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Human Relations as Fitting People Into Work Situations

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Human Relations

Owners and managers of profit and nonprofit organizations define human relations as fitting people into work situations so as to motivate them to work together harmoniously. The process of fitting together should achieve higher levels of productivity for the organization, while also bringing employees economic, psychological, and social satisfaction. Human Relations occurs on several levels. Individuals interact in a variety of settings—as peers, subordinates, and supervisors. No matter what the setting, relationships are built. All types of groups exist in an organization.

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Human relations cover all types of interactions among people—their conflicts, cooperative efforts, and group relationships. It is the study of why our beliefs, attitudes and behaviors sometimes cause interpersonal conflict in our personal lives and in work-related situations.

Human Relations Movement

Although it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when the human relations movement began, most researchers agree that the earliest developments emerged in the mid-1800s. In the beginning, the focus was mainly on improving efficiency, motivation, and productivity.

But over time, this research became more involved with redefining the nature of work and perceiving workers as complex human beings.

Around the turn of the century, Frederick Taylor and other researchers interested in industrial problems introduced the concept of scientific management. They believed that productivity could be improved by breaking down a job into isolated, specialized tasks and assigning each of those tasks to specific workers. Taylor’s work was sharply criticized by those who believed it exploited workers. Critics say that he did not foresee that his theories would be applied in ways that dehumanized the workplace. (Wray et al 1996)

At a time when, employees were considered just another input into the production of goods and services, what perhaps changed this way of thinking about employees was research, referred to as the Hawthorne Studies conducted by Elton Mayo during 1924 – 1932 (Dickson, 1973). This study found employees are not motivated solely by money and employee behavior is linked to their attitudes (Dickson, 1973). The Hawthorne Studies began the human relations approach to management, whereby the needs and motivation of employees become the primary focus of managers (Bedeian, 1993). These were followed by researches that completely shifted the focus to employees. For example, Maslow’s Need-Hierarchy, Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory, Vroom’s Expectancy Theory, Adams’ Equity Theory, and Skinner’s Reinforcement Theory.

According to Maslow, employees have five levels of needs (Maslow, 1943): physiological, safety, social, ego, and self- actualizing. Maslow argued that lower level needs had to be satisfied before the next higher level need would motivate employees. Herzberg’s work categorized motivation into two factors: motivators and hygiene’s (Herzberg, Mausner, & Snyderman, 1959). Motivator or intrinsic factors, such as achievement and recognition, produce job satisfaction. Hygiene or extrinsic factors, such as pay and job security, produce job dissatisfaction.

Vroom’s theory is based on the belief that employee effort will lead to performance and performance will lead to rewards (Vroom, 1964). Rewards may be either positive or negative. The more positive the reward the more likely the employee will be highly motivated. Conversely, the more negative the reward the less likely the employee will be motivated.

Adams’ theory states that employees strive for equity between themselves and other workers. Equity is achieved when the ratio of employee outcomes over inputs is equal to other employee outcomes over inputs (Adams, 1965).

Skinner’s theory simply states those employees’ behaviors that lead to positive outcomes will be repeated and behaviors that lead to negative outcomes will not be repeated (Skinner, 1953). Managers should positively reinforce employee behaviors that lead to positive outcomes. Managers should negatively reinforce employee behavior that leads to negative outcomes.

Regardless of which theory is followed, interesting work and employee pay appears to be important links to higher motivation of centers’ employees. Options such as job enlargement, job enrichment, promotions, internal and external stipends, monetary, and non-monetary compensation should be considered.

Human Relations As a Field of Study

To manage people, it’s important to understand their behavior, perceptions, ethics, attitudes, needs, wants, emotional tendencies and personalities. This is where the field of human relations acquires greater importance. It is an interdisciplinary field because the study of human behavior in organizational settings draws on the fields of communications, management, psychology, and sociology. It is an important field of study because all workers engage in human relations activities. Several trends have given new importance to human relations due to the changing workplace. (Wray et al 1996)

The labor market has become a place of constant change due to the heavy volume of mergers, buyouts, a labor shortage, closings, and changing markets. These changes have been accompanied by layoffs and the elimination of product lines. Even those industries noted for job security have recently engaged in layoffs. As the United States attempts to cope with rapid technological change and new competition from international companies, there is every reason to believe that we will see more volatility in the labor force. Interpersonal skills will be even more critical in the future.

