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How Behavioral Theories Relate to Business Communication

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  • 0:03 Classical Theories of…
  • 0:41 Behavioral Theory of…
  • 1:18 The Hawthorne Experiments
  • 3:05 Business Communication Today
  • 3:24 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kat Kadian-Baumeyer

Kat has a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Management and teaches Business courses.

Behavioral theories of management affect workplace communication in positive ways leading to a more productive workforce. Learn about these theories based on understanding employee behavior as it relates to motivation, conflict, and group dynamics.

Classical Theories of Management

Way back before managers thought about how employees feel, they relied on the classical theories of management to get work done. These theories were based solely on how to maximize productivity by treating employees like machines. In other words, managers did not account for their employees' needs and wants. Communication between managers and employees was strictly by the book. Rules, policies, and procedures were handed down in a hierarchical system from top management down to staffers.

Over time, a few behavioral scientists began thinking about whether the classical theory really works. This inspired the shift from production-based management to a more human approach.

Behavioral Theory of Management

Behavioral theories of management considers employee satisfaction with their job, workplace, and relationships. This consideration led to the understanding that employees should be treated like humans, with recognition of their needs and wants, and that communication should take these important factors into account. This shift from classical theory to a more human-focused form of communication encouraged two-way conversations between management and employees. It removed the formal one-way system and replaced them with an open exchange of ideas. Elton Mayo's Hawthorne experiments will help to explain the connection between behavioral theories and business communication.

The Hawthorne Experiments

Back in the 1920's, psychologist Elton Mayo and a colleague were given a grant to study the effects of different lighting on employee productivity at the Western Electric Hawthorne Works site. The intent of the study was to determine whether artificial lighting in production plants would make employees work harder. As Elton and his colleague manipulated the production plant's illumination, workers became more productive. In highly illuminated rooms, dark rooms, rooms with natural light - it didn't matter. Employees were more productive under every possible condition.

This shocked the researchers. They had to try this with a different set of employees, so they gathered a sample of female workers and segregated them from the others. As the study continued, Elton manipulated things like pay rates, hours, temperature, rest periods, and bonuses. They measured productivity during changes and realized that the female employees were, just like the previous sample, more productive. In fact, by year two of the experiment, the ladies were a whopping 30% more productive, and absenteeism was significantly reduced.

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