Academic journal article Management Revue

A Plea for a Behavioral Approach in the Science of Human Resources Management

Academic journal article Management Revue

A Plea for a Behavioral Approach in the Science of Human Resources Management

Article excerpt

A Plea for a Behavioural Approach in the Science of Human Resources Management**

The aim of science is to develop true theories. From this it follows quite naturally that the Behavioural Approach is the only plausible approach in a Science of Human Resources Management. The Behavioural Approach derives its propositions from the best theories from the social and behavioural sciences. It is problem-oriented in the strictest sense and thus escapes discipline-specific narrow-mindedness. It integrates the knowledge bases necessary for good practice. The behavioural approach to human resources management is a success story, it leads to numerous new and far reaching insights.

Key words: Behavioural Sciences, Rational Choice, Philosophy of Science, Critical Rationalism, Instrumentalism

If not insights into human behaviour, what else could inspire a Science about Human Resources Management? After all, Human Resources Management (FIRM) is concerned with human labour.1 So to talk about a behavioural approach in a Science of Human Resources Management (HRMS)2 is an obvious use of tautology. What then could be the content of an article about a behavioural approach in HRMS? One possibility were an explanation of the behavioural concept itself; another to reflect upon the demarcation between the behavioural and other approaches within HRMS. In the following I deal primarily with the former. The latter will be considered only exemplarily whenever it is necessary to discuss some fundamental problems of scientific methodology.3

1. Characteristics of a behavioural HRMS

The behavioural approach in HRMS (as suggested by the author) is characterized by the following programmatic orientations:

it deals with fundamental problems about work, work relations and work arrangements, and investigates concrete phenomena of the work life in natural settings,

it pursues explanations according to the methodology of Critical Rationalism,

it derives its propositions from the best theories in the social and behavioural sciences.

The following arguments speak for the behavioural approach to human resources management (and thereby against alternative approaches):

the embodiment of the behavioural approach in realism, (which is a characteristic of the behavioural approach), avoids an improper instrumentalism,

the embodiment of the behavioural approach to human resource management is problem-oriented and the behavioural approach), avoids an improper discipline-specific localism,

the behavioural approach to human resource management is problem-oriented and therewith escapes sterile discipline-specific localism,

questions about work relations are complex questions, the answers to these questions require a broad knowledge. The behavioural approach integrates the necessary knowledge base.

The results of research under the behavioural approach show great promise. The behavioural approach to human resources management is a success story. It leads to numerous new and far reaching insights. The behavioural approach delivers a good knowledge base for improving the conditions of human life and work. And finally, the behavioural approach to human resources management possesses great potential for enlightenment, i.e. behavioural research corrects prejudices and it identifies and criticizes inappropriate ideological claims.

2. Methodological Positions

The above theses are based on the methodology of critical rationalism. You can hardly find a position that has had to bear more criticism. Opponents frequently display strong emotions against it, (sometimes abhorrence), whilst adherents have developed the conviction that many of the ideas of Karl Popper, (the father of critical rationalism), have become obsolete - thanks to their active help, (c.f. Bohm/Holweg/Hoock 2002). One can look at this ironically, because it shows a kind of self-reference of critical rationalism. …

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