Management theory

The human relations and human factors approaches were absorbed into a broad behavioural science movement in the 1950’s and 1960’s. This period produced some influential theories on the motivation of human performance. For example, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs provided an individual focus on the reasons why people work. He argued that people satisfied an ascending series of needs from survival, through security to eventual ‘self-actualization’.

In the same period, concepts of job design such as job enrichment and job enlargement were investigated. It was felt that people would give more to an organization if they gained satisfaction from their jobs. Jobs should be designed to be interesting and challenging to gain the commitment of workers – a central theme of HRM.

Classic theories were produced in the 1950s and 1960s within the human relations framework. By the 1970s most managers participating in formal management training were aware of: Theory X and Theory Y (McGregor, 1960); of Maslow and Herzberg’s motivation theories; and knew where they should be in terms of the managerial grid (Blake and Mouton, 1964). These theorists advocated participative, ‘soft’ approaches to management. However, only a minority of managers in the USA received such training, with even fewer in other countries. Most operational managers – concerned with production, engineering, or distribution – had worked their way up from low-level jobs: they were probably closer in spirit to F.W. Taylor than the theorists of the 1950s and 1960s. This contrasted with personnel departments with a higher proportion of people who had received academic training; additionally, ‘personnel’ was an area where women were prevalent – as opposed to production which was male dominated. Were women naturally more open to human relations concepts than men?

Human Resource Management, 4th edition summarizes other key management theories, including management by objectives, contingency, organizattional development, strategic management, leadership and corporate culture.

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