This school of management emphasizes the human element in an organization, duly recognizing its importance. It places more stress on individual attitudes and behaviors and on group processes. The major contributors to this school of thought are given in Table 2.3.
Mary Parker Follet:
Follet is the pioneer of behavioural approach to management. She recognized the significance of the human element and attributed greater significance to the functioning of groups in workplaces. As per Follet, the critical role of managers should be to bring about constructive changes in organizations, following the principle of ‘power with’ rather than ‘power over’.
She opined that power should not be based on hierarchical levels but should be collectively developed to foster a cooperative concept that involves superiors and subordinates and enables them to work together as a team. Hence, the emphasis is more on power sharing. Organizations need to become democratic to accommodate employees and managers. Employees work harder when their organizations recognize their individual motivating desires.
Even though Follet was the pioneer of the behavioural approach to management, it is Elton Mayo who is recognized as the father of the human-relations approach. Mayo and his associates conducted a study at the Western Electric’s Hawthorne Plant between 1927 and 1932 to evaluate the attitudes and psychological reactions of workers in on-the-job situations.
Contributor to behavioral theories
Mary Parker Follet (1868-1933) – Group influences
Elton Mayo (1880-1949) – Effect of human motivation on productivity and output
Abraham Maslow (1808-1970) – Relates human motivation to hierarchy of needs
Douglas McGregor (1906-1964) – Emphasizes on human characteristics theory X and theory Y and the corresponding style of leadership
Chris Argyris (1964) – Human and organizational development – Model I and Model II
Their experiments were carried out in the following four phases:
1. Illumination experiments
2. Relay assembly test room experiments
3. Interview phase
4. Bank wiring observation room experiment
These experiments took place, initially between 1924 and 1927, in the Hawthorne Plant of Western Electric Company, involving the company’s industrial engineers. The experiments involved manipulation of illumination for one group of workers (test group) and comparing their performance and productivity with another group for whom illumination was not manipulated (control group).
In the first spell of the experiments, the performance and productivity of the test group (for whom the illumination was manipulated) improved. However, this did not last long. In fact, the control group’s performance also improved in between, even though there was no change in the light conditions of this group.
With such contradicting results, researchers concluded that the intensity of illumination was not related to the productivity of workers. There must be something else besides illumination, which must have influenced the performance of the workers in Western Electric Company. Elton Mayo and his associates from Harvard University got involved at this point to conduct the subsequent phase of experiments.
Relay Assembly Test Room Experiments:
This set of experiments was conducted under the guidance of Elton Mayo between 1927 and 1933. At this stage, researchers were concerned about other working conditions like working hours, working conditions, refreshments, temperatures, etc. To start with, the researchers selected six women employees of the relay assembly test room.
Their job was to assemble a relay (a small device) using thirty-five spare parts. Selected women employees (samples) were put in a separate room and briefed about the experiments. In the test room, the variables like increased wages and rest period, shortened workday and workweek, etc. were altered.
In addition to this, the sample workers were also given the freedom to leave their workstations without permission and were also given special attention. Productivity increased over the study period. Such results led the researchers to believe that better treatment of subordinates made them more productive.
They highlighted the significance of social relations. Finally, researchers were convinced that workers would perform better if the management looked after their welfare and supervisors paid special attention to them. This syndrome was later labelled as the Hawthorne effect.
In this phase of the experiments, about 21,000 people were interviewed over three years between 1928 and 1930. The purpose of the interview was to explore in depth the attitudes of the workers.
On the basis of the results of these interviews, the following conclusions were drawn:
1. A complaint may not necessarily be an objective recital of facts. It also reflects personal disturbance, which may arise from some deep-rooted cause.
2. All objects, persons, and events carry some social meaning. They relate to the employees’ satisfaction or dissatisfaction.
3. Workers’ personal situation is die result of a configuration of their relationships, involving sentiments, desires, and interests. Such relational variables influence die workers’ own past and present interpersonal relations and result in their personal situations.
4. Workers assign meaning to their status in the organization and attach much importance to events and objects and specific features of their environment, such as hours of work, wages, etc.
