Human relations theory and school administration



This paper attempts to examine and explain the Human Relations Theory, theoretical perspective of two of the scholars, the essence and impact of this theory on educational administration, also effort would be made to examine some critical views of some prominent scholars against the theory. And finally, we concluded the paper by summary and conclusion.




































The human relations movement started between 1935-1950. It was a radical reaction to the scientific movement which treated human being as machines. The principles of human relations believed that organizations should see and treat the workers as human beings.   

It was a product of what is known as the Hawthorne studies, by George Elton Mayo, which examined the effects of social relation, motivation and employee satisfaction on productivity. Elton stressed the following:

  1. Natural groups, in which social aspects take precedence over functional organizational structure
  2. Upwards communication, is two way, from worker to chief executive, as well as vice versa.
  3. Cohesion and good leadership is needed to communicate goals and to ensure effective and coherent decision making.

Also Mary Parket Follet (1868-1933) who wrote a series of brilliant papers dealing with the human side of administration believed that the fundamental problem in all organization was in developing and maintaining dynamic and harmonious relationships.      

According to Mary Follet, a prominent pioneer of the new line in National Society for the study of education (1964); “it is not just a production and distribution of manufactured articles, it is also to give opportunity for individual development and self-actualization through better organization of human relationships. The process of production is as important as that of the welfare of the society as product of production”. 

  1. The formal work group the social environment employees has great influence on the productivity.
  2. To Mayo and others, the concept of social man (motivated by social needs, wanting-on the-job relationships and more responsive to work group pressure than to management control) has to replace the old concept of rational man motivated by personal economic needs. This theory marked the beginning of the recognition of human factor in the effectiveness of an organization.

Other proponents of the Human Relations Theory are Douglas McGregor, Chris Agris and Abraham Maslow. Under the human relations movement, McGregor’s theory X and Y and Maslow’s hieracy of needs theory. 


Oreamesi (2001) advanced that Doulas McGregor’s in his book “the human side of enterprise” postulated dichotomous view of the attitudes of managers towards employees. The two theoretical assumptions which are separately known as theory X and Y present diverse perception of the relationships between manager and subordinates in organizational life. 

Theory X portends a pessimistic view of workers. It assumes that employees are inherently lazy and will avoid work if they can. As a result of this management believes that workers need to be closely supervised and comprehensive systems of control developed. According to Michael (2011) if organizational goals are to be met, theory X managers rely heavily on threat and coercion to gain the employees compliance.    

        Theory Y presents a different orientation about the relationships between managers and employees. In this theory management assumes employees may be ambitions and self-motivated and exercise self control. It also believes that employees enjoy their mental and physical work.

        Its goes further to state that to them work is as natural as play and the average human bring does not inherently dislike work, given the proper conditions, theory Y managers believe that employees will learn to seek out and accept responsibility and to exercise self-control and self-direction in accomplishing objectives to which they are committed.


According to Abraham Maslow, man always has needs to satisfy. These needs can be satisfied in a hierarchical order starting from the basic needs to the higher order needs. The theory further explains that once a particular need is satisfied, it ceases to be a motivator and another one arises. He classified needs into:

  1. Physiological: Basic physical needs like air, food, shelter, water.
  2. Safety: The need for physical and psychological security.
  3. Social: The desire for satisfying social relationships with others, like acceptance and feeling of belonging.
  4. Ego: This is the need for self-respect, recognition and appreciation by management.
  5. Self actualization: The desire to be an that one can be

Maslow succeeded in classifying human needs as least as an aid thinking for management. What is disputed in Maslow’s theory is the issue of successive saturation. Satisfying one need can help alleviate another, therefore they overlap.    


The human relations theory occupied a great role in the development of organizational administration. During the era of Human Relations theory, numerous themes, ideas or notions were emphasized in education administration.

