What is Human Relations Approach? 8 Theories, Criticisms (2024)

What is Human Relation Approach?

The Human Behavioural approach is a modified version of the Human Relations approach. The Human Behavioural approach is devoid of any emotional content, which is the core of the Human Relations Approach. This approach stresses the individual performing the job. Here the attention is directed towards the human aspects of management.

What is Human Relations Approach? 8 Theories, Criticisms (1)

The neglect of human factors and the over-emphasis on machines and materials led to the development of this approach. The Behavioural approach emphasizes the synchronization of group goals within the broader framework of management. It does not consider the goals of the different groups as conflicting with others.

Many sociologists, psychologists and social psychologists have shown considerable interest in studying the problems of management. The sociologists who have contributed to management are Blak, Selznick, Homans, Dubin, Dalton, Katz and Kahn. The social psychologist who has contributed to management are McGregor, Argyris, Leavitt, Blake and Mouton, Sayles, Tannenbaum and his associates, Bennis, Fielder, Stogdill and Herzberg.

Behavioural theories have drawn heavily on the work of Maslow. Douglas McGregor built on Maslow’s work in explaining his ‘Theory X’ and ‘Theory Y’. Frederick Herzberg develops a two-factor theory of motivation. To sum up, many conclusions of the contributions made by behaviouralists can be presented as follows:

  1. People do not dislike work. If they have helped to establish objectives, they want to achieve them. In fact, job itself is a source of motivation and satisfaction to employees.
  2. Most people can exercise a great deal of self-direction and self-control than are required in their current job. Therefore, there remains untapped potential among them.
  3. The manager’s basic job is to use the untapped human potential in the service organization.
  4. The managers should create a healthy environment wherein all the subordinates contribute to the best of their capacity. The environment should provide a healthy, safe, comfortable and convenient place to work.
  5. The manager should provide for self-direction by subordinates and they must be encouraged to participate fully in all important matters.
  6. Operating efficiency can be improved by expanding subordinate influence, direction and self-control.
  7. Work satisfaction may improve as a by-product of subordinates making use of their potential.

Hawthorne Studies

In 1927, a group of researchers led by George Elton Mayo and Fritz J. Roethlisberger at the Harvard Business School were invited to join in the studies at the Hawthorne Works of Western Electric Company, Chicago. The experiment lasted up to 1932.

Earlier, from 1924 to 1927, the National Research Council made a study in collaboration with the Western Electric Company to determine the effect of illumination and other conditions upon workers and their productivity.

  1. Illumination Experiment
  2. Relay Assembly Room Experiment
  3. Bank Wiring Observation Room Experiment
  4. Mass Interview Programme
What is Human Relations Approach? 8 Theories, Criticisms (2)

Illumination Experiment

This experiment was conducted to establish a relationship between output and illumination. The output tended to increase every time as the intensity of light was improved. But the output again showed an upward trend when the illumination was brought down gradually from the normal level.

Thus, it was found that there is no consistent relationship between the output of workers and illumination in the factory. There were some other factors which influenced the productivity of workers when the intensity of light was increased or decreased.

Relay Assembly Room Experiment

In this experiment, a small hom*ogeneous work group of girls was constituted. Several new elements were introduced in the work atmosphere of this group. These included shorter working hours, rest pauses, improved physical conditions, friendly and informal supervision, free social interaction among group members, etc.

Productivity and morale increased considerably during the period of the experiment. Morale and productivity were maintained even if improvements in working conditions were withdrawn. The researchers concluded that socio-psychological factors such as the feeling of being important, recognition, attention, participation, cohesive workgroup, and non-directive supervision held the key to higher productivity.

Bank Wiring Observation Room Experiment

This experiment was conducted to study a group of workers under conditions which were as close as possible to normal. This group comprised 14 workers.

After the experiment, the production records of this group were compared with their earlier production records. There were no significant changes in the two because of the maintenance of ‘normal conditions’. However, the existence of informal cliques in the group and informal production norms were observed by the researchers.

