Behavioral Approach to Management


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The Behavioral approach to management evolved mainly because the practicing managers discovered that adopting the ideas of the classical approach failed to achieve total efficiency and workplace harmony. The behavioral approach to management highlighted what the classical advocates overlooked – the human aspect. The classical theorists looked at the organization from a production perspective, the behavioral advocates viewed it from the individual’s viewpoint. The behavioral approach to management highlighted individual behavior & group processes, and acknowledged the importance of behavioral processes at work. The Hawthorne studies in the late 1920 and early 1930 helped to lend credence to the behavioral approach.

Some of the main behavioral researchers who made considerable contributions to the progression of the behavioral approach to management are: Mary Parker Follett, Douglas McGregor, Kurt Lewin, Chester Barnard, Abraham Maslow, George Romans, etc.

Branches of Behavioral Approach to Management

The behavioral approach has been divided into two branches: the Human relations approach and the behavioral science approach. In the human relations approach managers should know why their subordinates behave as they do and what psychological and social factors have an impact on them. Supporters of this approach make an effort to show how the process and functions of management are influenced by differences in individual behavior and the influence of groups in the office.

Human Relations Approach

The term human relations means the way in which managers connect to subordinates. Managers face many difficulties because staff members usually do not stick to predetermined and balanced patterns of behavior. Supporters of Human relations approach feel that management should recognize employees need for recognition and social acceptance. Management should look upon the work group as a positive force which can be used productively. Thus, managers must be competent in human relations skills along with technical skills. The initial encouragement for the movement came from the Hawthorne experiments:
1. Illumination experiments
2. Relay assembly test room
3. Interviewing programme
4. Bank wiring test room

Behavioral Science Approach

The Behavioral Science Approach is actually an extension of the Human Relations Approach. It gave value to attitudes, behavior and performance of people and groups within the organisations. The advocates of the behavioral science approach consider that humans are much more complex than the economic man description of the classical approach and the social man description of the human relations approach. This approach focuses on the nature of work, and the degree to which it will satisfy the human need to show skills and expertise.

To get better employee performance, communication, motivation, participative management, leadership and group dynamics are integrated in this approach. The behavioral approach acknowledges the quality of leadership as a major element in management success. It concentrates on group relationship and recognizes the part of individual mindset and group behavior in organisational effectiveness.

Abraham Maslow, Fredrick Herzberg, Douglas McGregor, Victor Vroom, James March, Herbert Simon, Chestar Barnard, etc., made significant contributions towards the behavioural science approach.

Contributions of the Behavioral Approach

  • Improved usage of teams to achieve organizational goals.
  • Emphasis on training and development of staff
  • Use of innovative reward and incentive techniques.
  • Furthermore the main focus on modern management theory led to empowering employees via shared information.

Limitations of the Behavioral Approach to Management

Challenges for managers in difficult situations and the reality that human behavior is complex. This complicated the problem for managers attempting to use insights from the behavioral sciences that regularly changed when different behavioral scientists offered distinct alternatives.

Behavioral Approach to Management