Why Human Relations?
So, what is human relations? We can define human relations as relations with or between people,
particularly in a workplace or professional setting.  From a personal perspective, there are many
advantages to having good human relations skills. First, of the top ten reasons people are fired, several
reasons relate back to lack of human relations skills—for example, the inability to work within a team,
personality issues, sexual harassment, and dishonesty.  Other reasons, perhaps not directly related to
human relations, include absenteeism, poor performance, stealing, political reasons, downsizing, and
sabotage. Second, people who are competent team players and have a good work ethic tend to get
promoted faster.  In fact, according to guru on personal development Brian Tracy, 85 percent of your
success in life is determined by social skills and the ability to interact positively and effectively with
others.  Another reason to develop good relationships with others relates to your own personal
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happiness. According to psychologist Sydney Jourard, most joy in life comes from happy relationships
with other people. 
Consider John, a very talented project manager but lacking in human relations skills. While he is easily
able to plan and execute the finest details for a project, no one likes to work with him. He doesn’t make
efforts to get to know his team members and he comes across as unfriendly and unapproachable. How
successful do you think John will be in his workplace? While he has the skills necessary to do the job, he
doesn’t have the people skills that can help him excel at it. One could say he does not have emotional
intelligence skills—that is, the ability to understand others—therefore, he may always find himself
wondering why he isn’t more successful at work (we will discuss emotional intelligence in Chapter 2
“Achieve Personal Success”). While project management skills are something we can learn, managers find
it difficult to hire people without the soft skills, or human relations skills. We aren’t saying that skills are
not important, but human relations skills are equally as important as technical skills to determine career
and personal success. Consider human relations skills in your personal life, as this is equally important.
Human relations skills such as communication and handling conflict can help us create better
relationships. For example, assume Julie talks behind people’s backs and doesn’t follow through on her
promises. She exhibits body language that says “get away from me” and rarely smiles or asks people about
themselves. It is likely that Julie will have very few, if any, friends. If Julie had positive human relations
skills, there is a much better chance she could improve her personal relationships.
We can benefit personally and professionally from good human relations skills, but how do organizations
benefit? Since many companies’ organizational structures depend upon people working together, positive
human relations skills reduce conflict in the workplace, thereby making the workplace more
productive. Organizational structures refer to the way a company arranges people, jobs, and
communications so that work can be performed. In today’s business world, teams are used to accomplish
company goals because teamwork includes people with a variety of skills. When using those skills in a
team, a better product and better ideas are usually produced. In most businesses, to be successful at our
job, we need to depend on others. The importance of human relations is apparent in this setting. If people
are not able to get along and resolve conflicts, the organization as a whole will be less productive, which
could affect profitability. Many organizations empower their employees; that is, they give employees
freedom in making decisions about how their work gets done. This can create a more motivated
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workforce, which results in more positive human relations. We will explore this topic further in Chapter 6
“Understand Your Motivations”.
Most organizations employ a total person approach. This approach recognizes that an organization does
not just employ someone with skills, but rather, the whole person. This person comes with biases,
personal challenges, human relations skills, and technical skills but also comes with experiences. By
looking at a person from this perspective, an organization can begin to understand that what happens to
an employee outside of work can affect his or her job performance. For example, assume Kathy is doing a
great job at work but suddenly starts to arrive late, leave early, and take longer lunches. Upon further
examination, we might find that Kathy is having childcare issues because of her divorce. Because of a total
person approach perspective, her organization might be able to rearrange her schedule or work with her
to find a reasonable solution. This relates to human relations because we are not just people going to work
every day; we are people who live our personal lives, and one affects the other. Because of this, our human
relations abilities will most certainly be affected if we are experiencing challenges at home or at work.
Evolution of Human Relations Study
Human relations, however, was not always central to the conversation on organizational success. In fact,
until the 1940s, little thought was given to the human aspect of jobs. Many of the jobs in the early 1900s
were focused on production and located in factory-like settings where the jobs themselves were repetitive.
The focus in these types of work environments was on efficiency. We can call this time period of human
relations studies the classical school of management. This school of thought took place from 1900 to the
early 1920s. Several theories were developed, which revolved around the idea of efficiency, or getting a job
done with the least amount of steps.
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Frederick W. Taylor was an engineer who today is known as the father of scientific management. He
began his career in a steel company and, because of his intimate knowledge of the industry, believed that
organizations could analyze tasks to make them performed with more efficiency.
Following his work, Frank and Lillian Gilbreth performed numerous studies on physical motions workers
took to perform specific tasks and tried to maximize efficiency by suggesting new ways to perform the
tasks, using less energy and thereby being more efficient.
While Taylor and Gilbreth’s research was more focused on physical motions and tasks, Henri Fayol began
looking at how management could improve productivity instead of focusing on specific tasks and motions.
Fayol created the Fourteen Principles of Management, which focused on management but also hinted to
the importance of human relations: 
1. Division of work. Work should be divided in the most efficient way. Fayol believed work
specialization, or the focus on specific tasks for teams or individuals, to be crucial to success.
2. Authority. Authority is the right to give orders and accountability within those orders. Fayol
believed that along with giving orders and expecting them to be met, that person in authority also
assumes responsibility to make sure tasks are met.
3. Discipline. Discipline is penalties applied to encourage common effort, as a successful organization
requires the common effort of all workers.