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human relations approach

Fang Lee Cooke


The human relations approach to management was originated in the 1930s as a reaction against the mechanistic view of organizations and the pessimistic view of human nature suggested by the classical approach. The human relations approach argues that people are emotional rather than economic‐rational beings; organizations are cooperative social systems rather than mechanical ones; and organizations are composed of informal structures, rules, and norms as well as formal practices and procedures. The human relations approach represents a distinct break from the classical approach. However, both share two important similarities. First, they see organizations as closed and unchanged entities. Second and relatedly, they believe that there is “one best way” of managing the organization, regardless of the type, nature, or size of the organization, and that their way is “the best way.” Important theoretical advancements in the human relations approach include the famous Hawthorne experiments conducted by Elton Mayo, Chester Barnard's cooperative system, Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs, Douglas McGregor's Theory X–Theory Y, and Warren Bennis's “the death of bureaucracy.” Despite these intellectual advancements, the human relations school remained operationally weak until the 1950s and 1960s when the advent of the job design movement offered operational guidelines to organizations. Job ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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