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Chapter 3 Classical Theories of Organizational Communication

PLEASE NOTE: This book is currently in draft form; material is not final.

What is Theory?

PLEASE NOTE: This book is currently in draft form; material is not final.

In this chapter, we are going to explore classical theories in organizational communication. Classical theories focus on organizational structure, analyzing aspects such as optimal organizational performance plans, organizational power relationships, and compartmentalizing different organizational units.Fisher, D. (2000). Communication in organizations (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Jaico. As organizational communication scholars these theories help us better appreciate, recognize, and comprehend interactions and behaviors. We will discuss how these theories work and apply to effectiveness of organizational communication.

What is theory? The word “theory” originally derives its name from the Greek word theoria, θεωρία, which roughly translated means contemplation or speculation. Modern understandings of the word “theory” are slightly different from the ancient Greeks, but the basic idea of contemplating an idea or speculating about why something happens is still very much in-line with the modern definition. A theory is a “group of related propositions designed to explain why events take place in a certain way.”Infante, D., Rancer, A., & Womack, D. (2003). Building communication theory (4th ed.). Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, pg. 356. Let’s break this definition down into its basic parts. First, a theory is a “group of related propositions,” which is a series of statements designed to be tested and discussed. Ultimately, these statements propose an explanation for why events take place and why the occur in specific fashions. For example, Sir Isaac Newton (of the claimed apple falling on his head) created the modern theory of gravity to explain why the different planets and stars didn’t go crashing into each other (very simplistic summation of his theory). While Newton’s theory of gravity was pretty good, it couldn’t account for everything so ultimately Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity came on the stage to further our understanding of how gravity actually works. In both cases, we have two well-respected researchers attempt to understand a basic phenomenon of our physical world, gravity. Just like physicists have been trying to understand why the planets rotate and don’t crash into each other, organizational scholars have attempted to create theories for how and why organizations structure themselves the way they do; why people behave the way they do in organizations; why leaders and followers interactions lead to specific outcomes, etc…

Eric Eisenberg and Lloyd Goodall wrote that “the way we talk about a problem directly influence the solutions we can articulate to address the problem. Theories of organization and communication should enhance our ability to articulate alternative ways of approaching and acting on practical issues (pg. 53).” They further noted that theories have two basic qualities: metaphoricalThe notion that theories provide a linguistic means of comparing and describing organizational communication and function. and historicalThe notion that we perceive theories in terms of the period in which they were created and were popular..Einsenberg, E. M., & Goodall, H. L., Jr. (1993). Organizational communication: Balancing creativity and constraint. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press. When we say that theories are metaphorical, we mean that theories provide a linguistic means of comparing and describing organizational communication and function. As you know from English, a metaphor is a figure of speech where a word or phrase is applied to an object or action, but the word does not literally apply to the object or action. In this chapter and Chapter 4 "Modern Theories of Organizational Communication" we’ll see theories comparing organizational phenomena to machines and biological organisms. On the other hand, when we say that theories are historical, we perceive theories in terms of the period in which they were created and were popular. Theories are historical because they are often a product of what was important and prevalent during that time. In this chapter, we’re going to examine three different theoretical periods commonly referred to as the classical perspective, human relations, and human resources. Each of these three groupings exist primarily as an opportunity of retrospective analysis. In other words, when we look back over the history of theoretical development in organizational communication, these three periods jump out as being uniquely different, so we ultimately group different ideas and important thought leaders together because of similarities in their theoretical approaches to organizing.

3.1 The Classical Perspective

PLEASE NOTE: This book is currently in draft form; material is not final.

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand Fredrick Taylor’s Scientific Management
  2. Explain the Bureaucratic Theory
  3. Describe Max Weber’s of Authority
  4. Discuss the implications of each classical perspective

To understand classical theories, a brief history of industrialization is really necessary. Industrialization, or the industrial revolution, refers to the “development and adoption of new and improved production methods that changed American and much of Europe from agrarian to industrial economies.”Scott, D. L. (Ed.). (2009). Industrial revolution. The American heritage dictionary of business terms. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, pg. 259. So, how did both Europe and American transform themselves from agrarian, or farming, based economies to industrial ones? To pinpoint a single event or invention that really created the industrial revolution is almost impossible. From approximately 1750 to 1850 a variety of innovations in agriculture, manufacturing (both iron and textiles), mining, technology, and transportation altered cultural, economic, political, and social realities. For the first time in history people stopped working on family farms or in small family owned businesses and started working for larger organizations that eventually morphed into the modern corporation. While there had been models of large organizations with massive influence, like the Catholic Church, these organizations had been very limited in number. As more and more people left the family farm or local weaver in hopes of bettering their lives and the lives of their families through employment in larger organizations, new tools and models for managing these workers had to be developed.

Perhaps, the most widely known theories of organizational communication are those during the classical period that stemmed out of the industrial revolution. The main idea of the classical perspectives of organizational communication is that organizations are similar to machines. Hence, if you have a well- built and well-managed machine, then you will have a very productive and effective organization. The assumption is that each employee is part of a large machine, which is the organization. It one part fails then the entire machine fails.

Fredrick Taylor’s Scientific Management

In 1913, Frederick Taylor published Principles of Scientific Management Taylor, F. (1913). Principles of scientific management. New York, NY: Harper. ushering in a completely new way of understanding the modern organization. Frederick Taylor was trained as an engineer and played a prominent role in the idea of scientific management. Scientific managementThis type of organization emphasizes management oriented and production-centered perspective of organizational communication. This approach believes that organizations should be run like machines. Worker must do labor and managers must do the thinking. There is limited communication. is a management oriented and production-centered perspective of organizational communication.Einsenberg, E. M., & Goodall, H. L., Jr. (1993). Organizational communication: Balancing creativity and constraint. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press. Taylor believed that the reason why most organizations failed was due to the fact that they lacked successful systematic management. He wrote that “the best management is true science resting upon clearly defined laws, rules, and principles, as a foundation.”Taylor, F. (1913). Principles of scientific management. New York: Harper, pg. 19. He further noted that “under scientific management arbitrary power, arbitrary dictation ceases, and every single subject, large and small, becomes question for scientific investigation, for reduction to law (p. 211).” Taylor believed that any job could be performed better if it was done scientifically. Taylor created time and motion studies that resulted in organizational efficiency.

Working as a foreman at on for the Bethlehem Steel Works in the 1900s, Taylor observed how workers could do more with less time. He analyzed coal shoveling at the organization. He noticed several workers would bring different size shovels from home. Workers who brought small shovels could do more but it took them longer and workers who brought big shovels could do less but it was faster. He observed that the best size shovel was one that weighed about twenty pounds. Hence, he ordered the organization to provide all the workers with the same size shovel. He also provided pay incentives for workers who could shovel more coal. By making these changes, the organization was able to increase production drastically.

