MGT111 Introduction to Public Administration GDB Solution Fall 2013

Discussion Question:

Compare Classical School of Thought with Human Relation School of Thought and evaluate which one is better for a Public Sector Organization, and why? Provide at least four logical reasons to support your choice.


Human relations theory focuses on the value, needs and contribution of the employee; classical theory’s emphasis is the good of the organisation and the work.

The classical management approach was developed during the Industrial Revolution in order to cope with the problems that arose in the factories. The classical approach attempted to find the best way form performing and managing tasks. It consisted of classical scientific school and the classical administrative school. This approach suggested the development of standard methods for doing jobs and the people were trained and they worked more like machines. Every person has his own specialized work and he had to do it. This approach emphasized on the work element and did not see the workers as human beings but machines.
The Human Relations school of management started focusing on the humans working on the tasks. This aimed at increasing the work productivity through collaboration and it saw work as a group activity. This approach also used the most popular Maslow’s hierarchy of needs which stated that every human being has some needs which affects his performance and motivation. These needs in the order from the most basic are Physiological needs, Safety needs, Social needs, Esteem needs and Self-actualization needs. Mayo

Elton Mayo (1880 – 1949) believed that workers are not just concerned with money but could be better motivated by having their social needs met whilst at work (something that Taylor ignored). He introduced the Human Relation School of thought, which focused on managers taking more of an interest in the workers, treating them as people who have worthwhile opinions and realising that workers enjoy interacting together.

Mayo conducted a series of experiments at the Hawthorne factory of the Western Electric Company in Chicago

He isolated two groups of women workers and studied the effect on their productivity levels of changing factors such as lighting and working conditions. He expected to see productivity levels decline as lighting or other conditions became progressively worse What he actually discovered surprised him: whatever the change in lighting or working conditions, the productivity levels of the workers improved or remained the same.

From this Mayo concluded that workers are best motivated by:

Better communication between managers and workers ( Hawthorne workers were consulted over the experiments and also had the opportunity to give feedback)

Greater manager involvement in employees working lives ( Hawthorne workers responded to the increased level of attention they were receiving)

Working in groups or teams. ( Hawthorne workers did not previously regularly work in teams)

In practice therefore businesses should re-organise production to encourage greater use of team working and introduce personnel departments to encourage greater manager involvement in looking after employees’ interests. His theory most closely fits in with a paternalistic style of management.

Comparing the classical and human relations school

Dimensions Human Relations Model        Classical Management Theory


Emerged in an era of social ethic, government involvement and economic environment of depression


Arose in an era when the need to reap efficiencies of large-scale production had to be fulfilled in the presence of an immigrant work force of low education
Assumptions about

human beings 

Social man Economic man
Assumption about


Stable environment(implicit assumptions)   Stable environment(mostly implicit assumptions)
Central problem of management Buliding cooperative systems for efficiency


Control for efficiency


Manipulate workers by building informal relations

(e.g.: giving attention)


Job and organization design
Approach to

management solutions

Universal solutions are feasible Universal solutions are feasible