Organizations are developing an increasing orientation toward service to clients. Relationships are becoming more important than physical products. Therefore, employees must not only be able to get along with customers; they must also project a favorable image of the organization they represent. Most organizations recognize improved quality is the key to survival. And human beings are at the heart of the quality movement because workers are given the power and responsibility to improve quality.

The demographics of the workplace are also changing. Diversity is more and more typical. In the years ahead, a large majority of those entering the work force will be women and minorities. Passage of the American with Disabilities Act in 1990 opened the employment door to more people with physical or mental impairments. Supervisors will need to become skilled at managing diversity. Today’s managers need to shift their roles from manager as order-giver to manager as facilitator. They must also learn how to assume the roles of teacher, mentor, and resource person. (Wray et al 1996)

Finally, Perhaps the single most important aspect of designing any work environment is the plan that links all workers and supervisors with multiple channels of communication. Good communication may be cited as the most important component of sound human relations.


Adams, J. S. (1965); Inequity in social exchange; In L. Berkowitz (ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology; New York: Academic Press.

Bedeian, A. G. (1993); Management (3rd ed.); New York: Dryden Press.

Dickson, W. J. (1973); Hawthorne experiments. In C. Heyel (ed.), The encyclopedia of management, 2nd ed. (pp. 298-302); New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Herzberg, F., Mausner, B., & Snyderman, B. B. (1959); The motivation to work; New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Maslow, A. H. (1943); A theory of human motivation; Psychological Review; July 1943; 370-396.

Skinner, B. F. (1953); Science and Human Behavior; New York: Free Press.

Vroom, V. H. (1964); Work and motivation; New York: Wiley

Wray, Ralph, Luft, Roger, and Highland, Patrick. (1996). “Fundamentals of Human Relations: Applications for Life and Work”. Cincinnati, OH: Southwestern Publishing.

Qualitative and Quantitative Techniques

Rapid social change and the resulting diversification of life worlds are increasingly confronting social researchers with new social contexts and perspectives. These are so new for them that their traditional deductive methodologies – deriving research questions and hypotheses from theoretical models and testing them against empirical evidence – are failing in the differentiation of objects.

Qualitative research is an inductive method of collecting and analyzing data, particularly through primary research. Whilst not predominating above quantitative research, it is most commonly applicable in the social sciences, human relations and psychology, like action research, where concepts that cannot always be expressed with numbers are measured (Berg, 2004). Such abstract concepts ultimately regard the quality of circumstances, including particular persons, time, place and additional descriptive characteristics; these variable qualities are thus offered a framework in which to be compared to each other. Qualitative research demands specific understanding and focus on the subject at hand. Existing theories and working ideas are combined and refined during the data collection and analysis process, resulting in the outcome being of inherent temporal relevance (Neuman, 2007). This offers both a flexible and interactive research experience, which is reflective of the subject matter qualitative research typically concerns.

Qualitative research is a very thorough and integrated method of assessing a subject. It doesn’t just find out answers, it finds out the reasons for the answers and what inspires them. It doesn’t just observe and record behavior; it goes the extra step to find out what provokes that behavior. Where quantitative research accounts for what, where and when, qualitative research goes a step further to deduce why and how something happens.

Qualitative research uses the following four methods to gather information:

  1. Participation in the setting;

  2. Direct observation;

  3. In-depth interviews; and

  4. Analysis of documents and material

Rather than being based on hard statistics and concerned with quantities, qualitative research surveys a group to determine information at a deeper or more complex level. It’s less concerned with checking boxes and more concerned with finding out what makes them checked. Research of a participatory nature such as this is often referred to as Action Research.

Instead of handing around a series of Y/N questions to a large group of people as you might when conducting quantitative research, you would typically conduct more preparation when undertaking qualitative research with more concentrated audiences such as focus groups.

There are no pre-determined answers, no boxes to be shaded or numbers to be circled. Instead, qualitative research enables the researcher to gain detailed or more personal insight into a topic. You might ask an open question and record each of the different responses.