In order to have a more productive organization, Taylor believed that there were several steps involved. First, one must examine the job or task. Second, one needs to determine the best way to complete the job or task. Third, one must choose the most appropriate person for the task at the same time properly compensating that person. Lastly, one must be able to train the person to do the task efficiently. Taylor believed that by using these scientific steps, then organizations would have fewer misuses of human effort.

Taylor’s idea of scientific management originated during the time in history when most training of workers was based on apprenticeship models. In an apprenticeship, a person would be taught and skilled by a more experienced person, who would illustrate the task so that the inexperienced person could model the behavior. Taylor believed that this was a very ineffective way of training because he felt that workers would differ in terms of tasks that were performed and the effectiveness of the tasks would be dependent on the type of training received. Taylor argued that the there should be only one way to explain the job and one way to execute the task. He did not believe that it should be left up to the expert to train apprentices on the task.

Overall, Taylor felt that employees were lazy and needed constant supervision. He posited that “the tendency of the average [employee] is toward working at a slow easy gait.” In other words, he noted that this tendency is called natural soldiering, which is affected by systematic soldiering, which occurs when employees decrease their work production based on input or communications from others. According to Taylor, systematic soldiering happens when employees feel that more production will not result in more compensation. In addition, if employees are paid by the hour and wanted to increase their income, then they might demonstrate that it takes more time in order to get compensated more than they would if they exerted more effort. Because Taylor feels that employees are inherently lazy, he feels that employees also impact the rate of production.

Taylor is known for his idea of time and motionThese are methods for calculating production efficiency by recording outcomes and time to produce those outcomes. A researcher can determine how long a worker needs to yield an expected result by measuring workers’ movements over time.. In other words, time and motion referred to a methods for calculating production efficiency by recording outcomes and time to produce those outcomes. Taylor believed that if each task was designed scientifically and the workers could be trained, then production could be measured by timing the labor the workers performed. It was his intention to create a work benchmark that could be quantified to improve efficiency and production outcomes. We should also mention that Taylor’s ideas on time and motion were ultimately furthered by the research of Frank Gilbreth who furthered the notion of time and motion by filming workers in action in an effort to gain a better idea of physical movements.Nadworny, M. J. (1957). Frederick Taylor and Frank Gilbreth: Competition in scientific management. Business History Review, 31, 23–34. In the following video, you can see the work of Frank Gilbreth, along with his wife Lilian, as they attempted to use time and motion techniques to make bricklaying more effective, productive, and profitable.

In this video, the original configuration of the scaffolding required a lot of bending motion on the part of the bricklayers. The bending motion not only took more time but also increase fatigue of the workers over a long day, which would make them less effective and productive. After completing the time and motion study, you see the second half of the video where the workers have actually created scaffolding for the bricks that does not involve bending over to pick up the bricks. Ultimately, this simple example clearly illustrates the impact that time and motion study techniques could have on making workers better.

Taylor felt that if organizations were run like machines, then it would be ideal, because all tasks were clear-cut and simple. At the same time, these tasks typically did not allow for flexibility, creativity, or originality. In addition, there is a clear cut distinction between managers who think and workers who labor. Thus, this perspective does not account for work motivations, relationships, and turbulence in organizations.

Another key factor about Taylor’s scientific method is the style of communication. Taylor did not feel the need to build rapport among workers. Rather, he felt that managers needed to communicate in a clear-cut and candid manner. Further, employees do not need to provide input, they just need to know how to execute their jobs.

While Taylor’s ideas quickly took off like wild fire, they were not without their detractors. As early as 1912, the U.S. Commission on Industrial Relations was raising skepticism about scientific management or what many were just calling Taylorism:

To sum up, scientific management in practice generally tends to weaken the competitive power of the individual worker and thwarts the formation of shop groups and weakens group solidarity; moreover, generally scientific management is lacking in the arrangements and machinery necessary for the actual voicing of the workers ideas and complaints and for the democratic consideration and adjustment of grievances.U. S. Commission on Industrial Relations (1912). A government evaluation of scientific management: Final report and testimony. Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, pg. 136.

Bureaucratic Theory

Max Weber and Henri Fayol were also two theorists known for their work in the classical perspectives to organizational communication. These two theories focuses on the structure of the organization rather than the organizational activities. Many of their ideas are around today.

Max Weber

Max Weber termed bureaucracyIdeals that organizations should try to attain. It also refers to selecting authority based on criterion and standards rather than by popularity or family relation. Hence, it makes organizational decisions harder to execute but it also protects’ workers from mistreatment, because there is order and structure to the communication. as the ideals in which organizations should aim for and aspire. Weber was influenced by socialist philosophy. He developed the idea of bureaucracy when he noticed several corrupt and unethical behaviors of leaders. He felt that organizational leaderships should center on task proficiency and impersonal relationships. Even though many people associate bureaucracy with red tape and ineffective organizations, this is not the outcome of bureaucracy. According to Weber, bureaucracy should be synonymous with order, consistency, reason, and reliability. In order to aspire to these traits, organizations need to have specific rules and emphasize impersonality. He noted that bureaucratic organization much have the following characteristics:

Specialization & Division of Labor

Specific set tasks allow employees to achieve its own objective. Thus, every worker did not have to do many jobs, but an exclusive task that was assigned to that worker. This helped to alleviate multiple trainings and increase production.

Rules & Procedures

Written policies help manage and direct the organization. Managers spend a majority of their time on how these policies help to guide and function in the organization. These procedures would serve as a guide and resource for the organization.

Hierarchy of Authority

Organizations need to have a chain of command that is shaped like a pyramid. There are levels of supervisors and subordinates. Each worker will answer to their corresponding superior. This would assist in having a direct line of communication and better efficiency in the organization.

Formal Communication

All decisions, rules, regulations, and behaviors are recorded. This information and communication will be shared in terms of the chain of command. Hence, everything is documented and accounted. There is no question in what needs to be done, because it is written down.

Detailed Job Descriptions

The organization has clear and concise definitions, directions, and responsibilities of each position. Each worker is aware of their task and how to employ.

Employment Based on Expertise

The organization will assign workers in positions that would fit their competencies. Hence, workers will be placed in the organization were they can maximize production.

Impersonal Environment

Relationships need to be impersonal and separate so that workers’ personal thoughts or feelings would not affect bias or decisions. Workers just need to work and they do not need to interact with others. Interpersonal relationships may jeopardize the organization’s outcomes.

Weber (1947)Weber, M. (1947). Essays on Sociology. New York: Oxford Press, pp. 196–198. categorized three types of authority: traditional, bureaucratic, and charismatic. Traditional authority is related to the backgrounds and traditions of an environment. This leadership is usually passed down from one family member to another without little regard to who is more apt or capable. Thus, authority is given to another based on custom or tradition. Think of family owned businesses and how those businesses usually do not let outsiders infer with it unless they are related to the family.