The Bank Wiring Experiment led to the following observations:

  • Each individual was restricting output.
  • The group had its own “unofficial” standards of performance.
  • Individual output remained fairly constant over a period of time.
  • Departmental records were distorted due to differences between the actual and reported output or between standard and reported working time.

Mass Interview Programme

The researchers interviewed a large number of workers with regard to their opinions on work, working conditions and supervision. Initially, a direct approach was used whereby interviewers asked questions considered important by managers and researchers.

Later, this approach was replaced by an indirect technique where the interviewer simply listen to what the employees had to say. The findings confirmed the importance of social factors at work in the total work environment.

Human Relations Theory of Management

Contributions of human relations approach or Hawthorne Studies. The human relationists proposed the following points as a result of their findings of the Hawthorne experiments:

  1. Social System
  2. Social Environment
  3. Informal Organization
  4. Group Dynamics
  5. Informal Leader
  6. Communication
  7. Non-Economic Rewards
  8. Conflicts
What is Human Relations Approach? 8 Theories, Criticisms (3)

Social System

The organization in general is a social system composed of numerous interacting parts. The social system defines individual roles and establishes norms that may differ from those of the formal organization.

Social Environment

The social environment on the job affects the workers and is also affected by them. Management is not the only variable. Social and psychological factors exercise a great influence on the behaviour of workers. Therefore, every manager should adopt a sound human approach to all organizational problems.

Informal Organization

The informal organization does also exist within the framework of formal organization and it affects and is affected by the formal organization.

Group Dynamics

At the workplace, the workers often do not act or react as individuals but as members of groups. The group determines the norms of behaviour for the group members and thus exercises a powerful influence on the attitudes and performance of individual workers. The management should deal with workers as members of a workgroup rather than as individuals.

Informal Leader

The informal leader sets and enforces group norms. He helps the workers to function as a social group and the formal leader is rendered ineffective unless he conforms to the norms of the group.


Two-way communication is necessary because it carries necessary information downward for the proper functioning of the organization and transmits upward the feelings and sentiments of people who work in the organization. It will help in securing workers’ cooperation and participation in the decision-making process.

Workers tend to be more productive when they are given the opportunity to express their feelings, opinions and grievances. This also gives them psychological satisfaction.

Non-Economic Rewards

Money is only one of the motivators, but not the sole motivator of human behaviour. The social and psychological needs of the workers are very strong. So non-economic rewards such as praise, status, interpersonal relations, etc. play an important role in motivating employees. Such rewards must be integrated with the wages and fringe benefits of the employees.


There may arise conflicts between the organisational goals and group goals. Conflicts will harm the interest of workers if they are not handled properly. Conflicts can be resolved through the improvement of human relations in the organisation.

Criticism of Human Relations Approach

These are some points of criticism of the human relations approach explained below:

  1. Lack of Scientific Validity
  2. Over-Emphasis on Group
  3. Over-Stretching of Human Relations
  4. Limited Focus on Work
  5. Over-Stress on Socio-Psychological Factors
  6. Conflict Between Organizational and Individual Goals
What is Human Relations Approach? 8 Theories, Criticisms (4)

Lack of Scientific Validity

Lack of Scientific Validity: The human relationists drew conclusions from Hawthorne’s studies. These conclusions are based on clinical insight rather than on scientific evidence.

Over-Emphasis on Group

Over-emphasis on Group: The human relations approach over-emphasizes the group and group decision-making.

Over-Stretching of Human Relations

Over-stretching of Human Relations: It is assumed that all organizational problems are amenable to solutions through human relations.

Limited Focus on Work

Limited Focus on Work: The human relations approach lacks adequate focus on work.

Over-Stress on Socio-Psychological Factors

Over-stress on Socio-psychological Factors: The human relations approach undermines the role of economic incentives in motivation and gives excessive stress on social and psychological factors.

Conflict Between Organizational and Individual Goals

The conflict between Organizational and Individual Goals: It views the conflict between the goal of the organization and those of individuals as destructive.

