Applying Quality concepts to Human Relations Theories

The application of these human relations theories can be seen in today’s competitive environment. For example, with the restructuring of today’s competitive global economy, many companies have made the decision to downsize or reduce the numbers of managers and workers. However, some companies well aware of the dynamics pointed out by the Hawthorne studies have approached employee reduction with great care. At Sky Chefs a $450 million airline in-flight services corporation, the problems experienced by the airlines industry such as price wars, brisk competition from foreign airlines, aging fleets, and the increasing cost of new planes, were directly affecting the company. Forced to reduce staff, management realized that if it managed the process poorly and didn’t take into consideration the needs of employees, those who remained after the downsizing would be less loyal and cohesive as a group.

To minimize potential problems after the downsizing, the management adopted ‘total quality leadership’ to provide the company with a framework for implementing the restructuring. It spent thousands of hours and dollars to fund training and improvement processes related total quality leadership. The key to the success of the restructuring was that instead of management dictating what would happen and to whom employees, seen as the backbone of the company were empowered to facilitate the process. For example, prior to the restructuring process, employee participated in evaluating all headquarters functions. An employee managed restructuring committee was selected by management to assemble, interpret and evaluate the data. Then smaller action teams were created to address the downsizing. To help those who were to be let go, extensive counseling and outplacement services were provided, including group workshops on networking, interviewing techniques and hiring and employees were videotaped to help with future interviews.

Now, after the restructuring productivity and operating profit are increasing. The remaining employees have accepted their new roles and responsibilities and morale continues to improve.

From Human Relations to the Behavioral Science approach:

The scientific method in the studies of people in the work environment: Later researchers more rigorously trained in the social sciences (psychology, sociology, and anthropology) use more sophisticated research methods and became known as ‘behavioral scientists’ rather than human relations theorists.

The behavioral scientists brought two new dimensions pt the study of management and organizations. First they advanced an even more sophisticated view of human beings and their drives than did Mayo and his contemporaries. Abraham Maslow and Douglas McGregor, among others wrote about self actualizing people. Their work spawned new thinking about how relationships can be beneficially arranged in organizations/they also determined that people wanted more than instantaneous pleasure or rewards. If people were this complex in the way they led their lives, then their organizational relationships needed to support that complexity.

Second, behavioral scientists applied the methods of scientific investigation to the study of how people behaved in organizations as whole entities. The classic example is the work of James March and Herbert Simon in the late 1950s. March and Simon developed hundreds of propositions for scientific investigation about patterns of behavior, particularly with regard to communication in organizations. Their influence in the development of subsequent management theory has been significant and ongoing.

According to Maslow the needs that people are motivated to satisfy fall into a hierarchy. Physical and safety needs are at the bottom of the hierarchy and at the top are ego needs (the need for respect, for example) and self actualization needs (such as the need for meaning and personal growth). In general, Maslow said, lower level needs must be satisfied before higher level needs can be met. Since many lower level needs are routinely satisfied in contemporary society most people are motivated more by the higher level ego and self actualizing needs.