In addition, this theory focuses on an impersonal side of
business. Employees and managers should not allow friendliness and personal interactions to
become involved with the organization. Rules must be followed exactly, and the hiring and firing
of employees must relate only to the skills they possess. Though a bit on the extreme side some
of the concepts of the classical theorists such the hierarchy of control; chain of command and
bureaucratic levels of authority still exist in most organisations across Zimbabwe. For examples
in most parastatals they use the Paterson job grading system which empahsises levels of
authority; reporting structures and skill levels for each level of the job within the organisation.
Such an example bears testimony to the underlying contributions of the Classical theorist in
understanding human behaviors in organisations.
Through the influence of research carried out by Classical theorists management in todays
organization have been privileged to realize the limitations and abilities of their employees.
Through performance management processes managers are able to monitor behavior of their
employees in as far as executing work related tasks is concerned and in circumstances where
these behavior have been found to be lacking in some aspects this has led to recommending of
job related training such as skills upgrade courses. It has also been argued that the classical
theory eliminated conflicts that resulted from unclear communication it empahsises clarity of
roles, where individuals are given job description, and companies are expected to have
organization structures with top to bottom communication or vice-versa. Employment is now the

right man for the right job, using the proper selection methods and training acquired and
ensuring that fair wages and reasonable remunerations are awarded.
Classical theory contributed towards the standardization of tools to increase production and
efficiency. The theory contributed the idea of work rate incentives for workers who achieve
greater output and payments of bonus. It helped organisations to understand the behavior of
human beings when incentives are provided for work completed. In todays organisations
bonuses are paid generously to employees to encourage workers to produce more. In most
parastatals in Zimbabwe and other organisations the concept of production bonus is heavily
attached to productivity. Through the classical theories it was discovered that incentives can
influence human behavior.
The division of work among employees emerged from the equally divided work, the use of
authority to carry out responsibilities is now practiced in organization. The classical theory has
contributed to effective of Discipline in organization by the introduction codes of conduct and the
setting up disciplinary committees. Classical theory brought about, Unity of command, which
meant one supervisor for one worker and clearly outlined hierarchy avoid confusion from top to
bottom was clearly outlined. The system which we still find today where important decisions are
taken to the top and disseminated to the lower management, including communication in one
direction that is top to bottom was a result of contributions of the classical theories.


classical theory contributed to the proper and consistent remuneration so that no employee is
dissatisfied, advocated for equity and justice prevailed at all cost.
The classical school was created and developed for comprehensive management theory. It was
concerned with the developing of theory to improve management effectiveness in organisation.
It contributed towards the provision of tools a manager requires for dealing with organization

It should however be noted that the use of the Classical theory in its entirety has dwindled over
the years in many organizations mainly because of its shortcomings. While some components
of the theory, such as designing procedures for completing a task and keeping personal issues
out of business, help an organization focus on the job at hand, the theory fails to recognize the
differences among employees. It should be noted that from study, when employee feelings and
opinions are not taken into account, the business may not grow or may experience high levels
of employee turnover as employees fail to develop a relationship with the business and leave in
search of a more satisfying job.
On the other hand, the Human Relations school of management started focusing on the
humans working on the tasks. This aimed at increasing the work productivity through
collaboration and it saw work as a group activity. This approach also used the most popular
Maslows hierarchy of needs which stated that every human being has some needs which
affects his performance and motivation. These needs are usually prioritised in the order from the
most basic are Physiological needs, Safety needs, Social needs, Esteem needs and Selfactualization needs. This theory helped in understand human behaviour even in our current set
up where people are motivated to achieve certain things and once they archieve those things
they aim for other things.

Other contributors to the Human Relations school include Elton Mayo (1880 1949) who
believed that workers are not just concerned with money but could be better motivated by
having their social needs met whilst at work (something that Taylor of he Classical theorists
ignored). He introduced the Human Relation School of thought, which focused on managers
taking more of an interest in the workers, treating them as people who have worthwhile opinions
and realising that workers enjoy interacting together.