Charismatic authority is founded on the idea that the best candidate for this position will be the one who can exert authority. This person is usually charismatic, hence the name. If this person ever leaves the position, then their authority does as well. According to Weber, charismatic leaders are ones that lead to insecure and unpredictable organization because there is a vague idea of who will replace their position.

Another type of authority is bureaucratic. Weber felt that bureaucratic was the best way to delegate authority in an organization. Bureaucratic authority is founded on set objectives and criterion. Hence, the best leaders were bureaucratic leaders because they were picked in terms of the guidelines set out for that organization’s mission. Weber believed that bureaucratic authority was the ideal way to select authority because it neutralize thwarted ideas of nepotism, preferential treatment, prejudice, and discrimination. Hence, a candidate would be selected in terms of their job competency and not their linage or personality.

Table 3.1 Weber’s Types of Authority

Types of Authority
Traditional Charismatic Bureaucracy
Based on Family lineage Personality Rules & actions
Specialization None Charisma Technically qualified
Hierarchy Seniority Preferences Authority
Leadership Succession Family Popularity Most appropriate for the position
Communication Depends Depends Is written and has numerous records
Viewed as Nepotism Partisan Systematic

Henri Fayol

Fayol’s principles of management are similar to the military because there is unity in direction, unity in command, subordination of individual interests to the general interest, and order.

Henri FayolFayol, H. (1949). General and Industrial Management. London, England: Pitman. managed a French mining company, called Comambault, which he was able to transform from almost a bankrupt organization to a very successful one. Originally, he worked there as an engineer then moved into management, and later leadership. Similar to Weber, Fayol felt that their needed to be division of labor, hierarchy, and fair practices. Fayol believed that there were principles of management which included:

Unity of Direction

The organization should have the same objectives, one plan/goal, and one person of leadership/authority.

Unity of Command

Employees should get orders from only one person. Therefore, there would not be a chain in command. One person would be the person in charge and be responsible.


Managers have the entitlement to provide orders and obtain compliance. No other individuals in the organization have the privilege of power.


The organization must have set places for workers and resources. These should be in the right place at the correct time.

Subordination of Individual Interest to the General Interests

The interest of the organization is most significant and not those of the group or individuals working for the organization.

Scalar Chain

There is a hierarchical order of authority. There is a sequence and succession to how communication is transferred from one person to the other. This is similar to horizontal communication where workers of the same level communicate with each other.

Even though Fayol’s principles may appear to be strict, he was one of the first theorists to grasp the idea that having unconditional compliance with an organization may lead to problems. Hence, he also noted that each organization must determine the most favorable levels of authority.

All in all, communication in the classical perspective has two functions: control and commandOrganizations must limit their communication to precise and explicit words for task design and implementation. At the same time, communication is not spontaneous and is more centralized in a classical organization.. Fayol believes that organizations must limit their communication to precise and explicit words for task design and implementation. Thus, communication is not spontaneous and is more centralized in a classical organization.

Fayol also believed there were certain management activities. He felt there were five activities that are applied to the administration unit of an organization. These activities included: planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating, and controlling and controlling. As explained by Fayol, planning is where managers create plans for the organization and predict future organizational needs. Next, organizing occurs when organizations employ people and materials to complete their plans. Commanding is what managers do to get the optimal output in production and efficiency. Coordinating is where managers bring together the labors of all of its employees. Last, controlling is to determine the accuracy of the organization’s efforts and its plan. Fayol’s impact still has a big influence on many of today’s organizations’ climate, structure, and leadership.

Key Takeaways

  • Theories help us understand and predict communication and behaviors.
  • Frederick Taylor created the idea of “scientific management”, which is a management style that focuses on producing outcomes and high orientation on management.
  • Max Weber felt that bureaucracy was the best way to select authority. It is based on criterion and standard for the task rather than other variables such as family relationship or popularity.
  • Henri Fayol believed that there are principles of management, which include: unity of direction, unity of command, authority, order, subordination of individual interest to the general interests, scalar chain. He also felt that classical perspectives have two functions: control and command.


  1. In groups, determine how these classical perspectives and similar and dissimilar from each other. Create a chart or table to highlight these differences.
  2. In groups, discuss the pros and cons of utilizing each classical perspective in your current occupation and/ or your dream job. Is the classical perspective effective or ineffective? Why or why not?
  3. Contact someone who is currently part of or has been a part of the military. Ask them specific questions regarding the military as an organization and types of communications in the military. Do you see relationships between the military and the organizational theories presented in this chapter?
  4. Divide the class into small groups, each group must select a classical organizational perspective. They will act out their role in front of the class and the class must guess which perspective is being acted.

3.2 Human Relations Theories

PLEASE NOTE: This book is currently in draft form; material is not final.

Learning Objectives

  1. Learn about the human relations approach
  2. Learn about key people in the human relations approach
  3. Learn about the implications of the human relations approach

During the 1930’s, it was noted that the world was in the middle of the worst economic depressions. During this period, workers started to dislike and question scientific methods and bureaucracy in organizational settings. In this section, we will introduce the human relationship approach. We will discuss the historical and cultural backgrounds of this approach.

The Great Depression, which occurred between 1929 -1940, caused many economic and social struggles for many Americans. Many governmental policies were changing, such as social security, welfare, and public improvement projects. The depression caused many families to move from drought, dry farming areas to the West Coast and from poor Southern cities to more enriched areas of the North. These families were looking for a better life. However, the increase of workers to these areas led to more competition. Moreover, it led to many types of worker abuse by corrupt and immoral managers. It was during this time, that many people had advocated for human rights, labor unions, better wages, and improved work conditions. “Fair wages” were defined NY worker output. In turn, this increased output usually lead to more injuries, illnesses, and deaths. Human rights were defined as having twelve hour work days, working six days a week, and a thirty minute break for lunch. These perspectives concerning “fair” and “human rights” were seen differently by managers and employees. The difference in perspectives caused tense and strained relationships between managers and workers.

Later World War II changed everything. There was an increase of employment in the private sector and the military. These changes resulted in a more human relations approach to communication in organizations, because there was an increase in well-educated workers. These new workers encouraged an awareness of worker’s needs, such as feeling important and appreciated as a worker and an individual. To better understand how new management ideas ultimately started to transform the face the workplace, we will first discuss a number of key ideas in the group of theories labeled under the term “human relations” followed by an analysis of two of the major theorists in this category: Elton Mayo and Kurt Lewin.

Key Ideas in Human Relations

Before we can jump right in and discuss the major theoretical thinkers that spawned the human relations movement, we first need to understand the basic characteristics of the theoretical developments in this time period. As with many theoretical movements, the notion of “human relations” is one that is drawn by researchers after the fact. Specifically, a business professor at the University of California at Berkley named Raymond E. Miles is responsible for much of the work on crystalizing the notion of “human relations.”Miles, R. E. (1965). Human relations or human resources? Harvard Business Review, 43(4), 148–157.

