A Very Brief History of Human Relations Management

Human Relations Management began with Mary Parker Follet, a social worker with 25 years of experience working with schools and non-profit organizations. She is best known for developing ideas of constructive conflict, also known as cognitive conflict. She held the belief that conflict could be beneficial. Her approach to conflict was not to pursue domination or compromise, but integration.

Elton Mayo, best known for the Hawthorne Studies, investigated the effects of lighting levels and incentives on employee productivity.

Chester Barnard, an experienced top executive, became very influential and best known for his ideas about cooperation and the acceptance of authority. He proposed a comprehensive theory of cooperation in business and defined an organization as “a system of consciously coordinated activities or forces of two or more persons.”

The human relations school of management is also known as motivational theory. Not everyone is on board with all its concepts; however, it would be hard to argue the fact that it has changed management practice overall for the better over time.

Human Relations Management Theory considers employees differently than the more overbearing management theories strong in the past.

Largely based on theories of Douglas McGregor, HR Management Theory assumes that people want to work. The theory also assumes that that people are responsible, self-motivated, and want to succeed; and, further, that they understand their position in the company hierarchy. McGregor called this Theory Y. Theory Y is the total opposite of what McGregor called Theory X. Theory X takes the view that employees are lazy, not at all motivated, seek only security from work, and that they require supervision and discipline.

In a nutshell, Human Relations Theory views workers as much more than a cog in the company wheel. It asserts that businesses prosper as they help their employees prosper.

Human Relations Management Theory considers positive actions by management to be imperative to help lead to employee motivation and improved performance. These positive actions include the following:

  • Treat employees in a manner that promotes work as a natural event.
  • Management objectives are shared and supported by the employee.
  • Empower employees to be innovative and make as many independent decisions as they can handle.
  • Train staff and helping them develop their skills.
  • Reward staff with increasing freedom and responsibility as their competency grows.
  • Provide awards/rewards and recognition when they achieve company goals.
  • Make use of various theories that are applicable to help keep people motivated for excellence.

Theories and concepts that are old or new can be of benefit to a business. Consider learning all you can about Human Relations Theory, Human Relations Management Theory, Human Resource Theory, etc. The American Management Association may be beneficial as may ACCEL.

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