Mayo conducted a series of experiments at the Hawthorne factory of the Western Electric
Company in Chicago He isolated two groups of women workers and studied the effect on their
productivity levels of changing factors such as lighting and working conditions. From this Mayo
concluded that workers are best motivated by: Better communication;Greater manager
involvement;Working in groups or teams. In practice therefore businesses should re-organise
production to encourage greater use of team working and introduce personnel departments to
encourage greater manager involvement in looking after employees interests. His theory most
closely fits in with a paternalistic style of management. Such studies have helped understand
the role of group behaviour and communication at the work place and how it affects human
behaviour at the workplace.

Another author who contributed the Human Relations Approach was Edward McGregor who has
the famous theories, Theory X and Theory Y. Theory X basically is explaining that humans
dislike and avoid to work, therefore they need control, guide, and force toward organisations
objectives. Conversely, Theory Y said that people like to work and they are able to learn and
seek responsibility under the right conditions (Zilbert, 2000). McGregors theories, obviously,
support the human relations approach in terms of managerial context of managing the people in
the organisation and it strengthened the key idea of Human Relations Approach about the
nature and the role of manager which concerns the emotional factor in employees and social







The perspective of Human Relations Approach concerns that the organisation becomes further
than just a profit oriented enterprise, they become more than just a place to work but also a
medium for administering social interaction (Lemak, 2004). Regarding to Mayo (1933, p.73) the
consequence of the social interaction in organisation was the each personnel and the group as

a whole themselves need to adjust into the industrial situation where their self-determination
and social welfare are prioritised first and the work itself is supplementary. One of the main
characteristic of the human relations approach is the group of employees taken as the main unit
of analysis instead of individual employee. The other hallmark of this approach is the viewing of
employee motivation in terms of social needs rather than economic needs (Lemak, 2004).

The Human Relations approach has been proved that this approach is relevant nowadays, even
though it has been written almost 7 decades ago. This theory generates ideas emphasizing the
significance of team work and leadership, good communication, motivation, and work design
(Mullins, 2005). The idea of organizing teamwork is one of the notion that has long lasting value
until now. As we known, the efficient team work requires collective goals, strong relationship
among the members, feeling of togetherness, and strengthening social cohesion between
employees can lead to good atmosphere in the organisation (Pyoria, 2005). The positive
atmosphere in the organisation tends to be established because it can enhance the employee
performance and by the end the organisation performance will enhance as well. The efficient
teamwork is still being used in many big companies nowadays such as Econet in Zimbabwe,
Unilever, and many big consulting companies. They tend to implement team working because











In conclusion, the Human Relations Approach introduced the significance of the informal
organisation that always involves within the formal structure of organisation (Mullins, 2005). This
informal organisation was the main influence of the employees behaviour. Therefore, manager
or to management in the organisation have to concern and aware about this informal
organisation. If they can create and embed sentiments which support their goals by fulfilling
employees social and emotional needs, the effect would be the higher performance and the








It should however be noted that while many companies operate based on the human relations
theory, this type of management has dangers. Companies risk workers becoming too social or
easily swayed by personal emotions and opinions when making decisions, rather than relying
on hard data. It may be more difficult to reprimand employees for poor performance or dismiss
them once they have become invested in the company. Despite these risks, human relations
theory has the potential to increase employee retention rates and productivity. As employees
feel more valued by a company, they invest in that company and its greater good.
Both of these theories have their own strength and weaknesses. Thus each theory will perform
very well to some particular type of organisation and it will be much better if we combine these
theories because the coordination within the organisation cannot work unless employees within
it are willing to cooperate with the management. Therefore it is worth noting that the needs and
values of the people as a human must be considered and integrated with the needs and values
as described by the vision and mission statement of the organisation. The system of the
organisation has to take into account the element of the human (employee), otherwise
organisation cannot move smoothly to reach their specific goals.
In conclusion, it can be safely argued that the Classical management theory and human
relations theory represent two views of management on the opposite ends of the spectrum. One
view focuses on looking at workers solely as a means to get work done, while the other focuses
on developing an organization and the behaviors and motivations of employees. However in
the modern work environment, most managers find that a combination of the two theories
serves them best in their businesses.