Miles, in a famous article in the Harvard Business ReviewMiles, R. E. (1965). Human relations or human resources? Harvard Business Review, 43(4), 148–157., discussed human relations as the natural knee-jerk reaction that many management theorists (along with workers and managers as well) had to Fredrick Taylor’s scientific management. Where Taylor viewed people as parts of a working machine, the human relations approach shifted the viewpoint from the task to the worker. For the first time, workers were viewed as an important part of the organization that should be viewed holistically instead of bundles of skills and aptitudes. As Miles noted, managers “were urged to create a ‘sense of satisfaction’ among their subordinates by showing interest in the employees’ personal success and welfare.”Miles, R. E. (1965). Human relations or human resources? Harvard Business Review, 43(4), 148–157.Most importantly, the goal of human relations was to make workers feel like they belonged to something bigger than themselves, and thus the worker’s work was important to the overall effort of the organization.

For communication scholars, the human relations approach is important because it is the first time that two-way communication was encouraged, or communication between a worker and her or his manager was like a dialogue instead of unidirectional communication from the manager targeted at the worker. Furthermore, the human relations perspective sees communication as a tool that can be used by management to “buy” cooperation from subordinates. Robert DubinDubin, R. (1958). The world of work. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. coined the term “privilege payA tool managers can utilize with subordinates when the manager provides subordinates departmental information and allows the subordinate to engage in open communication about various departmental issues with the manager.” to refer to a tool managers can utilize with subordinates when the manager provides subordinates departmental information and allows the subordinate to engage in open communication about various departmental issues with the manager. Dubin sees this as a form of payment a manager makes in order to “buy” cooperation from subordinates because the manager is having to give up some of her or his access to private information and control over subordinates because this process enables subordinates to engage in some self-direction.

In sum, the human relations perspective on organizational management notes that the world would be easier for managers if they could just make decisions and have subordinates follow those decisions. However, because employees are more productive when they are satisfied, it becomes the job of the manager to open engage with subordinates. As Miles notes, “this model suggests, the manager might do better to ‘waste time’ in discussing the problem with subordinates, and perhaps even to accept suggestions that he believes may be less efficient, in order to get the decision carried out.” Miles, R. E. (1965). Human relations or human resources? Harvard Business Review, 43(4), 148–157, pg. 150.

Key People in Human Relations

Now that we’ve explore some of the theoretical underpinnings of the human relations approach to management, we’re going to explore two of the most important thinkers who are seen as falling into this category: Elton Mayo and Kurt Lewin.

Elton Mayo

Elton Mayo was a Harvard Professor who had a huge interest in Federick Taylor’s work. He was interested in learning about ways to increase productivity. In 1924, Elton Mayo and his protégé Fritz Roethlisberger were awarded a grant by the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Science to study productivity and lighting at the Hawthorne Works of the Western Electric Company. The Hawthorne experiments, as Elton Mayo’s body of work became known as, are a series of experiments in human relations conducted between 1924 and 1932 at Western Electric Company's Hawthorne Works in Cicero, Illinois.

Illumination Study

The first study at Hawthorne Works was designed to explicitly test various lighting levels and how the lighting levels affected worker productivity. The original hypothesis of the illumination study was the as lighting increased worker productivity would increase. The opposite was also predicted, as lighting decreased, worker productivity would decrease. The original push behind the study was the electric power industry who believed that if they could demonstrate the importance of artificial lighting, organizations around the country would adopt artificial lighting in place of natural lighting to ensure worker productivity.

The research began in the fall of 1924 and continued through the spring of 1927 as three different groups of workers were put through the experiment: relay assembly workers, coil winding workers, and inspectors.Roethlisberger, F. J., & Dickson, W. J. (1939). Management and the worker. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. After three different testing conditions were concluded, the researchers were perplexed by their findings. It did not matter if the researchers increased or decreased light in the company; the workers’ productivity increased. This finding was even true when the researchers turned down the lights to wear the workers could barely see. The researchers later realized that lighting did not affect worker productivity, rather the researchers’ presence had an impact. That's why, production outcomes were similar to the lighting study because workers were influenced by the attention they got by the researchers.Roethlisberger, F. J., & Dickson, W. J. (1939). Management and the worker. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. This incident was labeled the Hawthorne EffectWorkers behaviors were affected by the attention they receive rather than by other variables like lighting or temperature. Once workers felt like they were being noticed or recognized, it influenced their productivity. Group norms were also affected..

Relay Assembly Study

In order to further clarify the impact of a variety of factors on productivity, a second set of tests were designed to evaluate rest periods and work hours on productivity. The goal of this study was really to determine how fatigue impacted worker productivity. Six women operators volunteered to participate in the relay assembly study. The women were given physical examinations at the beginning of the study and then every six weeks in order to ensure that the experiment was not adversely affecting their health.

The six women were isolated in a separate room away from other Hawthorne workers where it was easier to measure experimental conditions like output and quality of work, temperature, humidity, etc… The specific task in the relay assembly test was an electromagnetic switch that consisted of 35 parts that had to be put together by hand.

The experimenters introduced a variety of changes to the workers’ environment: pay rates, bonuses, lighting, shortened workdays/weeks, rest periods, etc… Surprisingly, as the test period quickly spanned from an original testing period of a couple of months to more than two years, no matter what the experimenters did, productivity increased. In fact, productivity increased over 30 percent during the first two and a half years of the study and then plateaued during the duration of the tests. The physicals the workers received every six weeks also showed that the women had improved physical health and their absenteeism decreased during the study period. Even more important, the women regularly expressed increased job satisfaction.

Once again the researchers were stumped. The researchers quickly tried to determine what was causing the increased productivity. The researchers quickly ruled out all of the manipulated conditions and settled on something considerably more intangible, employee attitudes.

Employee Interview Study

During the middle of the relay assembly studies, a group of Harvard researchers led by Elton Mayo and F. J. Roethlisberger joined the team of engineers at Hawthorne Works to add further expertise and explanation to the studies underhand. One of the most important contributions Mayo makes is during the follow-up to the illumination and relay studies when they interviewed workers at Hawthorne Works.

From 1928 to 1931 the Harvard researchers interviewed over 21,000 workers in attempt to gage worker morale and determine what job factors impacted both morale and job satisfaction. The researchers predicted, based on the illumination and relay studies, that if they could increase worker morale and satisfaction then the workers would be more efficient and productive as well. The interview study definitely posed some new challenges for the researchers. Mayo not that the “experience itself was unusual; there are few people in this world who have had the experience of finding someone intelligent, attentive, and eager to listen without interruption to all that he or she has to say.”Mayo, E. (1945). The social problems of an industrial civilization. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School, pg. 163. To this end, Mayo trained a series of interviewers to listen and not give advice as they took descriptive notes of what was being told to them by the workers.

