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BEHAVIORAL THEORIES OF MANAGEMENT
Organizational behavior (OB) research has contributed much of what we know about behavioral views of
management, human resources management, motivation, leadership, trust, teamwork, and conflict
Four people stand out as early advocates of the OB approach. These include Robert Owen, Hugo
Munsterberg, Mary Parker Follett, and Chester Barnard.
Robert Owen, a successful Scottish businessman, proposed a utopian workplace.
Hugo Munsterberg created the field of industrial psychology--the scientific study of individuals at
work to maximize their productivity and adjustment.
Mary Parker Follett was a social philosopher who thought the manager's job was to harmonize and
coordinate group efforts.
Chester Barnard, president of New Jersey Bell Telephone Company, saw organizations as social
systems that required human cooperation.
He believed that managers' major roles were to communicate and stimulate subordinates to
high levels of effort.
He also introduced the idea that managers have to examine the environment and then
adjust the organization to maintain a state of equilibrium.
Hugo Munsterbeg (1863-1916) is considered to be the "father of industrial psychology" and is regarded by
students of psychology as an important figure as Frederick Taylor is by students of management.
Munsterberg attempted to develop practical applications of psychology. He argued that psychologists could
help industry in three major areas:
Finding ways to identify individuals best suited to particular jobs.
Identifying the psychological conditions for optimum efficiency.
Finding ways to influence individual behavior to be congruent with
Mary Parker Follett (1868-1933) brought to management the perspectives of political science and social
work. She identified:
The importance of the functioning of groups, not just individuals, in
The principle of "power with" rather than "Power over" in management-
Conflict resolution through integration, i.e., finding a solution to a conflict
that would satisfy both parties.
The achievement of integrative unity, whereby the organization operates
as a functional whole, with the various interrelated parts working together
effectively to achieve organizational goals.
The Hawthorne Studies
Without question, the most important contribution to the developing Organization Behavior field came out
of the Hawthorne Studies, a series of studies conducted at the Western Electric Company Works in
Cicero, Illinois. These studies, started in 1924 and continued through the early 1930s, were initially designed
by Western Electric industrial engineers as a scientific management experiment. They wanted to examine
the effect of various illumination levels on worker productivity.
Control and experimental groups were set up with the experimental group being exposed to various lighting
intensities, and the control group working under a constant intensity. If you were one of the industrial
engineers in charge of this experiment, what would you have expected to happen? That individual output in
the experimental group would be directly related to the intensity of the light? Seems perfectly logical,
Principles of Management MGT503
doesn't it? However, they found that as the level of light was increased in the experimental group, output
for both groups increased. Then, much to the surprise of the engineers, as the light level was decreased the
productivity decrease was observed in the experimental group only when the level of light was reduced to
that of a moonlit night. What would explain these un-excluded that illumination intensity was not directly
related to group productivity, and that something else must have contributed to the results. However, they
weren't able to pinpoint what that "something else" was.
In 1927, the Western electric engineers asked Harvard professor Elton Mayo and his associates to join the
study as consultants. Thus began a relationship that would last through 1932 and encompass numerous
experiments in the redesign of jobs, changes in workday and workweek length, introduction of rest periods,
and individual versus group wage plans.9 For example, one experiment was designed to evaluate the effect
of a group piecework incentive pay system on group productivity.
Hawthorne studies reflected the scientific management tradition of seeking greater efficiency by
improving the tools and methods of work--in this case, lighting.
In the first set of studies, no correlation was found between changes in lighting conditions
and individual work performance. In fact, performance nearly always went up with any
change--brighter or darker--in illumination.
In the second set of studies, the concept of the Hawthorne effect emerged. The
Hawthorne effect refers to the possibility that individuals singled out for a study may
improve their performance simply because of the added attention they receive from the
researchers, rather than because of any specific factors being tested in the study.
The third set of studies centered on group production norms and individual motivation.
Although simplistic and methodologically primitive, the Hawthorne studies established the
impact that social aspects of the job (and the informal group) have on productivity.
Human Relations Movement: This movement was an attempt to equip managers with the social skills
Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) developed a theory of motivation that was based on three assumptions
about human nature.
Human beings have needs that are never completely satisfied.
Human behavior is aimed at satisfying the needs that are yet unsatisfied at
a given point in time.
Needs fit into a somewhat predictable hierarchy ranging from basic,
lower-level needs to higher-level needs:
Belongingness or social
Self-actualization (highest and NOT achieved by everyone)
Douglas McGregor (1906-1964) developed the Theory X and Theory Y dichotomy about the
assumptions managers make about workers and how these assumptions affect behavior.
Theory X managers tend to assume that workers are lazy, need to be
coerced, have little ambition, and are focused on security needs. These
managers then treat their subordinates as if these assumptions were true.
Theory Y managers tend to assume that workers do not inherently
dislike work, are capable of self-control, have the capacity to be creative
and innovative, and generally have higher-level needs that are often not
met on the job. These managers then treat their subordinates as if these
assumptions were true.
Workers, like all of us, tend to work up or down to expectations.
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The Behavioral Science Approach:
It emphasizes scientific research as the basis for developing theories about human behavior in organizations
that can be used to develop practical guidelines for managers.
The emphasis is upon developing useful tools for managers. Unlike Scientific
Management from the Classical Era, the findings in behavioral studies are often
somewhat difficult to find with mathematical certainty. That does not mean
however, that the scientific approach should not be attempted nor that the
findings of such an approach are any less useful.
An example is the idea of improving performance by setting goals the individual
finds to be attainable yet not too easy.
Contributions of the behavioral viewpoint:
Spotlight the managerial importance of such factors as communication, group
dynamics, motivation, and leaders.
Articulates practical applications of behavioral studies.
Draws on the findings of a number of disciplines such as management,
psychology, sociology, anthropology, and economics.
Highlights the importance of an organization's members as active human
resources rather than passive tools.
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