Essay on the Behavioural Approach to Management (1401 Words)

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It moves away from supervisory procedures and industrial engineering techniques such as time and motion study and focusses on increase in production and managerial efficiency through an understanding of the people. Central to this approach is an increased understanding of the individual worker with emphasis on motivation, needs, interpersonal relationships and group dynamics.

Some of the major contributors to the behavioural aspects of management are:

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i. Mary Parker Follett…. Group influences.

ii. Elton Mayo … Hawthorne experiments and the impact of human motivation on productivity.

iii. Abraham Maslow … Hierarchy of human needs.

iv. Douglas McGregor… Theory X and theory Y.

v. Chris Argyris… Human and organizational development.

Mary Parker Follett (1868 – 1933):

One of the early proponents of behavioural approach to management, Mary Parker Follett was a social worker who became interested in employment and worker issues.

She laid the groundwork for studies in group interaction and group dynamics and believed that instead of preparing and training managers to give orders, they should be trained to work with employees so that together they can attain the organizational goals.

She suggested that “power”, which is the ability to influence change, should be jointly developed in a cooperative manner, involving employees and managers working together. Her concept of “integration”, which is the “harmonious blending of the differences of group members to produce a solution acceptable to all”, heralded modern methods of conflict resolution.

Elton Mayo (1880 – 1949):

Elton Mayo, along with F.J. Roethlisberger (1896-1974), conducted the famous Hawthorne experiments (1924-1932) at the Hawthorne plant of Western Electric Company. These experiments proved to be a milestone in the development of the Behavioural School of Management.

These studies were primarily conducted to determine the effect of better physical facilities and material incentives on worker output. These studies showed that better physical environment or increased economic benefits alone were not sufficient motivators in increasing productivity. In effect, the emphasis shifted to psychological and social forces, in addition to economic forces. Mayo discovered that when workers are given special attention by management, the productivity is likely to increase irrespective of actual changes in the working conditions.

The Hawthorne experiments suggested that an office or a factory is not only a work place but also a social environment in which the employees interact with each other. This gave rise to the concept of the “social man, whose interactions with others would determine the quality and quantity of the work produced.

As one writer has pointed out, “No other theory or set of experiments has stimulated more research and controversy nor contributed more to a change in management thinking than the Hawthorne studies and the human relations movement they spawned.”

Even though Hawthorne studies have been criticized because of some major flaws in conducting the study (such as changing several factors at the same time) and some important factors, such as the impact of financial incentives were sometimes ignored in drawing conclusions, they were primarily responsible for consideration of non-financial incentives in improving productivity.

Accordingly, it must be understood that inspite of the fact that the social environment is an important factor in improving the quality and the output, it does not replace economic benefits, specially for low level salaried workers.

Abraham Maslow (1908-1970):

In support of Mayo’s contention and findings, Abraham Maslow presented a theory of individual needs. The basic aim of this theory is to increase the organizational effectiveness of its human resources which could be achieved by properly taking care of human needs of people in the organization.

These human needs could be physiological or psychological. According to Maslow, these needs fall into a hierarchy. At the bottom of the hierarchy are the lower level needs which are biological in nature and are necessary for survival. At the upper level are the psychological needs which are the needs for growth and self- fulfillment. In general, the lower level needs must be satisfied before the higher level needs arise. The human needs, according to hierarchy are: physiological (lowest), safety, social, esteem and self actualization (highest).

Maslow’s work dramatized to managers that workers have needs beyond the basic requirement of earning a living. Being aware of these needs enables a manager to use different methods to motivate workers.

This is important and significant because of the complexity of human nature. Different people will react differently to the same situation or their reaction may be similar to different situations. Hence, management must be aware of these differences and act accordingly.

Douglas McGregor (1906 – 1964):

A professor of industrial management, for most part of his career, at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Douglas McGregor contributed to management thought by suggesting two alternative views of management towards employees.

He developed the concept of theory X and theory Y, a dichotomy dealing with the possible assumptions that managers make about workers. These assumptions are summarized as follow:

Theory X Assumptions:

1. Most people dislike work and avoid it whenever possible.

2. They need to be directed, controlled and threatened with punishment in order to move them to work and achieve organizational goals.

3. An average person is lazy, shuns responsibility, prefers to be directed, has little ambition and is only concerned with his security.

4. Most people avoid leading and want to be led.

Theory Y Assumptions:

1. Work is natural to most people and they enjoy the physical and mental effort involved in working, similar to rest or play.

2. Commitment to objectives is also a natural state for most individuals. They will exercise self direction and self control in pursuit and achievement of organizational objectives.

3. The average person learns, under proper conditions, not only to accept but to seek responsibility.

4. Commitment to goals and objectives is a function of the rewards available, especially the rewards of recognition and appreciation.

5. Most people have the capacity for innovation and creativity for solving organizational problems.

6. Many individuals seek leadership rather than the security of being led.

McGregor believed that managers who hold theory X assumptions are likely to treat workers accordingly. As a result, managers often find that employees respond in ways that reinforce these assumptions. On the other hand, managers who hold theory Y assumptions treat their workers as committed and responsible persons and give them more latitude in performing their tasks.

These managers encourage innovation and creativity, minimize the use of supervision and controls and redesign the work to make it more interesting and satisfying with regard to higher level needs of workers. They integrate individual goals with organizational goals so that with commitment and dedication, both goals are achieved at the same time.

It must be understood, however, that in some situations where workers do require greater controls, Theory X assumptions are more effective in achieving organizational goals.

Chris Argyris:

A Yale University professor, Chris Argyris believed that people normally progress from a state of immaturity and dependence to a state of maturity and independence along a continuum.

According to him, mature people are active, not passive; independent, not dependent and self- aware and self-controlled. He also believed that most organizational structures inhibit maturity and healthy personality.

i. Division of labour limits initiative and self-expression.

ii. Chain of command inhibits self control and self-direction and makes individuals passive and dependent on the leader.

iii. Unity of direction puts the leader in a position of control which creates problems when employees are unable to express their abilities and innovative skills.

Argyris believes that organizations can evolve out of the formal structure with managers changing to Theory Y assumptions. In this changed model, organizations are governed by a very different set of values. They:

a. Give workers access to information so that they can make informed judgements.

b. Allow workers to be innovative in setting up their own work environments within the general organizational guidelines.

c. Give employees the freedom but do set up a system for monitoring the results of workers’ decisions.

Argyris concluded that it is in the interest of the organization to give workers more responsibility and control over their work environment.


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