After the interviewing study was completed, the researchers attempted to make sense of the mounds of data they had accumulated. One interesting side effect was noted. After being interviewed by a researcher about the employee’s working conditions, the employee reported increased satisfaction. Ultimately, the vary act of being asked about their working conditions made the employees more satisfied workers and more ultimately more productive. One of the interesting outcomes of this study is the practice of employee reaction surveys, which are still widely used in organizations today.

Bank Wiring Observation Study

One of the findings of the interview study was that workers had a tendency of creating an informal standard for output that was predetermined by the group but never clearly stated. These productivity standards were never really in-line with the ones communicated by either efficiency engineers or managers. To examine the influence that informal group rules had on worker productivity, Mayo and his team created the bank wiring observation study.

Fourteen bank wiremen (nine wirers, three solderers, and two inspectors) were placed in a separate room and told to complete their individual tasks. The men in the room were putting together automatic telephone exchange components that consisted of 3,000 to 6,000 individuals terminals that had to be wired. The workers spent a lot of time on their feet. To ensure that the men were not affected by the Hawthorne effect, the researchers never let the men know they were being studied. However, a researcher named W. Lloyd Warner, a trained anthropologist with an interest in group behavior, was present in the room, but he acted like a disinterested spectator and had little direct interaction with the wiremen. In the experimental condition, pay incentives and productivity measures were removed to see how the workers would react. Over time, the workers started to artificially restrict their output and an average output level was established for the group that was below company targets. Interestingly enough, the man who was considered the most admired of the group also demonstrated the most resentment towards management and slowed his productivity the most, which led to the cascading productivity of all of the other men in the group.

The researchers ultimately concluded that the wiremen created their own productivity norms without ever verbally communicating them to each other. For the first time, the researchers clearly had evidence that within any organization there exists an informal organization that often constrains individual employee behavior. The bank wiring observation study was stopped in spring of 1932 as layoffs occurred at Hawthorne Works because of the worsening Great Depression.


The Hawthorne Studies and the research of Mayo and Roethlisberger reinvented how organizations think about and manager workers. Unlike Taylor’s perspective, Mayo and Roethlisberger felt that interpersonal relationships were important. Moreover, they felt that society was composed on groups and not just individuals, individuals do not act independently with their own interests but are influenced by others, and most workers decisions are more emotional than rational. One cannot overstress the importance that Mayo and Roethlisberger have had on management theory and organizational academics. Overall, these studies demonstrated the importance that communication is in subordinate-supervisor interactions, the importance of peer-relationships, and the importance of informal organizations.

While the Hawthorne Studies revolutionized management theory, they were also quite problematic. For example, most of the major studies in this series consisted of very small samples of workers (6 in the relay study; 13 in the bank wiring study), so these results are definitely suspect from a scientific vantage point. Furthermore, some people would argue that Hawthorn effects were really the result of workers who were more afraid of unemployment rather than communication relationships.Rice, B. (1982). The Hawthorne Defect: Persistence of a flawed theory. Psychology Today, 16(2), 70–74. Regardless of potential errors of the studies, the conclusion that Mayo, Roethlisberger, and Dickson found was quite extraordinary. Relationships have a significant impact on the quality of organizational performance.

Kurt Lewin

Kurt Lewin was another person who explored the human relations side to organizational communication. Lewin was a refugee from Nazi Germany. He adored democracy and had a passion for applying psychology to improving the world.Tannenbaum, A. S. (1966). Social psychology of the work organization. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, p. 86. During World War II, Lewin was at the University of Iowa. The U.S. government asked him to research ways to advise against housewives from purchasing meat, because there was such a short supply.Lewin, K. (1958). Group decision and social change. In E. F. Maccoby, T. M. Newcomb, and E. L. Hartley (Eds.), Readings in social psychology (pp. 197–211). New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston. Lewin felt that there was a huge barrier because housewives were expected to buy meat because of their families, friends, and parents, who anticipated to be served meat. Lewin hypothesized that if housewives were able to talk with other housewives about their meat buying tendencies, that they would be able to overcome this barrier. Lewin and his cohorts performed the experiments and found support for his hypothesis. Housewives who were able to talk about their meat purchasing with other housewises were ten times more likely to change their behavior.

Lewin felt like he could analyze these same principles in an organization. Lester Coch and John R.P. FrenchCoch, L., & French, J. R. P., Jr. (1948). Overcoming resistance to change. Human Relations, 1, 512–532. found that workers in a pajama factory were more likely to espouse new work methods if they were given the opportunity to discuss them and exercise some influence on the decisions that affected their jobs. These new findings helped organizations realize the benefits of group formation, development, and attitudes. Lewin’s ideas helped influence future organizational communication theorists by emphasizing the importance of communication. Lewin helped identify the fact that workers want to have a voice and provide input in their tasks.

Key Takeaways

  • Elton Mayo and his research associates studied how lighting effects production. They later realized that the workers were not affected by lighting rather the researchers presence.
  • Kurt Lewin felt that group dynamics impacted behavioral outcomes. If workers can talk about their tasks with others it impacts the organization.
  • Workers usually had a tendency of creating an informal standard for output that was never stated but also predetermined by the group.


  1. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the human relations approach.
  2. Discuss how group dynamics impacts behavior outcomes. Is this true from your experience? How so?
  3. Do you believe that group dynamics are important in an organization? Why or why not? Can you provide some specific examples?

3.3 Human Resources Theories

PLEASE NOTE: This book is currently in draft form; material is not final.

Learning Objectives

  1. Define and understand the differences between human relations vs. human resources.
  2. Identify key people in human resources theories.
  3. Discuss and learn about motivation theories.
  4. Discuss and explain Douglas McGregor’s Theory Y and Theory X.
  5. Analyze Rensis Likert’s Participative Decision Making Theory

In the previous section, you were introduced to the research of Elton Mayo and Kurt Lewin under the banner of human relations theories. In this section, we’re going to further our understanding of theory in organizations by examining those theoretical perspectives that fall into the human resources camp.

The notion of human resources as a general category for a variety of management related theories was originally proposed by Raymond Miles.Miles, R. E. (1965). Human relations or human resources? Harvard Business Review, 43(4), 148–157. First and foremost, Miles’ human resource theories posits that all workers are reservoirs of untapped resources. Miles believed that each and every worker comes into an organization with a variety of resources that management can tap into if they try. “These resources include not only physical skills and energy, but also creative ability and the capacity for responsible, self-directed, self-controlled behavior.”Miles, R. E. (1965). Human relations or human resources? Harvard Business Review, 43(4), 148–157, pg. 150.

