Human Relations Movement

What has become known as classical theory of management includes the work of Max Weber (bureaucracy), Frederick Taylor (work study) Lyndall Urwick (administration). In these classical theories, human emotion is ignored.

The human relations movement stems from the work of Elton Mayo and the Hawthorne experiments. It argues that people are not just logical decision makers but have needs for creativity, support, recognition and self-affirmation.

The movement is in direct opposition to Scientific Management, which concentrates upon the task and not the person. Taylor's work has been very largely misunderstood and even demonised. This is a pity because there are situations in which his approach, like the theory of bureaucracy, is very valuable.

It is important to remember that the Human Relations movement was a creature of its time. While its insights continue to be a great value, the movement's most important accomplishment was in providing a counter-balance to previous theories of management. Its value today may be similar. The movement contained some of the great names in management and was a form of golden age. Pre-eminent among its researchers - and many were experimental as well as organisation and clinical psychologists - were Kurt Lewin, Ronald Lippitt, Rensis Likert, Carroll Shartle and Douglas McGregor. Other major figures came just a little later and include Carl Rogers, Chris Argyris, Ed Schein and Peter Drucker.

Unfortunately, the human relations movement became accepted dogma in the 70's and 80's. Today there are signs that analysis (scientific management), system management (bureaucracy) and empowerment (human relations) are beginning to be seen as three equally useful approaches - dependent upon the situation.