Managing Humans

  6 min 34 sec to read
Managing Humans


With the advent of industrialisation, society gradually started moving towards the development of science and technology. Consequently, huge factories and industries were set up in Europe and the US which, ultimately, led the world into capitalism, communism, socialism, feminism, unionism, globalization, neo-globalization and, of late, data capitalism. And going through all these philosophies, managing human resources has become an uphill task.

Humanistic management is all about people-oriented management that looks for privileges for human ends. It contrasts with different kinds of management that are essentially oriented towards making profits, and that take people as only resources to serve this goal. Human management lays high priority to persons and human aspects in managing organisations along with showing care for people’s wellbeing. It is a matter of human psychology in management too.

Flashback of Humanistic Management
In the first decades of management thought, several scholars defended the essence of the human side of management – even without using the term “humanistic management.” Some scholars like Abraham Maslow, MC Gregory and Herzberg focused on the ethos of human needs and motivations, while others like Follett, Barnard and Drucker unveiled a vision of management which could not differentiate the technical and human aspects or which stressed the centrality of persons. Parker Follett, a pioneer of management studies, argues, “We can never wholly separate the human and the mechanical problem. …but you all see every day that the study of human relations in business and the study of technique of operating are bound up together.”

Chester I Barnard focused on the significance of cooperation in business and the responsibility of the managers to give respect to people and to promote cooperation among them (Wolf 1974).

Peter Drucker, known as one of the great scholars of management, argued that management is about people stressing the significance of the wholeness of the person along with power, values, structure and responsibilities. (Linklater and Maciariello, 2011).

The term ‘humanistic in management’ was first used in a book titled ‘Management a Humanistic Art’ published in 1967 by David E Lilienthal.

Swart (1973) used the term ‘humanistic management’ to refer to a set of innovative proposals made at the time to overcome the monotonous repetition of tasks established by scientific management to improve productivity, but with no thought given to worker motivation. He, further, asserts: “Humanistic management, often called job enrichment, is a new way to cope with old problems – motivation, work satisfaction, morale, and productivity.”

After the 1980s, Daley came up with the idea that humanistic management is regarded by many as a means for both productivity and for developing human potential. (1986, P. 131). Similarly, Ghoshal and Bartlett (1997) focused on people-centred policies, corporate purpose and culture instead of the conventional “industrial machine”. Likewise, Pfeiffer (1998) suggested putting people first to achieve organisational success.

Management underwent tremendous development throughout the 20th century. During the first decades of that century, with Taylor’s managerial principles and Henry Ford’s technique, little attention was paid to the human condition of workers, except for making them more efficient in productive operations. Taylor only focused on the self-interest of the workers to get money and the organisation of time and activities in order to improve productivity, while Henri Fayol limited his approach to the functions of management. Likewise, Ford focused on increasing productivity through the assembly line. They all highlighted their principles that the image of the person was quite mechanistic. Managers planned the work and gave orders which had to be obeyed by employees -- the reward for that was basically money.

Priority for human management.
Cooperation, collaboration, empathy, emotional intelligence and solidarity among all the stakeholders are the building blocks for business management which paves the way for a better ‘humanistic management’.

If business firms were a mere collection of self-interested individuals continuously competing to achieve their personal goals, without any concern for common goals and with an absolute lack of cooperation, they simply cannot survive. In practice, those who form an organisation are persons with some degree of identification, commitment and willingness to achieve common goals, even when sometimes achieving these goals could mean sacrificing some personal interests. The history and culture of an enterprise, especially when it has a certain age, contribute to creating unity too. All of this leads to considering enterprises as communities of persons, beyond being an instrument for profits and a sort of organisms which tries to adapt itself to the environment.

Furthermore, business firms are a part of society and they continuously interact with it. They cannot be a parasite or cancer for society but a pillar for social life and stability, and therefore the only correct attitude is cooperation between firms and society and concern for the common good.

If a common goal is neglected and ignored, conflict will arise out of it from the perspective of social conflict theory. Human virtues are to be considered for the successful management of business firms. A virtue is a quality which enables an individual to discharge his or her role. Human virtues are solely related to human requirements and fulfilment. Thus, humanistic management refers to motivating people but taking into account the need for growing as a person through human virtues.

Humanistic management should develop unity to ensure that the community of persons, which is an enterprise, becomes stronger as a community. In addition, it has to reconsider motivations and organisational culture. Managers have to motivate people around them to acquire virtues, and try to discover and promote beliefs and values within the organisational culture that foster human virtues, in all its forms, to its fullest extent. This leads to analysis of relationship between these concepts and practical ways to carry out this humanistic management.

Post-COVID human management:
The COVID – 19 has tremendously trembled all the companies and organisations. Building a complex and challenging environment for managers and human resource management practitioners, who need to find insightful solutions to ensure the persistence of their companies and to help their employees to cope with this extraordinary crisis, is a hard nut to crack.

Human management during this post-COVID period has been a challenging task for managers for regular functioning of the organisation. Companies are gradually reopening hoping positive transactions that may, owners have a faint hope, compensate their capital as well as psychological loss.

Cultivating supporting hands to the employees and bringing them back into normalcy is a monumental task. As many economists have predicted that the tremor of this pandemic will be felt till the end of 2022, everybody is scared of the fact that this virus will end or again emerge in other deadly forms despite the availability of vaccines. Thus, performing strategic planning can be daunting for managers and human resource management practitioners.

Employee personalisation, a focus on wellness of the employees, workforce flexibility, employee upskilling, artificial intelligence–driven technology along with a feeling of sanctuary and empathy are the fundamental tools that can help in managing human resources in an organisation.

Taking everything into account, effective control of people comes from inner-self motivations rather than application of authoritarian controls.

Albert Einstein has rightly said -- “A man’s ethical behaviour should be based on sympathy, education and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death”.  

(Author can be reached at [email protected])

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