Difference Between Human Relations and Behavioural Sciences Approach

The following are the points of difference between human relations and behavioural sciences approach:

Human Relations ApproachBehavioural Sciences Approach
It laid emphasis on the individual, his needs and behaviour.It stressed groups and group behaviour.
It focused on interpersonal relationships.It focused on group relationships.
It was based on the Hawthorne Experiments and so its scope is limited.It refined the Human Relations approach and has a wide scope. It is a much more systematic study of human behaviour in the organization.
It was pioneered by Elton Mayo and its associates.It was pioneered by Feith Davis, Rensis Likert and others.
It laid emphasis on informal groups’ motivation, job satisfaction and morale.The behaviourists studied group dynamics, informal organization leadership, motivation and participative management.

What is the human relations approach?

The Human Behavioural approach is a modified version of the Human Relation approach. The Human Behavioural approach is devoid of any emotional content, which is the core of the Human Relation Approach.

What is the criticism of human relations approach?

The following are the criticism of human relations approach:
1.Lack of Scientific Validity
2.Over-Emphasis on Group
3.Over-Stretching of Human Relations
4.Limited Focus on Work
5.Over-Stress on Socio-Psychological Factors
6.Conflict Between Organizational and Individual Goals.

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What is Human Relations Approach? 8 Theories, Criticisms (2024)


What are the criticisms of the human relations theory? ›


a) This theory lacks scientific base. b) This theory is not based on actual behaviour of workers as they were influenced by their feelings of importance, attention and publicity they received in the research setting.

What is human relations approach approach? ›

The human relations theory, also known as the human relations management or human relations approach, is a generalised approach to management that focuses on achieving organisational goals through recognising the importance of employee attitudes, interpersonal relationships, group dynamics and leadership styles.

What is a criticism of the human relations school? ›

Criticism of Human Relations Approach

Lack of Scientific Validity. Over-Emphasis on Group. Over-Stretching of Human Relations. Limited Focus on Work.

What are the main features of human relations approach? ›

Unlike Classical approach, which studies organization from structural point of view, it puts emphasis upon human relations, self respect, informal social relations, individual motivation, psychological feelings and tendencies of the workers.

What are the negative human relations? ›

Lasting conflicts, envy, distrust, avoidance and bullying are among the many interpersonal phenomena present at the workplace that meet this definition.

What are examples of human relations problems? ›

Common HR problems in companies and their solutions
  • Compliance with laws and regulations. ...
  • Health and safety. ...
  • Change management. ...
  • Compensation management. ...
  • Landing top talent. ...
  • Retention. ...
  • Monitoring productivity and performance.
Mar 6, 2023

What is the human relations theory summary? ›

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. The formal elements of an organization are its structure.

What is an example of human relations theory? ›

Examples of human relations goals might include fostering pleasant workplace relationships, providing support for employees facing challenges and celebrating employees' successes.

Why is the human relations approach important? ›

The human relations school believes that it is necessary to relate work and the organizational structure to the social needs of the employees. In this way, by making the employees happy, the organization will obtain their full cooperation and effort and thus increase its efficiency.

Why are human relations so difficult? ›

“Romantic relationships can be difficult to maintain because they possess more intimacy than any other relationship,” says life coach Kali Rogers. “The amount of closeness — emotional, physical, spiritual, and even mental — that is in a relationship is overwhelming to handle at times.”

What is the conclusion of the 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 is human relations approach in school? ›

Human Relation School:

It is the method of managing human beings. The organisation combines two elements, one is formal, and the other is informal. The formal elements can be defined as the structure of an organisation, and the informal is defined as the relation between individual workers.

What is the meaning of human relations? ›

human relations. noun, plural in form but usually singular in construction. : the social and interpersonal relations between human beings. : a course, study, or program designed to develop better interpersonal and intergroup adjustments.

What are the common human relations mistakes? ›

Underestimating others. Failure to report or admit mistakes to management. Failure to provide your own motivation. Permitting others to turn you into a victim.

