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The Human Relations Movement

Elton Mayo
(1880-1949)

 

Scientific management, at least in its current form, was not embraced by American workers.

When conflicts erupted, managers quickly understood that they had to cater to workers' QWL (quality of worklife) needs in order to improve control and productivity.

Teams/cooperation/improved communication are not new ideas.

When changes in HRM practices are not underlain by a sound theory that relates new HRM techniques to a long-term transformation of management philosophy, values and behaviors, the changes will have little staying power. They will last until the unique circumstances that have caused them disappear.

Frequently (perhaps always), disgruntled employees will find ways to circumvent and undermine the system, expressing their dissatisfaction with existing working conditions and management behavior.

 

 
What actually happened was that six individuals became a team and the team gave itself wholeheartedly and spontaneously to cooperation in the experiment. The consequence was that they felt themselves to be participating freely and without afterthought, and were happy in the knowledge that they were working without coercion from above or limitation from below (p. 72).

 
... the working group as a whole actually determined the output of individual workers by reference to a standard, predetermined but never clearly stated, that represented the group conception (rather than management's) of a fair day's work. This standard was rarely, if ever, in accord with the standards of the efficiency engineers (p. 79).

Mayo's thesis

 
 ... problems of absenteeism, labor turnover, 'wildcat' strikes, show that we do not know how to ensure spontaneity of cooperation; that is teamwork. Therefore, collaboration in an industrial society cannot be left to chance... (p. 10).


Authority therefore in actual exercise demands a capacity for vision and wise guidance that must be re-achieved daily: since the cooperation of others is a vital element in it, social understanding and social skill are involved equally with technical knowledge and capacity. ... we do nothing whatever to develop social insight or to impart social skill. Indeed we provide an education that operates to hinder the development of such skills. And the general public, business leaders, and politicians are left with the implication that mankind is an unorganized rabble upon which order must be imposed (p. 50).



 

Man's desire to be continuously associated in work with his fellows is a strong, if not the strongest, human characteristic. Any disregard of it by management or ill-advised attempt to defeat this human impulse leads to some form of defeat for management itself (p. 111)

   



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