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Human relation theory
According to human relation theory by Hawthorn, better working conditions were very crucial
and important in an organization and workers deserved a better pay and that they should not be
perceived like machines. One is that an interest in workers going beyond economic concerns can
be found well before Hawthorne. It was present in the various attempts of nineteenth century
industrialists, to meet the ‘moral needs’ of workers. Housing and religious and communal
activities were designed to cater for workers’ leisure time and to provide an environment
conducive to good living.
Taylor’s theory of scientific management was not the same as the human relations, whereas
Taylor sought to eradicate the informal side of the organization, the human relations message
was to acknowledge its irrepressibility and to find ways of managing it into an alignment with
the formal parts and purposes of the organization.
Human relations theory developed as a response to Taylorism. Rejecting the biological and
mechanistic approaches of F. W. Taylor’s “scientific management,” the human relations theory
proposed the implementation of methods of dealing with workers as socio psychological beings.
As the basis of its new methods of intensifying and increasing labor productivity, the human
relations theory proposed that human psychological and moral qualities such as goals,
motivation, and values be taken into account. The use of empirical data on worker satisfaction
with labor and the influence of collective demands and of the psychological climate in work
groups on labor productivity spurred attempts to develop a program to harmonize the relations of
different groups and individuals in order to bring about maximum efficiency in the operation of
the organization as a whole. The program took into account requirements arising from modern
technological progress. New technology and the automation and mechanization of production
processes placed in the forefront the task of training workers capable of continual improvement
of work habits. Moreover, it was determined that sweatshop methods of increasing worker
productivity were ineffective.
The assumptions held by the theory
i. That meant that workers were now recognized as having social needs and interests such
that they could no longer be regarded as the economically motivated automatons
envisaged by Taylorism.
ii. Workers were perceived as part and parcel of an organization and not as working
iii. Informal side of the organization was important or maybe even important than the official
or the hierarchal side of the organization and rules.
Neo-Human Relations Theories
The Neo-Human Relations theory focuses on the structures of modern organizations. It gave rise
to several famous theories, including Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which suggests that workers
are motivated to satisfy basic needs at five levels: physiological, safety, love, esteem and self-
actualization. This school of thought also includes Theory X and Theory Y.
Under Theory X, leaders must direct worker behavior and allocate rewards based on meeting
organizational needs. Otherwise, workers will be passive or resistant. Theory Y, on the other
hand, assumes that people are capable of assuming responsibility in the workplace, and that the
job of leadership is to facilitate the achievement of individual worker goals through the
achievement of organizational goals.
The assumption held by the theories.
According to theories of neo- human relations;
Workers needs (Maslow’s) must be fore front and that workers must be totally satisfied in all
levels of needs to realize optimum out put. Unsatisfied workers will tend to be unproductive and
totally ineffective.
Rewarding workers occasionally basing on merit and performance should be a priority and that
transformational sought of management be adapted to create a serene environment for working.
According to x, workers are able to perform even with minimal supervision and that supervision
should only be grantent.
The relation of the theories to industrial relations.
Both theories advocate for better working condition as opposed to scientific management
theories by Taylor. This theories view management as a link between work and the worker
perspective. The worker is presumed as self controlled and can work without or with minimal
supervision. These theories are for better payment to workers, sensible work intervals and a
minimum leave of a month each year to allow for personal relinquishment.
A “system” can be described as a complex of interacting components together with the
relationships among them that permit the identification of a boundary-maintaining entity or
process. One such approach draws on the body of knowledge derived from General System
Theory and its application in the domain of human activity systems.
The main proponent of the system theory of industrial relation is John Dunlop in the 1950s.
According to Dunlop industrial relations system consists of three agents management
organizations, workers and formal/informal ways they are organized and government agencies.
These actors and their organizations are located within an environment defined in terms of
technology, labor and product markets, and the distribution of power in wider society as it
impacts upon individuals and workplace. Within this environment, actors interact with each
other, negotiate and use economic/political power in process of determining rules that constitute
the output of the industrial relations system. He proposed that three parties—employers, labor
unions, and government-- are the key actors in a modern industrial relations system. He also
argued that none of these institutions could act in an autonomous or independent fashion. Instead
they were shaped, at least to some extent, by their market, technological and political contexts.
