Human Relations Theory

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Human Relations Theory


a concept regarding the principles and goals of management in organizations, especially in industry, that developed in bourgeois social science. The theory arose in the 1920’s in the USA as the attitudinal and methodological basis of the industrial sociology of labor. Its leading advocates were F. J. Roethlisberger, W. E. Moore, and E. Mayo in the USA and G. Friedmann in France.

Human relations theory developed as a response to Taylorism. Rejecting the biological and mechanistic approaches of F. W. Taylor’s “scientific management,” the human relations theory proposed the implementation of methods of dealing with workers as sociopsychological beings. As the basis of its new methods of intensifying and increasing labor productivity, the human relations theory proposed that human psychological and moral qualities—such as goals, motivation, and values—be taken into account. The use of empirical data on worker satisfaction with labor and the influence of collective demands and of the psychological climate in work groups on labor productivity spurred attempts to develop a program to harmonize the relations of different groups and individuals in order to bring about maximum efficiency in the operation of the organization as a whole. The program took into account requirements arising from modern technological progress. New technology and the automation and mechanization of production processes placed in the forefront the task of training workers capable of continual improvement of work habits. Moreover, it was determined that sweatshop methods of increasing worker productivity were ineffective. The practical needs of capitalist production encouraged the study of important problems within the framework of the human relations theory; such problems included factors fostering a positive or negative attitude toward labor and the influence of the work group on the individual; the effectiveness of forms and methods of supervision; and the improvement of conditions for work, relaxation, and leisure.

The term “human relations theory” reflects an attempt by bourgeois ideologists to pass off a program of measures as the humanization of labor that are of practical value for increasing profits. In fact, the human relations theory attempts to conceal or rationalize the profound social conflicts of capitalist society.


Drobnitskii, O. G. “Sotsial’nye i ideologicheskie osnovy doktriny ‘chelovecheskikh otnoshenii.’” Voprosy filosofii, 1960, no. 2.
Vil’khovchenko, E. D. Kritika sovremennoi burzhuaznoi teorii “chelovecheskikh otnoshenii” v promyshlennosti. Moscow, 1971.
Epshtein, S. Industrial’naia sotsiologiia v SShA. Moscow, 1972.
Mayo, E. The Social Problems of an Industrial Civilization. Boston, 1945.
Friedmann, G. Où va le travail humain?[Paris] 1953.
Etzioni, A. Modern Organizations. New Jersey, 1964.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
(4) Grey contends that human relations theory bears the same footprint of formal or instrumental rationality as that in scientific management.
Subjects addressed include: bureaucracy and scientific management, human relations theory and people management, organizational culture and self management, and business schools and the myth of management education.
The most obvious line of scholarship is to continue to understand the human dynamics of governance through human relations theory. A majority of studies of human dynamics in governance have focused on documenting demographics or characteristics of individuals involved (Gilmour, 1991; Pope & Miller, 1999; Reyes & Smith, 1987).
Sears drew on human relations theory to boost morale and provide for the psychological needs of its workforce.
Full browser ?