What are 3 negative ways humans interact with the environment? ›

Humans impact the physical environment in many ways: overpopulation, pollution, burning fossil fuels, and deforestation.

What affects human relations? ›

Communication plays a pivotal role in all types of relationships whether it is personal or professional. Feelings must be expressed and reciprocated in relationships. Individuals need to communicate with each other effectively for better understanding. Do not stay mum as it leads to problems and misunderstandings.

What are the six causes of poor human relations in an organization? ›

Leading industry professionals determine that workplace bullying, lack of honesty, lack of flexibility, bad managers, unclear policies, pay raise requests, and workplace conflicts are the most significant toxic factors that damage employee relations.

What are the 4 types of human relations? ›

This section focuses on four types of relationships: Family relationships, Friendships, Acquaintanceships and Romantic relationships.

What are 5 of the key concepts in human relations? ›

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.

Who define human relation 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.

What is the main point of the human relations movement? ›

Its aim was to address the social welfare needs of workers and therefore elicit their co-operation as a workforce. The widely perceived view of human relations is said to be one that completely contradicts the traditional views of Taylorism.

What is good human relations? ›

Human relations skills are the capacity to connect with others so that you can constructively collaborate and achieve common goals. This includes being able to understand and empathize with others, as well as being able to communicate effectively.

What is taught in human relations? ›

The topics and concepts include communication, problem solving, conflict management, diversity, cultural awareness, and stress management with a particular focus on workplace application.

What is the human relations approach to conflict? ›

Definition (1): The view that conflict is a natural and inevitable outcome in any group and need not be negative but has the potential to be a positive force in contributing to a group's performance, is called the human relations view of conflict.

What are the implications of human relations theory? ›

The paper argues further that this theory has implications for effective human resource management in areas such as understanding the nature of human beings, workers' motivation, importance of leadership, role of informal groups, and effective communication in the workplace.

Which of the following statements is incorrect about the human relations theory? ›

Thus, Informal elements do not play an important role in the overall organizational output is incorrect about the "Human Relations Theory".

Which of the following is rejected in the human relations theory? ›

The Human Relations Theory rejects: Formal institutionalization. Informal functioning. Human motivation.

Is the human relations theory still relevant today? ›

The human relations theory of management began development in the early 1920s. Today, it is integral to every business, and understanding the involved skills and theories is key to employee success.

What is human relations relations theory? ›

Definition. 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 in ethical issues? ›

The human relations section of the Ethics Code provides criteria for psychologists on how to approach situations related to the process of working with people in a helping field; how to identify and avoid unfair discrimination, sexual harassment, and other types of verbal and nonverbal harassment.

Which of the following is a common human relations mistake? ›

Failure to report or admit mistakes to management. Failure to provide your own motivation. Permitting others to turn you into a victim. Falling prey to negative drift.

What is the main assumption behind the human relations approach or Theory Y quizlet? ›

Theory Y assumes that Workers seek responsibility and are motivated to use creativity and innovation. Workers are self-directed and self-controlled. Doing good, challenging work is satisfying and thus motivating.

Who uses human relations theory? ›

Human Relations was widely popularized by psychologist Elton Mayo, and is still a common way of approaching HR by large companies like Google and Facebook. First, since organizations are still made up of people, understanding how individual factors influence motivation is important.

Why is the human relations approach most important? ›

In most businesses, to be successful at our job, we need to depend on others. The importance of human relations is apparent in this setting. If people are not able to get along and resolve conflicts, the organization as a whole will be less productive, which could affect profitability. Many organizations empower.

What is the main goal of human relations? ›

Human relations aims 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 resources.

Why is human relations important? ›

Human relations is critical for developing and maintaining a positive work environment , retaining employees and encouraging productivity. By making human relations the focus of your management approach, you can effectively create a workplace culture in which your employees can thrive.

What are the benefits of human relations theory? ›

Human relations helps foster employee relationships, reduce conflicts, promote job satisfaction, and create a favorable working environment. It also helps promote diversity, with open relations and teamwork key increased organizational productivity.


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