Under this perspective then, managers should not be focused on controlling employees or getting them to “buy-in” to decisions, which are the hallmarks of scientific management and human relations. Instead, the primary task of management should be the creation of a working environment that fosters employee creativity and risk taking in an effort to maximize and tap into the resources employees bring to the job. As such, communication in this perspective must be constant and bi-directional and participation in decision-making must include both management and workers. Miles explains that his human resources model “recognized the untapped potential of most organizational members and advocated participation as a means of achieving direct improvement in individual and organizational performance.” Miles, R. E., & Ritchie, J. B. (1971). Participative management: Quality vs. quantity. California Management Review, 13(4), 48–56., p. 48. To help us understand human resources, we are going to describe how human resources differ from human relations and discuss some key people in human resources.

Human Relations vs. Human Resources Theories

To understand the notions of human relations and human resources is to understand Raymond MilesMiles, R. E. (1965). Human relations or human resources? Harvard Business Review, 43(4), 148–157. original ideas on both concepts. Miles, as explained above, articulated a very clear theoretical perspective that was high on communication, high on tapping into employee resources, and high on employee input in decision making. These ideas were not his, but he did create a clear categorization scheme where he delineated between two groups of researchers whom he labeled human relations and human resources. While Miles believes these two groups exist, he also admits that these groups exist primarily in how managers interpret and apply various pioneers of the field of management, so the researchers who fall into the human relations camp often discuss concepts that seem to fall within Miles’ own human resources framework. Table 3.2 "Human Relations vs. Human Resources" provides a list of the major differences that Miles believed existed between human relations and human resources.

Table 3.2 Human Relations vs. Human Resources

Human Relations Human Resources
Worker Needs Workers need to belong, be liked, and be respected. While workers need to belong, be liked, and be respected, workers also want to creatively and effectively contribute to worthwhile goals.
Worker Desires Workers really desire to feel as though they are a useful part of the organization. Workers really desire to exercise initiative, responsibility, and creativity, so management should allow for these.
Outcomes If worker needs and desires are filled, they will willingly cooperate and comply with management. Management should tap into worker capabilities and avoiding wasting untapped resources.
Job Satisfaction When employee needs and desires are met, they’ll be more satisfied. When employees feel that they have self-direction and control and are able to freely use their creativity, experience, and insight they will be more satisfied.
Productivity Job satisfaction and reduced resistance to formal authority will lead to more productive workers. When employees feel that they have self-direction and control and are able to freely use their creativity, experience, and insight they will be more productive .
Management Goal Managers should strive to ensure that all employees feel like they are part of the team. Managers should help employees discover hidden talents and ensure that all workers are able to fully use their range of talents to help accomplish organizational goals.
Decision Making Management should allow employees to offer input on routine decisions and be willing to discuss these decisions, but management should keep important decisions to themselves. Management should allow and encourage employees to freely participate in the decision making process with all types of decisions. In fact, the more important the decision is, the more the manager should seek out his employee resources in the decision making process.
Information Sharing Information sharing is a useful tool when helping employees feel like they are part of the group. Information sharing is vital for effective decision making and should include the full range of creativity, experience, and insight from employees.
Teamwork Management should allow teams to exercise moderate amounts of self-direction and control. Management should encourage teamwork and continually look for greater areas where teams can exercise more control.

Key People in Human Resources Theories

As we see in Table 3.2 "Human Relations vs. Human Resources", there some key differences between human relations and human resources theories. These differences can be broken down into two basic categories: motivation and decision making. The rest of this section is going to both of these areas and the key people who researched these phenomena.

Motivation Theories

Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Many other theorists tried to explain the importance of the human resources approach. One of these individuals was Abraham Maslow.Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370–96. He is widely known for his creation of Maslow’s Hierarchy of NeedsModel that suggests there are certain levels of human motivation and each level must be met before moving to the next level. Shaped like a pyramid, the model shows that human’s most basic need from lowest to highest is physical, then safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.. In order to get employees to work, he tried to understand what motivates people. He came up with five needs that need to be satisfied at one stage before moving on to another stage. Malsow felt that needs vary from person and person and that individuals want their need fulfilled. One must determine what is the motivational factor (Figure 3.1 "Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs").

Physiological Needs. The first level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is psychological, which means that physical needs such as food and water need to be met before moving to the next level. If workers do not make enough money to buy food and water, then it will be hard for them to continue working.

Safety Needs. The second level is called safety. Workers need to be in a safe environment and know that their bodies and belongings will be protected. If workers don’t feel secure, then they will find it hard to work efficiently. Think of the many occupations that are highly unsafe. According to an article on the CNN Money websiteChristie, L. (2011, August 26). America’s most dangerous jobs: The 10 most dangerous jobs in America. In CNNMoney [website]. Retrieved from, the top ten most dangerous jobs in the United States are as follows:

  1. Fisherman
  2. Logger
  3. Airplane Pilot
  4. Farmer and Rancher
  5. Mining Machine Operator
  6. Roofer
  7. Sanitation Worker
  8. Truck Driver/Deliveryman
  9. Industrial Machine Repair
  10. Police Officer

According to Maslow’s basic theoretical premise, these individuals will have a harder time worrying about needs at the higher levels unless they can overcome the inherent lack of safety within these jobs.

Love, Affection, and Belongingness Needs. The third layer is called love, affection, and belongingness needs. Maslow believed that if an individual met the basic physiological and safety needs, then that individual would start attempting to achieve love, affection, and belongingness needs next, “He [or she] will hunger for affectionate relations with people in general, namely, for a place in his [or her] group, and he [or she] will strive with great intensity to achieve this goal.”Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370–96, pg. 381. Maslow believed that organizations would have better worker retention and satisfaction if they kept their employees in a cohesive environment. Furthermore, if a worker feels isolated or ostracized from their environment, then he or she would feel less motivated to work, which will lead to a decrease in overall productivity.

Esteem Needs. The fourth layer is called esteem, and is represented by two different sets of needs according to Maslow. First, individuals are motivated by the “desire for strength, for achievement, for adequacy, for confidence in the face of the world, and for independence and freedom.”Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370–96, pg. 381. Maslow goes on to discuss a second subset of esteem needs, “we have what we may call the desire for reputation or prestige (defining it as respect or esteem from other people), recognition, attention, importance or appreciation.”Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370–96, pg. 381–382. While Maslow originally separated these two lists from each other, they clearly have more in common than not. If employees do not feel that their input is valued at the organization, they will seek out other places of employment that will value their input, because humans have an intrinsic need to be appreciated for their efforts.

Self-Actualization Needs. The fifth layer is called self-actualization, and it is the hardest to attain. Self-actualization “refers to the desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for [a person] to become actualized in what he [or she] is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.” Maslow goes on to explain, “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he [or she] is to be ultimately happy. What a man [or woman] can be, he [or she] must be. This need we may call self-actualization [emphasis in original].”Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370–96, pg. 382. Maslow felt that if individuals can have their needs met in order of the layers, then they would be both motivated and seek opportunities to excel.

