The world of work has changed a lot throughout history. From the typical trades of the Middle Ages to the large and small companies in which we work today, through the work in factories after the industrial revolution, the changes both in the vision of work and what it implies in the worker or how he should be treated have been going on.
In this field, many studies have been carried out in various disciplines such as psychology, leading some of them to changes in the vision of the company and the employers of the worker and the importance of their well-being at work. , their productivity.
While the worker was initially seen as a “lazy person” who was to be motivated primarily by salary, it gradually became apparent that a large number of factors influenced the worker, his productivity and his well-being. . Hawthorne and the development of the theory of human relations, Which we will talk about throughout this article.
Precedents in Organizational Psychology
If the fact that the human and relational factor is important in the workplace is now considered common and logical, the truth is that when this notion was introduced, it was a revolution. And this is it the theory of human relations, developed by Elton Mayo, Began to develop around the 1930s.
At that time, the general conception of organizations and work was a classic vision, centered on production and which saw the worker as a vague and idle being who needed to be stimulated by wages in order to work, or that he understood him as a machine to which he had to guide from managerial positions (the only ones upon which to organize and dominate the company depended).
It is only from the emergence of psychology and its application in the workplace and in industry that they will not begin to analyze the factors that affect the worker from a humanistic point of view. and psychological. Thanks for that and a growing need to humanize and democratize production (Discontent, abuse and workers’ revolts are frequent), a conception closer to the worker in the industrial field will be developed.
The theory of human relations
The theory of human relations is a theory of organizational psychology, which proposes that the most important part of an organization is human and interactive and that the behavior of the worker is more related to belonging to a social group, its good. -be with the environment and existing social norms within this group than with the type of work performed, how it is structured or with the perception of a specific salary (which was considered as the sole motivating factor of the worker ).
Basically it defines the importance of the social environment in which the worker operates and the psychological impact of this medium to explain the behavior, performance and productivity of work.
In this theory, which appears as a reaction to the excessive task control that existed at the time, the focus ceases to be on the task itself and on how the organization is structured to focus. . the network of social relations and friendship that is formed within the organization.
In the same way, the worker ceases to see as an independent element the performance depends only on his will to begin to be observed that it depends largely on his relation with the group and the organization of this one.
In addition, the studies carried out would begin to take into account the power of the network and the links that form informally between workers, the importance of the perception of social support and the impact of these processes on improving performance. or reduction to comply with the home group rule. It would also allow the development of new systems and strategies aimed at improving and optimizing the development of the members of the organization, as well as aspects such as the evaluation of communications and feedback to employees.
The theory of human relations and subsequent developments flow from the above, but one of the most important milestones that led to its birth were the Hawthorne experiments, carried out at the Hawthorne factory in Elton Mayo and in other collaborators.
Initially, these experiments began in 1925 with the initial intention of being research a relationship between lighting and employee productivity, May would begin to assess working conditions (relatively good for the time) and workers’ performance under different lighting conditions. In this aspect, they did not find great variability, but they managed to locate other variables of great importance: psychosocial variables.
After that, these humanistic and psychosocial factors will begin to be analyzed, from 1928 to 1940. First, the working conditions and the effect of the feelings and emotions of employees on work, the environment and even their role in it. – these would be analyzed. From this it was extracted that personal consideration has played an important role in the development and satisfaction of workers.
It is in the second phase that we find one of the great divergences with the most classic theories: the behavior of workers is linked more to social and organizational characteristics than to the individual characteristics themselves. This was achieved through a series of interviews in which researchers sought to get workers to express their appreciation for working from home.
In a third phase, the working groups and the interaction between the workers were analyzed, with experiments in which a payment system was used in which only a high salary was maintained if there was an increase in production. total, to which the workers responded. productivity to be gradually increased by first reducing their most efficient level so that everyone can increase the total output: they sought to be consistent in their performance so that all members of the group can have some stability.
There was so much punishment for those who didn’t respect the group rule (those who didn’t respect the informal rule were pressured) as a search for conformity to the majority.
The fourth and final phase focused on the study of the interaction between the formal organization of the company and the informal one of the employees, looking for an interaction in which the workers could express their problems and conflicts. The conclusions of these experiments would lead to arouse an interest in the employee and his relationships, which would gradually widen.
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- Rivas, ME and López, M. (2012), Social and Organizational Psychology. CEDE PIR preparation manual, 1. CEDE: Madrid.