5. Workers derive satisfaction or dissatisfaction from the social status of their organization. It means they also look for social rewards, in the form of an increase in their personal status, borne out of their association with an organization of repute.
6. Workers’ social demands are influenced by their social experiences within their groups, both inside and outside the workplace.
Bank Wiring Observation Room Experiment:
This part of the Hawthorne experiments was conducted to test some of the ideas that had cropped up during the interview phase. It was conducted between 1931 and 1932. In this experiment there were fourteen participants (samples), including wiremen, solder men, and inspectors.
In this phase of the experiment, there was no change in the physical working conditions. Payments to sample workers were based on an incentive pay plan, which related their pay to their outputs. Sample workers had the opportunity to earn more by increasing their outputs. However, die researchers observed that output was constant at a certain level.
Analysis of the results showed that the group encourages neither too much nor too little work. On their own, they enforce ‘a fair day’s work’. Group norms, therefore, are more important to workers than money is. The study thus provided some insights into die workers’ informal social relations within their groups.
The Hawthorne experiments therefore focused on the importance of human relations and thus contributed immensely to management theories.
Despite its brilliant contributions to the theories of management, the behavioural approach to management was criticized on the following grounds:
1. It is believed that procedures, analysis of the findings, and conclusions drawn from there are not linked to each other rationally. In fact, the conclusions are not supported by adequate evidence.
2. The relationship between satisfaction/happiness of the workers and productivity was established through simplistic assumptions, while in reality the situation is more complex due to behavioural phenomena.
3. Furthermore, all these studies failed to focus on the attitudes of the workers, which played a crucial role in influencing their performance and productivity.
Abraham Maslow, Douglas McGregor, Chris Argyris, and other contributors made significant contributions to the behavioural school of thought. Maslow and McGregor’s contributions are in the shape of theories of motivation. While Maslow focused on the importance of human needs, which are the major driving forces for human motivation, McGregor made certain assumptions about people, categorizing them under theory X or theory Y.
Theory X essentially represents a negative view about people—that people are lazy have little ambition, dislike work, avoid responsibility, and require directions to work. Theory Y on the contrary, assumes, that people are more positive, capable of self-control, are innovative and creative, and do not inherently dislike work. Here, we have not discussed these theories in detail. We are only acknowledging their contributions to the behavioural school of thought.
Chris Argyris’s contributions to the behavioural school of thought are extremely important. His contributions are the maturity-immaturity theory, the integration of individual and organizational goals, and the Model I and Model II patterns. According to the maturity-immaturity theory, people progress from a stage of immaturity and dependence to a state of maturity and independence.
If organizations keep their employees in a dependent state, they allow them to remain immature and thereby prevent them from achieving their potential. Further, he also contended that a formal organization develops a rigid structure, compelling people to behave in an immature way. This leads to incongruence between the individual and organizational goals, hinders organizational development, results in failure, and fosters frustration and conflict.
People therefore exhibit signs of aggression, regression, and suppression. Model I and Model II patterns are two different assumptions. Workers in Model I type-organizations are motivated by the desire to manipulate others and protect themselves from others, while workers in Model II type-organizations are less manipulative and more willing to learn and take risks. Argyris therefore suggested that managers should always try to create a Model II type-organization.
Rensis Likert and Peter F. Drucker have also contributed significantly to this school of thought in 1967 and 1954, respectively. Likert attributes low productivity and poor morale of the employees to a typical job-centred supervision technique. He has suggested some typical leadership styles to ensure better productivity and improved the morale of the workers. Drucker on the other hand pioneered several modem management concepts in the fields of innovation’ creativity, problem solving, organizational design, MBO, etc..
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- STRENGTH: Scientific credibility. ...
- STRENGTH: Real-life application. ...
- WEAKNESS: Mechanistic view of behaviour. ...
- WEAKNESS: Environmental determinism. ...
- WEAKNESS: Ethical and practical issues in animal experiments.
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- Behaviour therapy ignores the significance of self or self-consciousness and does not consider the resourcefulness and imagination of the individual.
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- - based on past experience. Psychological situation – the situation as defined by the person.