Human Relation

9175 words 37 pages


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Page 43


Human Relations Theory and People Management
The minutiae of the human soul … emerged as a new domain for management Nikolas Rose Conventional textbooks often set up a simple story about organization theory which has a very appealing structure. In this story, there is a good guy and a bad guy. Who gets to play which role sometimes shifts, but most often the bad guy is the scientific management approach and the good guy is human relations theory. This is a flawed story in my view, and the way I will tell the story emphasizes the many connections and similarities between the two. But I suppose the fact that I am referring to ‘the two’ implies that there must be some points of
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There is one tiny flaw in this, however: it’s not true. It’s not true for lots of reasons. One is that an interest in workers going beyond economic concerns can be found well before Hawthorne. It was present in the various attempts of nineteenth century industrialists, especially those of Quaker background, to meet the ‘moral needs’ of workers. This is evidenced by towns like Port Sunlight and Bourneville in the UK, where housing and religious and communal activities were designed to cater for workers’ leisure time and to provide an environment conducive to good living. True, it was the new ‘science’ of psychology rather than paternalistic religiosity that informed human relations theory but they share a similar humanizing imperative, and the latter had a paternalism of its own. The second issue is that the original impetus for the Hawthorne experiments was firmly located within the tradition of scientific management, well established by the 1920s. The desire to ascertain the effect of lighting levels on productivity was informed by the idea that management was about the control of physical variables, and in fact there were many other experiments designed to explore a whole array of such variables. Finally, and crucially, it is simply wrong to think that Taylor had been unaware of, or uninterested in, the informal side of the organization. On the contrary, the heart of Taylor’s project was an attempt to overcome its


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