The Human Relations Movement: Definition and Significance to Organizational Behavior

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  • 0:07 Human Relations Movement
  • 0:59 Early Framework
  • 2:16 Current Application to OB
  • 3:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Lombardo
The human relations movement in organizational behavior focuses on the person as an individual and not as just another part of the mechanics of production. The implementation of this theory decreases turnover, absenteeism and poor job commitment.

Human Relations Movement

Have you ever felt as if you were insignificant to your company? Did your work seem more concerned about profits and sales than your own job motivation, interests and attitudes? For many years, companies ignored an employee's own personal development. This, in turn, led to negative attitudes, high turnover, high absenteeism and poor job commitment.

When companies focus only on the production and profits of their business, they ignore the human behavioral issues of people. The human relations movement in organizational behavior focuses instead on the person as an individual and analyzes what motivates and cultivates their achievement in a work setting. Employee attitudes towards work became important to a successful company. Let's take a jaunt back in time to see how the movement became a significant part of organizational behavior (OB).

Early Framework

In the early 1900s, the framework for the human relations movement was being built. Companies realized that a monetary incentive was not the only factor to increasing production. Elton Mayo, an organizational psychologist, was the father of the human relations movement. He was the first to realize that worker output and satisfaction were linked to social factors, such as the way employees were treated on the job.

The 1927 Hawthorne experiment further proved the relationship between the understanding of worker psychology and output. In this experiment, psychologists developed a theory that additional lighting would have a positive effect on worker factory output. They increased the lighting and they were correct, as production soared. In addition, the scientists lowered the lighting to a dismal amount assuming that production would fall.

Surprisingly, production increased even more, and this led to the discovery that the factory workers were overperforming because they knew they were being watched as part of the study. This result became known as the Hawthorne effect. The attention from the study made them feel important and resulted in better output. This solidified the acceptance of the human relations movement.

Current Application to OB

Messy Chocolates has been in operation for over 10 years. They manufacture giant milk and dark chocolate bars nationwide. Their factory consists of 200 workers who produce the bars in three different shifts. The company pays a solid rate of $15 an hour. The company leaders have noticed that although their employees are well paid, the overall production is on a yearly decline. The human resources department has suggested that the company adopt a human relations philosophy with their employees. They have completed an internal audit and will adopt three key elements of the theory, which are:

  • Key work groups/teams
  • Excellent upward communication
  • Superior leadership

Teams are an important aspect of the human relations movement. The teams are workers placed together, and the overall socialization of the individuals provides motivation and productivity.

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