For this reason, qualitative research restricts a researcher from being able to compile results in a structured and organised manner. Interpretation of qualitative data is subjective and is at risk of being misinterpreted.

While qualitative research cannot provide concrete statistics or figures relating to a survey group, it can be of great use where extra feedback is required. When conducted alongside quantitative research, it it is a powerful tool that can provide a researcher with a strong cross-section of group opinion.

Quantitative research is an investigation that aims to quantify attitudes, behaviors or measure variables. Unlike qualitative research, quantitative research uses measurable data to form facts and patterns. Many argue that both types of research go hand in hand and a thorough investigation of a particular topic will cover both methods of research.

Quantitative research is typically conducted through surveys, telephone interviews, web surveys and intercepts. Questions are highly structured in this research and tend to be closed as opposed to open, to allow for measurable data rather than long responses. Quantitative research is performed on a far larger scale compared with qualitative research (in terms of the Sample size) and helps to provide accurate statistical data from which conclusions can be drawn.

Quantitative research generates numerical data or data that can be converted into numbers, for example clinical trials or the National Census, which counts people and households. Another example whereby quantitative research has been used to establish a relationship is between smoking tobacco and developing lung cancer. Researchers have been able to identify numerical patterns through statistical methods between the two to make justified Hypotheses.

Unlike qualitative research, whereby data often contains the participant’s personal beliefs, concerns and ideas in long responses; quantitative research gains numerical statistics, which can be greatly relied on in giving reliable data. Qualitative research is sometimes not as reliable since opinions are not numerical and do not necessarily possess factual substance.

For example:

• Quantitative: 97 per cent of the employees in the organization were satisfied with their jobs

• Qualitative: Many employees believed that the job security was one of the major factors for opting governmental jobs.

McBride and Schostak posit that: Quantitative research is not enough on its own as we need to ask, why? Smith argues that researchers sometimes favor one method over the other and their research tends to obfuscate more than it clarifies. Researchers can jump on a bandwagon then forget about making their research durable. Trochim argues that fundamentally, qualitative and quantitative research produce similar results since all qualitative data can be coded quantitatively, all quantitative data is based on qualitative judgment

Bernard argues “Assigning numbers to things makes it easier to do certain kinds of statistical analysis on qualitative data”. This may not be fact but it definitely has some type of validity as quantitative research methods construct statistical models in attempt to explain what is being observed. Bryman believes that others can repeat quantitative research methods, which is extremely important in physical and biological sciences. Piekkari and Welch argue that quantitative research is easier to understand and translate for the results, as it is a common way of doing research.

In the field of human relations, when these techniques are applied, then one has to begin with the qualitative techniques to make the initial observations or create an initial hypothesis. This is not possible without understanding of the subject in hand and the parameters affecting the results. Once an initial hypothesis has been developed, one can apply quantitative techniques to obtain the empirical evidence to support the hypothesis and subsequently recommend suitable actions.


Berg B (2004) Qualitative Research Methods for the Social Sciences (5th ed.) Pearson:Boston

Bernard, H (2006); Research Methods in Anthropology: Qualitative and Quantitative. pg 47 & 72; accessed June 20, 2008 from


Bryman, A. (2008) Research Methods and Organization Studies. pg 9 Accessed June 20, 2008 from


Flick U (2002) An Introduction to Qualitative Research (2nd ed.) Sage Publications:London

McBride, R and Schostak, J (1995) Qualitative Versus Quantitative Research. Enquiry Learning Unit. Accessed June 18,2008, from


Neuman W (2007) Basics of Social Research: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches (2nd ed.) Person:Boston

Piekkari, M.R and Welch,C.(2004); Handbook of Qualitative Research Methods for International: Publishing qualitative research in international business pg 573. Accessed June 20, 2008 from


Smith, J (1983) Qualitative Versus Quantitative Research: An Attempt to Clarify the Issue. American Educational Researcher, Vol. 12, No. 3 (Mar., 1983), pp. 6-13

Trochim, W. M.K. (2006) The Qualitative – Quantitative Debate. Social Research Methods. Accessed June 20, 2008. from


Cultural Development and Social Sciences


Cite this Human Relations as Fitting People Into Work Situations

Human Relations as Fitting People Into Work Situations. (2016, Oct 13). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/human-relations/

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