Thus it can be said that industrial relations is a social sub system subject to three environmental
constraints- the markets, distribution of power in society and technology.
Dunlop's model identifies three key factors to be considered in conducting an analysis of the
management-labor relationship:
1. Environmental or external economic, technological, political, legal and social forces that
impact employment relationships.
2. Characteristics and interaction of the key actors in the employment relationship: labor,
management, and government.
3. Rules that are derived from these interactions that govern the employment relationship.
The assumptions held by the theory
Dunlop emphasizes the core idea of systems by saying that the arrangements in the field of
industrial relations may be regarded as a system in the sense that each of them more or less
intimately affects each of the others so that they constitute a group of arrangements for dealing
with certain matters and are collectively responsible for certain results”.
In effect Industrial relations is the system which produces the rules of the workplace. Such rules
are the product of interaction between three key “actors” workers/unions, employers and
associated organizations and government
The Dunlop’s model gives great significance to external or environmental forces. In other words,
management, labor, and the government possess a shared ideology that defines their roles within
the relationship and provides stability to the system.
The relation of the theory to industrial relations.
According to this theory, good industrial relations is a must since the industrial stake holders are
unionized and merged together in terms of making crucial decisions. When workers are
supported and their views listened to by both the government their employers makes it easier to
negotiate and create a conducive working environment.
The major proponent of the labor process theory was Marx in the early 1900. The theory was
against Taylor’s scientific management theory and uses the central concept as authored by Harry
Braveman in the 1970s. Recent attempts have been made to use labor process theory to explain
workers' bargaining power under contemporary global capitalism. Labor Process Theory has
developed into a broader set of interventions and texts linked to critiquing new forms of
management strategy of an exploitative nature.
Labor Process Theory looks at how people work, who controls their work, what "skills" they use
in work, and how they are paid for work. Braveman posits a very broad thesis: that under
capitalism, management steals workers skills, reduces the pleasurable nature of work and the
power workers have through controlling skill, while cutting their wages by reducing their wages
to those of unskilled workers and increasing the amount of exertion required from workers.
Braverman primarily pays attention to the class-in-itself or the working class as the subject of
management and capitalist brutality, acknowledging his inability to attend to working class self-
emancipation in this context.
A key element of labor process theory is an analysis of the local systems of management and
control, and an examination of how these are used to reduce the power of sections of the working
class who hold work skills that aren't reproducible by unskilled labor or machine power. A key
element of labor process theory is an analysis of the local systems of management and control,
and an examination of how these are used to reduce the power of sections of the working class
who hold work skills that aren't reproducible by unskilled labor or machine power.
The assumptions held by the theory
The theory asserts that;
Workers should not at all cost be subjected to any form discrimination by the management.
Workers deserve a better pay regardless of skills and professionalism.
Working conditions should be made fair for all the workers and maltreatment should be a subject
of judicial process.
Strategic theory
Since mid 1980's, the strategic choice and industrial relations theory advanced by Tom Kochan
and his colleagues at the "MIT school" has been the subject of considerable attention (Godard,
1997). In the field of industrial relations study, the emergence of this model was highly
significant for mainly three reasons. First, it tried to explain the transformation process of U.S.
industrial relations by making a new theory. As a result, it was successful in understanding the
anomalies such as the decline in union membership that traditional industrial relations theories
could not provide good explanation. Second, the model provides dynamic processes among
government, management, and labor as well as emphasizing the importance of environmental
factors. While traditional theories tried to explain the industrial relations mainly by
environmental conditions, the strategic choice model added the concept of decision making in
different levels and interaction among players to the old theoretical framework. Third, strategic
choice model brought the subject of management practices and policies back into the industrial
relations research.
It promoted a cross-fertilization of research between industrial relations and organizational
behavior and human resource management scholars (Kaufman, 1993). In sum, their effort of
establishing the strategic choice model was a trial of paradigm shift in the field of industrial
relations research.
