Research in Industrial Human Relations: A Critical Appraisal

Research in Industrial Human Relations: A Critical Appraisal

Research in Industrial Human Relations: A Critical Appraisal

Research in Industrial Human Relations: A Critical Appraisal

Excerpt

The people of every society, primitive or modern, must face the problem of organizing their work--they must decide what is to be done and how and who is going to do it for what rewards. They must train and motivate people to carry out the tasks they consider important.

Labor economists have long dealt with one aspect of the organization of work in the society at large--the allocation of human productive resources among the various types of productive activity of an economy. They have dealt with how work is organized and wages are set in different kinds of labor markets--what determines where people will work, at what jobs, and at what wages.

This volume is also concerned with the organization of work, and it deals with organizations which have economic purposes. But it emphasizes the noneconomic aspects of the organization of work, the human relations aspects.

"Human relations in industry" has become both the label of a group of studies of people at work and the slogan of a movement of thought and action in American industrial relations. Human relations research and its applications in industry have aroused much heated controversy. The critics of the "human relations approach" have charged that in its preoccupation with improving face-to-face relations at the work station level it (1) underplays conflicts of interest and ideology between employers, workers, and union leaders and therefore misses the central character of industrial relations; and (2) is blind to crucial outside determinants of human relations in the work group--e.g., to the organizational structure of the enterprise, and to the social, political, and economic setting within which human relations arise and have meaning. The critics charge further that this underplaying of interest conflicts and this blindness to the industrial environment lead to a mistaken assumption of a harmony of interests, a management bias, a narrow view of the origins and functions of unions, and exclusive attention to management's prob-

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