The Hawthorne studies created quite a stir among managers, providing the foundation for an entirely new school of management thought that came to be known as the human relations movement. The basic premises underlying the human relations movement are that people respond primarily to their social environment, that motivation depends more on social needs than on economic needs, and that satisfied employees work harder than unsatisfied employees. This perspective represented a fundamental shift away form the philosophy and values of scientific management and classical organization theory.

The behavioral theory of management holds that all people (including employees) have complex needs, desires, and attitudes. The fulfillment of needs is the goal toward which employees are motivated. Effective leadership matches need-fulfillment rewards with desired behaviors (tasks) that accomplish organizational goals.

The values of the human relationists are perhaps best exemplified by the works of Douglas McGregor and Abraham Maslow. McGregor is best known for his classic book The Human Side of Enterprise, in which he identified two opposing perspectives that he believed typified managerial views of employees. Some managers, McGregor said, subscribed to what he labeled Theory X. Theory X, which takes a pessimistic view of human nature and employee behavior, is in many ways consistent with the tenets of scientific management. A much more optimistic and positive view of employees is found in Theory Y. Theory Y, which is generally representative of the human relations perspective, was the approach McGregor himself advocated. Assumptions of Theory X and Theory Y are summarized in Exhibit 2.


In 1943, Abraham Maslow published a pioneering psychological theory applicable to employee motivation that became well known and widely accepted among managers. Maslow`s theory assumes that motivation arises from a hierarchical series of needs. As the needs of each level are satisfied, the individual advances to the next level.

Although the Hawthorne studies and the human relations movement played major roles in developing the foundations for the field of organizational behavior, some of the early theorists` basic premises and assumptions were found to be incorrect. For example, most human relationists believed that employee attitudes such as job satisfaction are the major causes of employee behaviors such as job performance. However, this is usually not the case at all. Also, many of the human relationists` views were unnecessarily limited and situation specific. As a result, there was still plenty of room for refinement and development in the emerging field of human behavior in organizations.

Toward Organizational Behavior

Most scholars would agree that organizational behavior began to emerge as a mature field of study in the late 1950s and early 1960s. That period saw the field`s evolution from the simple assumptions and behavioral models of the human relationists to the concepts and methodologies of a scientific discipline. Since that time, organizational behavior as a scientific field of inquiry has made considerable strides, although there have been occasional steps backward as well. Many of the ideas discussed in this book have emerged over the past two decades. We turn now to contemporary organizational behavior.

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