But there are some anomalies in the model. First, the model could not foresee the declines of
union membership after time. Rather conventional models assume that labor unions were a
permanent participant in their employment relationships. Second, conventional models assume
that there is a consensus ideology. But based on the models, we could not tell whether or not
managerial values, strategies, and behavior in industrial relations were changed. Third, the
traditional industrial relations models treat management as reacting to union demands, pressures,
and initiatives. But there were many managerial initiatives and changes that affected the
transformation in U.S. industrial relations and they have occurred within management.
Assumptions held by the theory.
Kochan, et al (1984) added a more dynamic component to industrial relations theory by
developing the concept of strategy, or strategic choice and then tried to demonstrate that
industrial relations practices and outcomes are shaped by the interactions of environmental
forces, union leaders, workers, and public policy decision makers. They argue that the significant
changes in the industrial relations system that began in the 1970s were caused by new firm
policies dealing with human resource management and labor relations. The most basic change
they identify is the more active involvement of senior line management in the formulation of
industrial relations policies.
Industrial relations processes and outcomes are determined by a continuously evolving
interaction of environmental pressures and organizational responses. The relative importance of
either the environment or the parties' responses can vary over time. Therefore, labor- or product
market changes do not have independent effect or operate in a unique or deterministic fashion.
Then, choice and discretion on the part of labor, management, and government affect the course
and structure of industrial relations systems. Moreover, history plays an extremely important role
in shaping the range of feasible strategic adaptations.
The relations of the theory to industrial relations.
A key element of labor process theory is an analysis of the local systems of management and
control, and an examination of how these are used to reduce the power of sections of the working
class who hold work skills that aren't reproducible by unskilled labor or machine power.
The theory emphasized on environmental factors that affects workers more than the managerial
factors. It asserts that the working environment should be very conducive for workers to avoid
contracting of air borne diseases and other environment related diseases.
Regulation theory
The main proponents of this theory were Steve Jeffery, Chris Howell and Alan Jenkins.
According to them, a regulations conception of institutional development encourages us to
recognize that industrial relations institutions are a congealed form of class power; they reflect a
particular moment of class power at the time of their construction. There is nothing necessarily
fragile or contingent about class power.
Perspective nature of the theory.
What gives institutions in the sphere of industrial relations their stability over time is a rough
stability in the balance of class power and the economic interests of workers and employers. That
is turn rests upon a stable pattern of economic growth. It is when that form of growth breaks
down, and consequently the interests and resources of class actors change, that one would expect
the institutions that previously regulated industrial relations to mutate, whether that involves the
creation of entirely new institutions or the investing of new functions and meanings in existing
States intervene in the restructuring of industrial relations institutions because they cannot afford
not to. The industrial relations system is the collective form, and regulatory mechanism, of the
basic unit of the capitalist mode of production: the wage relationship. That relationship is
inherently conflictual, as Marx and Polanyi for different reasons pointed out a long time ago. The
social, economic and political consequences of industrial relations failure — in the form of
strikes, unemployment, inflation, political crisis — make it implausible that any state can adopt a
non- interventionist stance for long. But, states also intervene because business and labor may be
unable to construct institutions themselves, even though they may want them and see them as
beneficial. States can institutionalize practices, generalize them beyond a few leading sectors of
the economy, and, above all, solve collective action problems, by limiting defection, for both
business and labor organizations. States may act against the wishes of industrial actors, for their
own reasons. But more often, states will act because other actors cannot – because they are timid,
divided, concerned with short-term interests, have sunk costs in existing institutions, and are
generally unwilling to challenge existing industrial relations institutions – and because states can
perform functions and have capacities unavailable to interest groups.
Assumption of the theory
The major assumptions of the theory are;
i. States intervenes in the re-structuring of industrial relations institutions because they
cannot afford not to.
ii. But, states also intervene because business and labor may be unable to construct
institutions themselves, even though they may want them and see them as beneficial.
iii. States can institutionalize practices, generalize them beyond a few leading sectors of the
economy, and, above all, solve collective action problems, by limiting defection, for both
business and labor organizations.
Relation of the theory to industrial relations
The theory of regulation is closely related to matters affecting industrial relations since it views
the state and the government as the sole protector of labor regulations and workers in total. The
theory advocates for collective bargaining as a way of reaching consensus and of solving
industrial strife.
Labor market theory.