All in all, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs helps us understand how to motivate workers to strive for more in the organization. Hence, communication is very important, because we need to understand what our employees need in order to motivate them to work more proficiently and productively.

Figure 3.1 Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Frederick Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory

Another researcher to enter into the fray of human motivation was Frederick Herzberg. Originally trained as a clinical psychologist, over the course of Herzberg’s career he switched focused and became one of the first researchers in the growing field of industrial psychology. The original notion of Frederick Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene TheorySimilar to Maslow’s Heirarachy of Needs, but focues on what motivated humans to work. He also focus on what demotivated workers to have a positve or negative job attitues. was that traditional perspectives on motivation, like Maslow’s, only looked at one side of the coin—how to motivate people. Herzberg and his original colleaguesHerzberg, F., Mausner, B., & Snyderman, B. S. (1959). The motivation to work. New York, NY: Wiley. theorized that what ultimately motivated individuals to work were not necessarily the same factors that led to demotivation at work. In Herzberg’s worldview, motivation on the job should lead to satisfied workers, but he theorized that satisfaction and dissatisfaction were not opposite ends of one continuum. Instead, he predicted that the factors that lead to positive job attitudes (and thus motivation) were different from the factors that lead to negative job attitudes (and thus demotivation). For the purposes of his theory, he called the factors that led to positive job attitudes motivatorsThe list of factors that lead to positive job attitudes according to motivation theorist Frederick Herzberg. and those factors that led to negative job attitudes hygiene factorsThe list of factors that led to negative job attitudes according to motivation theorist Frederick Herzberg.. In Table 3.3 "Motivators and Hygiene Factors" the basic motivators and hygiene factors are listed. Notice that the motivators are all centered around ideas that are somewhat similar to the esteem needs and self-actualization needs of Abraham Maslow. On the other hand, the hygiene factors all examine the context of work.

Table 3.3 Motivators and Hygiene Factors

Motivators Hygiene Factors
Achievement Policy and administration
Recognition Micromanagement
Advancement Relationships (Supervisor, Peers, & Subordinates)
The work itself Job security
Responsibility Personal life
Potential for promotion Work conditions
Potential for personal growth Status

Upon looking at Table 3.3 "Motivators and Hygiene Factors", you may notice that Salary is centered between both motivators and hygiene factors. In The Managerial Choice Herzberg reversed his previous thinking that salary was purely a hygiene factor, “Although primarily a hygiene factor, it [salary] it also often takes on some of the properties of a motivator, with dynamics similar to those of recognition for achievement.” Herzberg, F. (1976). The managerial choice: To be efficient and to be human. Homewood, IL: Dow-Jones-Irwin, pg. 71.

Decision Making

Douglas McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y

As we discussed earlier, the classical perspective felt that leadership should control and order subordinates. Then, in the human relations approach, we learned that superiors need to cultivate and support their employees. Douglas McGregorMcGregor, D. (1960). The human side of enterprise. New York: McGraw-Hill., a management professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1950s and 1960s, felt that there are two different perspectives, which he termed as Theory XThis approach is similar to the scientific management approach, where workers are expected to only work. In this perspective, managers believe that workers are apathetic towards work and people need direction. In addition, managers believe that workers are not smart, do not seek advancement, and avoid responsibility. and Theory YThis approach is similar to the human relations approach. In this perspective, managers believe that people want to succeed and they can excel if you give them the right to be creative. In addition, people want to work, seek direction, and are ambitious.. These theories were based on assumptions that managers have about their workers.

McGregor defined a Theory X manager who believes that most people do not like work. Workers are not smart or creative. People do not care about the organization, and will adequately work when there are promises for rewards and potential punishments. Moreover, Theory X manager believes that people want to have direction in order to evade responsibility.

On the other hand, Theory Y managers feel that people want to do what is best for the organization and can direct themselves under the right conditions. Table 3.4 "Differences between Theory X & Theory Y" illustrates the differences between Theory X and Theory Y.

Table 3.4 Differences between Theory X & Theory Y

Theory X Theory Y
People dislike work and find ways to avoid it People perceive work as natural and find it enjoyable
Workers want to avoid responsibility People want responsibility
Want direction Prefer self-direction
Resists change Wants to work toward organizational goals
Not intelligent Have the potential to develop & adapt
Not creative Are intelligent
Managers must control, reward, and/or punish employees to maintain performance Are creative
Work conditions need to be set to achieve worker & organizational goals

Rensis Likert’s Participative Decision Making Theory

The last major theorist we are going to explore related to the human resources side of management theory is Rensis Likert’s Participative Decision Making (PDM) TheoryThis model has four systems that are based on effectively functioning groups that are related throughout the organization. Hence, Likert felt that with accurate understanding of human performance in variability and contrasts, then organizations could be more productive.. Likert originally explored the idea of how organizational leaders make decisions in his book The Human Organization.Likert, R. (1967). The human organization: Its management and value. New York: McGraw-Hill. Likert’s ideas were based in the notion that supervisors with strong worker productivity tended to focus on the human aspects of subordinate problems while creating teams that emphasized high achievement. In other words, these supervisors were employee centered and believed that effective management required treating employees as humans and not just worker bees. Likert further noted that these highly productive leaders also tended to involve subordinates in the decision making process. Out of this basic understanding of productive versus unproductive management, Likert created a series of four distinct management styles.

System 1: Exploitive Authoritative. System 1, exploitative authoritative management, starts with the basic issue of trust. Under this system of management, the manager simply does not trust subordinates and has no confidence in subordinate decision making capabilities. Because of this lack of trust, all decisions are simply decided upon by people at the upper echelons of the hierarchy and then imposed on the workers. Communication under these leaders is typically unidirectional (from management to workers), and employees are motivated to comply with management dictates out of fear.

System 2: Benevolent Authoritative. System 2, benevolent authoritative management, starts with the basic notion that decision making should be situated with those in managerial positions. Because managers believe that decision making should be theirs and theirs alone, managers believe that workers will simply comply with managerial dictates because of the manager’s legitimate right to make decisions. This type of management almost takes on a master-servant style relationship. As for communication, subordinates are not free to discuss decisions or any job-related matters with their superiors. Ultimately, employ motivation to comply with managerial dictates is done through a system of rewards.

System 3: Consultative. System 3, consultative management, starts with a lot more trust in employee decision making capabilities. However, the manager may either not have complete confidence in employee decision making or may have the ultimate responsibility for decisions made, so he or she does not allow workers to just make and implement decisions autonomously. Typically, the manager seeks input from workers and then uses this input to make the ultimate decision. Under consultative management, communication, decision making participation, and teamwork is fair, and employees tend to be more motivated and satisfied than the previous two styles of management. However, consultative management can be very effective if, and only if, the input process is conducted legitimately. One of the biggest mistakes some managers make is to use pseudo-consultative practices where they pretend to seek out input from subordinates even though the actual decision has already been made. Pseudo-consultative decision making is just a different flavor of benevolent authoritative management.

