The study and understanding of human relations can help us in our workplace, and as a result, assist us in achieving career success. The better our human relations, the more likely we are to grow both professionally and personally. Knowing how to get along with others, resolve workplace conflict, manage relationships, communicate well, and make good decisions are all skills we will discuss throughout the book.
So, what is human relations? We can define human relationsRelations with or between people, particularly in a workplace or professional setting. as relations with or between people, particularly in a workplace or professional setting.Merriam Webster Dictionary, accessed January 30, 2012, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/human%20relations 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.Natalie Jones, “10 Most Common Reasons Why People Are Fired,” Wikinut article, February 28, 2010, accessed January 31, 2012, http://business.wikinut.com/10-Most-Common-Reasons-People-are-Fired/ggcsrftv/ 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.Jean Maye, “7 Steps to Getting Promoted,” Chicago Tribune, 2012, accessed January 31, 2012, http://www.chicagotribune.com/classified/jobs/sns-jobs-steps-promotion,0,6989913.story 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.Brian Tracy, “Mastering Human Relationships,” Brian Tracy International, August 19, 2009, accessed January 31, 2012, http://www.briantracy.com/blog/personal-success/mastering-human-relationships/ Another reason to develop good relationships with others relates to your own personal happiness. According to psychologist Sydney Jourard, most joy in life comes from happy relationships with other people.Tracy, Brian, “Mastering Human Relationships,” Brian Tracy International, August 19, 2009, accessed January 31, 2012, http://www.briantracy.com/blog/personal-success/mastering-human-relationships/
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 structuresRefers to the way a company arranges people, jobs, and communications so that work can be performed. 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 empowerWhen an organization gives the employees freedom in making decisions about how their work gets done. their employees; that is, they give employees freedom in making decisions about how their work gets done. This can create a more motivated 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 approachThis approach recognizes that an organization employs not just someone with skills but rather the whole person.. 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.
Joan Harrington, a blogger and life coach, says there are a few key things to getting people to like you.Joan Harrington, “Eight Persuasion Tips to Make Anyone Like You,” Joan Harrington’s True Successes, January 19, 2012, accessed January 31, 2012, http://joansblog.joantruesuccess11.ws/highly-recommended/8-persuasion-tips-to-make-anyone-like-you/
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 managementA time period relating to the research of human relations that focused on efficiency. The time period for this school of thought took place from 1900 to the early 1920s.. 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.
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:Girish Sharmaa, “Henri Fayol’s Principles of Management,” Publish Your Articles, no date, accessed February 1, 2012, http://www.publishyourarticles.org/knowledge-hub/business-studies/henry-fayols-principles-of-management.html
Fayol’s research was some of the first that addressed the need for positive human relations in a work environment. As further research was performed into the 1920s, we moved into a new period of human relations studies called the behavioral school of managementDuring the 1920s when employees had begun to unionize, researchers began to look at the human aspect of workers.. During this time period, employees had begun to unionize, bringing human relations issues to the forefront. Because workers demanded a more humane environment, researchers began to look at how organizations could make this happen.
One of the more notable researchers was Elton Mayo, from Harvard Business School, and his colleagues. They conducted a series of experiments from the mid-1920s to early 1930s to investigate how physical working conditions affected worker productivity. They found that regardless of changes such as heat, lighting, hours, and breaks, productivity levels increased during the study. The researchers realized the increased productivity resulted because the workers knew they were being observed. In other words, the workers worked harder because they were receiving attention and felt cared about. This phenomenon is called the Hawthorne effectCoined during the 1920s during a series of experiments where workers had higher productivity because they were being watched by researchers and felt cared about. (named for the electrical plant for which the experiments were conducted).
In the 1950s, researchers began to explore management techniques and the effect on worker satisfaction. This was called the behavioral science approachDuring the 1950s when researchers began to explore management techniques as opposed to earlier years where the focus was more on productivity.. These techniques used psychology, sociology, and other human relations aspects to help researchers understand the organizational environment.
Since the 1960s, research on human relations has been much easier to assimilate because of technology and a focus on statistical analysis. Hence, this is called the management science schoolDuring the 1960s when the research on human relations was more focused on statistical aspects, due to the increase in technology.. So while research today focuses on the human relations aspect, we are now able to use complex statistical models to improve efficiency and productivity while still focusing on the human relations component.
While we discuss the impact of technology on human relations throughout the book, it is important to mention here the immense impact technology has had on this field of study. Inability to see body language indicators make it more difficult to communicate using technology, creating conflict and misunderstandings. These misunderstandings can obviously affect human relations. Also consider that through globalization, we are working with people from all over the world in many time zones who have different perspectives. Between technology and globalization, humans have never had to work with such a diverse group of people—using diverse methods of communication—at any time in history.
Technology has allowed us to do this: e-mail, Skype, and instant message, to name a few. The impact on human relations is obvious—there is less face-to-face interactions and more interactions using technology. Add in the challenge of a global environment and this creates a whole new set of challenges.
Many organizations today are focusing on how to use technology to save workers time commuting to work. In fact, an estimated 26.2 million workers telecommuteThe practice of working from a remote location., or work from a remote location at least once per month.Telework 2011, “A WorldatWork Special Report,” World at Work Organization, June 2011, accessed February 1, 2012, http://www.worldatwork.org/waw/adimLink?id=53034 Global Workplace Analytics cites the following benefits to telecommuting:
However, Global Workplace Analytics also says there are some key drawbacks:Telework Research Network, “Costs and Benefits: Advantages of Telecommuting,” Telework Research Network, no date, accessed February 1, 2012, http://www.teleworkresearchnetwork.com/costs-benefits
While technology has greatly impacted human relations at work, there are some common denominators for human relations success in today’s workplace—whether or not technology is used. These factors will be discussed throughout this book:
We will focus on human relations in a work setting, but many examples will also relate to personal settings. The examples provided will give you tools to have positive relationships with coworkers, supervisors, and people in your personal life. These positive relationships—both at home and at work—help us become more rounded, happier individuals. This is good for everyone, including the company you work for.