Labor market theory was advanced as an alternative to human capital theory by several authors
in the early 1970s that included Wachter 1974 and Cain 1976.
The theory asserts that, access to jobs in at least some sectors at some times is limited in the
sense that more people want jobs than there are jobs offered. Thus there may be queuing for
these jobs either in the form of unemployment or job queues among employed workers or both.
While it is easy to state that labor market segmentation is an easy thing, the theory states that, a
number of important characteristics of the wage determination mechanism and the employment
relation must be correlated so that segments can be characterized as regions in a space with
dimension significantly smaller than the space of characteristics. Labor market theory provides a
good description of the income distribution and is therefore of heuristic importance.
All the early writers on labor market theory identified limited mobility among sectors as an
important aspect of the theory; more significantly, they argued that there is a hierarchy of sectors
with access to the highest paying being the most difficult.
Critics of labor market theory used the fact that during the economic expansion of the 1960s
blacks were more likely to move into high wage jobs than whites as evidence against reduced
mobility (SchiUer 1977). Smith (1989) revives this argument by showing that earnings rise more
rapidly with experience among blacks than among whites. Leigh (1976) finds substantial and
comparable earnings growth for blacks and whites and suggests that this refutes the dual market
hypothesis. On the other hand, Rosenberg (1976) and Carnoy and Rumberger (1980) find that
minority workers are more likely to begin their career in the secondary sector and having started
there are less likely to leave than the whites.
Assumptions of the theory
i. Managers hire over-qualified workers and pay them high wages to make their own jobs
more pleasant.
ii. Large wage differences may exist for workers doing similar work at different firms
within the same city.
iii. There are many people looking for jobs as compared to the number of jobs present for
them this leads to queuing and joblessness.
iv. Skills and experience level determines the wage of a worker.
Relations of the theory to industrial relations.
Labor market theory majorly discusses on issues concerning employment and wages. It also too
discusses on wages that a skilled employer should be payed and ways of measuring skills. The
theory asserts that there should be a balance between job market and labor market to realize the
equilibrium and avoid queuing. When labor markets are seen as imperfect, and when the
employment relationship includes conflicts of interest, then one cannot rely on markets or
managers to always serve workers’ interests, and in extreme cases to prevent worker
exploitation. Industrial relations scholars and practitioners therefore support institutional
interventions to improve the workings of the employment relationship and to protect workers
rights. The nature of these institutional interventions, however, differ between two camps within
industrial relations. The pluralist camp sees the employment relationship as a mixture of shared
interests and conflicts of interests that are largely limited to the employment relationship.
Employees association in Kenya.
1. Kenya airports employees association.
2. Architectural association of Kenya.
3. Kenya medical practitioners association of Kenya.
4. National Nurses Association of Kenya
5. Kenya Airline Pilots Association
6. Communications Workers Association
7. Railway Workers Association of Kenya
8. Tailors & Textiles Workers Association
9. Transport & Allied Workers Association
10. Kenya Association of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions, Hospitals & Allied
Trade Unions in Kenya
1. Amalgamated Union of Kenya Metal Workers
2. Kenya Petroleum Oil Workers Union
3. Bakery, Confectionery Manufacturing &
4. Allied Workers Union (K)
5. Dock Workers Union.
6. Kenya Building, construction, Timber, Furniture & Allied Trades Employees Union
7. Kenya Chemical & Allied Workers Union
8. Kenya Engineering Workers Union
9. Kenya Game Hunting & Safari Workers Union
10. Kenya Union of Printing, Publishing, Paper Manufacturing & Allied Workers
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Kaufman, Bruce E. (2004). Theoretical Perspectives on Work and the Employment Relationship.
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Kaufman, Bruce E. (2004). The Global Evolution of Industrial Relations: Events, Ideas, and the
IIRA. International Labour Office.
Kelly, John (1998). Rethinking Industrial Relations: Mobilization, Collectivism and Long
Waves. Routledge.
Salamon, Michael (2000). Industrial Relations: Theory and Practice. Prentice Hall.
Webb, Sidney; Webb, Beatrice (1897). Industrial Democracy. Longmans, Green, and
Nichols, Theo (1997). The Sociology of Industrial Injury.. London: Mansell
Publishing Limited.
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