Humanistic Perspective

A management perspective that emerged around the late nineteenth century emphasized understanding human behavior needs and attitudes in the workplace.

Mary Parker Follett and Chester Barnard were early advocates of a more humanistic perspective on management that emphasized the importance of understanding human behaviors needs and attitude in the workplace as well as social interactions and group processes. These subfields based on the humanistic perspective: the human relations movement, the human resources perspective and the behavioral sciences approach.

The Human Relations Movement:

Hawthorne studies>>>

A series of experiments on worker productivity begun in 1924 at the Hawthorne plant of Western electric company in Illinois attributed employees increased output to manager’s better treatment of them during the study.

America has always espoused the spirit of human equality. However, this spirit has not always been translated into practice when it comes to power sharing between managers and workers. The human relations school of thought considers that truly effective control comes from within the individual worker rather than from strict, authoritarian control. This school of thought recognized and directly responded to social pressures for enlightened treatment of employees The early work on industrial psychology and personnel selection received little attention because of the prominence of scientific management. Then a series of studies at a Chicago electric company, which came to be known as the Hawthorne studies, changed all that.

Beginning about 1895 a struggle developed between manufacturers of gas and electric lighting fixtures for control of the residential and industrial market. By 1909 electric lighting had begun to win, but the increasingly efficient electric fixtures used less total power. The electric companies began a campaign to convince industrial users that they needed more light to get more productivity. When advertising did not work, the industry began using experimental tests to demonstrate their arguments. Managers were skeptical about the results about the results, so the Committee on Industrial Lighting (CIL) was set up to run the tests. To further add to the tests’ credibility. Thomas Edison was made honorary chairman of the CIL. In one test location – the Hawthorne plant of the Western Electric Company some interesting events occurred.

The major part of this work involved four experimental and three control groups. In all five different tests were conducted. These pointed to the importance of factors other than illumination in affecting productivity. To more carefully examine these factors, numerous other experiments were conducted. The results of the most famous study, lead to first Relay Assembly Test Room (RATR) experiments were extremely controversial. Under the guidance of two Harvard professors Elton Mayo and Fritz Roethlisberger, the RATR studies lasted nearly six years (May 10, 1927, to May 4, 1933), and involved 24 separate experimental periods. So many factors were changed and so many unforeseen factors uncontrolled that scholars disagree on the factors that truly contributed to the general increase in performance over that time period. Most early interpretation however, agreed on one thing: Money was not the cause of the increased output. It was believed that the factor that best explained increased output was human relations. Employees performed better when managers treated them in a positive manner. However, recent re-analysis of the experiments have revealed that a number of factors were different for the workers involved and some suggest that money may well have been the single most important factor. An interview with one of the original participants revealed that just getting into the experimental group had meant a huge increase in income.

These new data clearly show that money mattered a great deal at Hawthorne. In addition, worker productivity increased partly as a result of the increased feelings of importance and group pride employees felt by virtue of being selected for this important project. One unintended contribution of the experiments was a rethinking of field research practices. Researchers and scholars realized that the researcher can influence the outcome fan experiment by being closely involved with research subjects. This has come to be known as the Hawthorne effect in research methodology. Subjects behaved differently because of the active participation of researchers in the Hawthorne experiments.

(Source: New Era of Managemebt)