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Why Human Relations?

So, what is human relations? We can define human relations as relations with or between people,

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particularly in a workplace or professional setting. [1] 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. [2] 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. [3] 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. [4] 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. [5]

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: [7]

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.

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