Human Relations: A Personal Experience
Human Relations: A Personal Experience Allison R. West Introduction to Graduate Studies in Human Relations 12/4/13 While reading Modern Human Relations at Work I found information that I pretty much expected to find in a book on this subject. I found some specific studies that I had not read about before and ideals that I found to be true in theory, but not so much in practice. The standard questions of whether a happy worker is a productive worker and do open door policies work were addressed. Ten years ago I would have read this text book in a much different manner, with a completely different erspective than I do today.
I may have viewed the ideals of organizational human relations with some sort of hope that people can actually work in environments where there are superiors and subordinates can maintain a sense of respect and humanity towards one another, but that has not always been my experience. The old expression “it’s lonely at the top” can be interpreted in several ways; there are not many top dogs out there, or that the higher you go the less time you have to mingle with the lowly, or the less you really care to, or the misguided belief that you should have a self-imposed separation .
Whatever the meaning or reason one thing is true to my understanding; organizations are truly not classless societies and while they, in theory, should understand human relations better than anyone, they practice very little of what they profess to preach. I do not mean to give the impression that I do not understand the need for hierarchies and the important role they play in efficient organizations, it is not the paradigm, but the players, with which I take issue.
In this paper I would like to address the two areas that were of greatest interest to me as they apply to my experiences working within large organizations. The first area referred to the fundamentals of human relations and included a study conducted by the Hawthorne plant of Western Electric in Illinois that I found interesting. The second discussed the management of conflict between individuals and organizations and included exercises that companies can use to build stronger relationships between botn I wou d like to snare my thoughts on these areas trom both theoretical and practical stand points.
The book defined human relations as follows: “The process by which management brings workers into contact with the organization in such a way that the objectives of oth groups are achieved is human relations” (pg. 5) and takes the point of view of the manager. While the company and the worker share a common purpose of being successful and making money, the worker also has goals that the company may or may not be aware of or concerned with. Successful human relations addresses both the company and the worker and finds a satisfactory solution to all needs.
This, in my opinion, is where most companies don’t seem to be able to get it right. It is not enough for an organization to say that they care about their workers, what their needs are, what their opinions are and how they can best use their talents to nhance the organization, there has to be follow through and this is what usually does not happen. You only have to look at a company’s turnover of employees to get a good idea of their attitude towards human relations. I spent 10 years working for an organization that truly did not care at all about their workers, though they professed to.
It is my experience with this particular organization, which I will call Agency X that I will be referring to in this paper. Agency X has a high turnover for several reasons, one of which is the amount of stress that comes with the Job and the econd is the response, or lack thereof, on the part of the agency to try and understand, alleviate, or even acknowledge the fact that the needs of the workers are not being met. So while I read through the book, I suppose I was more Jaded and had a more pessimistic attitude than I should have, but I truly believe that few companies actually care about human relations in practice.
I found the Hawthorne studies interesting in that it showed that a worker who feels that they are valued and has some level of relationship with those they work with is productive and that the quality of the supervision they receive effects the uality and quantity of their work (pg. 9). When I worked for Agency X I was a case manager for 4 years and had a supervisor who truly cared and was concerned for the well-being of her workers and the impact the Job was having on us. This supervisor did a good Job of shielding us from the bureaucratic issues that came from above.
She believed that the quality of services to clients and the needs of the workers were both equally as important. After 4 years she changed Jobs and I was promoted to her position, it was at this same time that our contract was obtained by another big agency and suddenly things changed. While I continued to supervise in the way I had been taught, ensuring that what needed to be done was done, that clients were receiving the best possible services and that workers were not burning out and were taking care of themselves I began to see the differences in field work and middle management.
I was accused of babying my workers whenever I tried to make things a little easier for them. It is important to note that we worked with abused children and families in volatile situations that required a tremendous amount of travel and field time (we were not child welfare). Let me give an example of a worker who was close to burning out. We had both been at a home in the country where the situation became fragile and volatile and we decided that it was best to leave.
After we had driven away (we took separate cars) my worker pulled over to the side of the road and just sat there. I pulled in behind ner and Just watched tor a tew seconds wondering if she was going to get out of the car, but she did not. I walked up to her window to find her in tears. I allowed her to vent her feelings and frustrations and finally I suggested to her that she go home for the rest of the day (it was early Friday afternoon) and spend time with her daughters and not think about work until Monday morning.
I told my worker that we would meet in my office on the Monday and talk about what we needed to do make sure her needs and the needs of the client were being met. While this was an appropriate solution to me, I was then “counseled” as I told my worker to go home when she had not filled out a “request for leave” form. That was my first indication that Agency X did not care at all about my worker, all they cared about was a piece of paper that they would not have received until timesheets were turned in the following week anyway.
So I took that hit, signed y piece of paper that said I was a bad supervisor that day and never said a word to my worker about it. Human relations works at a worker level and even at a middle management level if you have a supervisor who gives a damn about you, but it is only a slogan on a poster for those in upper management. The human resources model outlined on page 11 of our book gives 4 systems that an agency can fall into when dealing with human relations. I feel that an agency can fall into several systems at one time.
I think those in middle management still see their workers as valuable assets that should not be easily discarded. Middle anagement have better relationships with their workers and probably fall between system 3 (consultive democratic) and system 4 (participative democratic) depending on how long the subordinate and superior have been working together. Upper management would have you believe that their agency is participative democratic, but they are, in reality, benevolent autocratic (system 2) where condescension and punishment are the main staples of management.
It was forced upon me many times that I should separate myself from my workers and make sure they understood we were “not the same”. While I understand that it is not always wise for supervisors o be friends with workers, we do not need to sit in ivory towers looking down on them either. There is a happy medium that upper management ignore. As I progressed in Agency X, I was promoted again to Regional Director and was responsible for services all 16 counties in Southwest Oklahoma. This was my first and only experience with upper management and I have no desire to “go there” again.