The Human Relations School of Management Thought, which emphasized treating employees in a human manner, has impact in the educational administration is several ways (Kimbough and Nunnery 1983). These include:

  1. Increasing effort to democratize the practice of educational administration.
  2. Growing emphasis on the utilization of concept from the social sciences, anthropology, psychology, sociology and the behavioural elements of economics and political sciences.
  3. Educational administrators were responsible for the promotion of relations between organization members that were mutually satisfying. Harmony and high staff morale were considered essentials for improved teaching and learning.
  4. This movement also proposed the implementation of methods of dealing with workers as a psychological being. Eg: teachers and non-academic staff in school system etc.
  5. Educational administrators began to stress the exercise of group authority within the legal frame work governing educational organizations.
  6. vi.         It made educational administration come to be seen as service activities contributing to the effective instructional programmes, as a means and not an end itself. Mochlman (1940), put this idea more clearly and when he stated that: “Administration in essentially a services activity, a tool or agency through the fundamental objectives of the educational process may be more fully and efficiently realized”.
  7. vii.        Human relations is seen as an attempt of humanization of labour that is of practical value for increasing profits and social responsibility.
  8. viii.      There emerged an increasing emphasis and support among educational administrators participative or cooperative decision making.
  9. ix.         It aims at addressing the social needs of workers and therefore elicits their cooperation as a workforce.
  10. x.           Finally, the advocates of democratic administration stressed that the executive educational administrator should take steps to satisfy psychological needs.


The human relations movement made very significant contribution to management thought. It brought into limelight human and social factors in organizations; it made management to regard workers as human beings rather the cogs in the machinery. Furthermore, Human Relations Movement led to the emergence of participative management or decision making. It stressed the significance social or informal group in the organization. It also brought about the humanizing of management and sense of flexibility in bureaucratic enterprise. Finally, it led to a lessening of the emphasis on “one best way” of getting a work done.

In spite of its contributions, human relations approached ideas and practices have a number of criticism:

  1. In many case. Human relations programmes were implemented as a technique for manipulating people to comply with management directives instead of for bringing management to an understanding of human nature and thereby creating the desirable changes in the organization.
  2. Human Relations is also criticized for overemphasizing human needs at the expense of need for accomplishment or responsibility, or for organizational task and process. (Structured and technical aspects). Subsequently, there was lack of comprehensiveness in the notion advanced.  

iii.The effect of human relations theories did not result in the demise of the numerous applications of classical theory.

iv. Some of the postulates advanced by human relations theorists did not give the rise of derivations that were subject to empirical testing.

  1. There was a lack of evidence of confirm some of the derivations from the postulates advanced. For instance, Unde (2007) pointed out that the evidence is less conclusive with regard to the often assumed relationship between increase employee satisfaction and increased productivity. Human resources-oriented theories of the latter of the era generally assumed that good and meaningful performance leads to job satisfaction and not the reverse.

vi. Human relations theories’ idea posed certain dilemmas without solutions offered. For example, several of the theorists stressed the importance of satisfying both individual needs and organizational goals, but in the event of unresolved conflict between the two, what should be the direction?

  1. vii.    This work is considered by academics as counterpart to         Taylorism and scientific management.  




Human relations movement emerged around 1930s in United State of America to cope with dehumaniztion of individuals in organizations; it emphasized on the study of the behavior of workers in organizations, and examined the effects of social relations, motivation and employee satisfaction on productivity.

The theory makes school administrators to view workers in terms of their psychology and fit within the school system rather than as inter-challengeable parts.













Etzioni, A. Modern organizations. New jersey, 1964

Follet, P. M. (1924); creative experience New York: Longman

Industrial Relations. Encyclopedia Britannica 2009

Mayo Elton (1953); The Human Problems of an Industrial      Civilization. New York, Macmillan. 


McGregor, (19) The human side of enterprise New York: Megrawli

Michael, P. (2011) Human relations.

Oraemes; J. C. (1997) introduction to politics of Education. Port-   Harcourt: Bengray


Pretomode V. F. (1991); “Educational Administration Applied         Concept and Theoretical Perspectives for students and        practitioners.   


Undie (2001). Educational Governance. Calabar: Tabson

www.oppapers. com/subject/human-relation (17th May, 2009) (13rd Sep, 2010).








4 Responses to “Human relations theory and school administration”

  1. richard z Says:

    I realapreciat your work. It is of hreat help!

  2. sualabs007 Says:

    Very enlightening…..Much appreciated

  3. Nuhu Says:

    Educating and interesting article

  4. winfride mwalongo Says:

    i appreciate your work!!!!!!

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