System 4: Participative. System 4, participative management, is built on the goal of ensuring that decision making and organizational goal attainment is widespread throughout the organizational hierarchy. In these organizations, organizational leaders have complete confidence in worker ability to make and implement decisions, so workers are constantly encouraged to be very active in the decision making process. Under participative management, communication, decision making participation, and teamwork is good, and employees tend to be motivated and satisfied.

These four different systems characterize many of the classical theories discussed in this chapter. For instance, System 1 is similar to the scientific management approach t and System 4 has characteristics from the human relations approach. Likert believed that an organization’s performance is based on the systems or structures in place for the workers. Thus, Likert believed that organizations could incorporate some aspects from the scientific management approach, human relations, and human resource approach in order to maximize organizational outcomes.

Key Takeaways

  • Human Resources encourages an environment where employees have the ability to be creative and take risks in order to maximize outcomes.
  • Human resources places an emphasis on more communication than human relations.
  • Maslow’s hierarchy of needs help us to understand what motivates people in organizations.
  • Herzberg’s theory focuses on what motivates individuals to work and he also focused on what factors lead individuals to demotivation at work.
  • McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y are assumptions that managers have about their employees. They differ in the type of communication involved as well as the expectations of workers.
  • Rensis Likert’s ideas were based on the idea that supervisors are employee centered and to treat all employess as unique humans rather than just another worker.


  1. What do you think are the most important characteristics between human relations and human resources? Which do you prefer? Why?
  2. Which motivation theory is more applicable in the workplace? Why?
  3. Create your own hypothetical Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. What would motivate you to work in an organization. Use Figure 3.1 "Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs" as a guide when creating your pyramid.

3.4 Chapter Exercises

PLEASE NOTE: This book is currently in draft form; material is not final.

McDaniel’s Burger Case Study

McDaniel’s Burger Restaurant is a family owned restaurant in the Southwestern part of the United States. It is located in a small town in Texas. The family has had the restaurant for three generations. People come from far and wide to eat at the restaurant, because they take pride in cooking each burger to the customer’s wants and needs. The restaurant prides itself in having the most selections for meat and vegetarian burgers. In addition, they carry a wide variety of toppings, such as ordinary toppings like tomatoes, bacon, cheese, onions, lettuce, but also unique toppings like cucumbers, salsa, salad dressing, pineapple, and sprouts. Customers can decide on how they would like their burger cooked: grilled or fried. Everyone in town loves McDaniel’s Burgers because they are personalized and delicious.

Lately, business has been increasing because the population has increased. The McDaniel family can longer keep up with the demand and decide to sell their business to a bigger firm, the Burger Business. Burger Business has many establishments and is used to catering to large crowds. Burger Business executives liked McDaniel’s burgers but felt that it was not very efficient, because customers would have to wait a long time before their order was completed. Over time, the executives and consultants of Burger Business felt that they needed to have five different stations. The first station was for meat selection. For instance, the customer can choose their meet selection of: beef, bison, elk, chicken, veggie patty, etc. The second station was for meat preparation. The customer can choose if they want their meat fried or grilled and to what degree. The third station was for toppings on the burger. An attendant would help the customer with the toppings for their burger. The fourth station was the side bar, where customers could choose what sides such as drinks and French fries with their burger. The last station was the cashier, where customers would pay for their meal. Most of the employees of McDaniel’s Burgers were already trained in all areas of operations. Hence, they could work in any station and in any order. The Burger Business executives felt that this would help with employee satisfaction because they could work in a variety of stations and they could have more flexible .

However, over time, the profits for McDaniel’s Burgers were not very high. Moreover, employee retention was at an all time high. However, executives felt they could replace workers, because the task was so simple. In addition, several customers did not prefer dining in the restaurant as in the past. More customers were requesting to take home their orders. The executives were confused because they felt they made productive and efficient changes. Initially, the executives felt that the reason customers felt negatively about the business was because there were certain stations that tended to have longer lines, such as the toppings and sides bar. Hence, they divided the toppings stations into original toppings and unique toppings. In addition, they divided the sides bar into fries and drinks. The executives also decided to get rid of toppings that customers rarely ordered such as anchovies and sauerkraut. Overall, the executives were happy with the changes they made and felt that they could open more McDaniel’s Burgers in other locations.

Case Analysis Discussion Questions:

  1. In the end, the Burger Business executives had an positive perspective of the future of McDaniel’s Burgers. Do you agree? Why? What are some potential risks or pitfalls that the executives need to be cautious about? What could they do to motivate workers?
  2. Can you identify some of the classical theories presented in this case study? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of these theories in this case study?
  3. Let’s pretend the Burger Business hired you as a communication consultant for McDaniel’s Burgers, what information would you collect? How will this information help you predict the future outcome of this business? What would you expect the findings to be? How would you use this information to make suggestions to the executives?
  4. Pretend that you are a customer of McDaniel’s Burgers. How do you feel communication can be improved for the customers of McDaniel’s Burgers? What would customers prefer or dislike with this establishment?
  5. Pretend that you are an employee of McDaniel’s Burgers. How do you feel that communication can be improved? Why is there such a high employee turnover rate? How can executives help with the employee retention rate?

End-of-Chapter Assessment Head

  1. The word “theory” originally derives its name from a Greek word theoria, θεωρ ία, which roughly translated means:

    1. generalization
    2. affiliation
    3. contemplation
    4. harmonization
    5. actualization
  2. Sara gets a job where she has to stamp letters all day. She is given no other task or opportunity to talk with others. What classical perspective best describes her job?

    1. scientific management
    2. bureaucracy
    3. Theory Y
    4. Hawthorne effect
    5. authority
  3. Weber stated that the best way to select authority was:

    1. bureaucracy
    2. traditional ways
    3. charismatic
    4. b & c
    5. all of the above
  4. Fayol believed that there is a hierarchical order of authority. There is a sequence and succession to how communication is transferred from on person to the other. This is known as:

    1. scalar chain
    2. subordination of individual interests to general interest
    3. order
    4. authority
    5. unity of command
  5. All of the following are characteristics of the human relations approach EXCEPT:

    1. workers desire to feel as though they are useful part of the organization
    2. if workers’ need are filled, they will comply
    3. when employee needs and desires are met, they are more satisfied
    4. management should tap into worker capabilities
    5. management should allow employees to offer input, but keep important decisions to themselves

Answer Key

  1. c
  2. a
  3. a
  4. a
  5. d

PLEASE NOTE: This book is currently in draft form; material is not final.