Comparison of Classical and Contemporary Approaches to Management

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Contemporary Approaches to Management Are More Reflective of Human Relations Theory than Classical Theories of Management

Today, the concept of management has gone through a drastic transformation over time through various unique stages to the modern day approaches to managing human relations. The modern approaches have undergone a significant transformation in order to meet the ever-changing demands of firms operating in an increasingly volatile and competitive global market environment. Contemporary approaches being one of the modern methods of management can be considered to be more reflective of human relations theory than classical theories of management due to the fact that classical theories are more rigid and tough. The classical theory of management is driven by its principle of ensuring that there is a significant increase in productivity and efficiency. However, unlike contemporary approaches, achieving the goals often come at the expense of creativity and human relations.

For instance, while contemporary approaches take into account every aspect of human needs, the classical theory of management does not consider other significant aspects such as social needs and job satisfaction, but rather solely focus on centralized leadership, profit maximization, specialization of labour and centralization of decision-making procedure (Petty, 2018). In this regard, contemporary approaches to management can be viewed as more reflective of human relations theory more than classical theories of Management due to the fact that contemporary methods emphasis on the intense interaction of all the employees at all levels.

Human Relations Theory of Management

Human relations theory of management holds that people play a significant role in propagating a particular organization to high levels due to the fact that they desire to be part of the larger supportive team that cumulatively facilitates growth and development (Stacey, 2002). In this regard, when employees are given special attention and further encouraged to participate as a team, they tend to perceive the work they are doing as very significant. Thus, unlike the classical theory of management, contemporary approaches are more reflective of human relations theory due to the fact that they value the participation and effort of each worker no matter how small it may seem.

On the other hand, the classical theory of management focuses on mechanical approaches and superiority, which in return devalues other aspects of human relations such as informal engagement with the employees (Cole, 2004). For example, when Toyota set up new plants in the west, the managers tried to slavishly copy the production details of the company's system without engaging the workers. The disengagement of the employees led to the recall of all the cars that were built in the west (Rankin, 2014). The hierarchical system of management in Toyota Company did not provide a close relationship and interaction of employees and the top leadership; it is possible that some of the workers could have noticed a fault in the cars but could not reach the top management and report on the same.

Flexibility and Adaptation to the Environment

Although the classical theory of management can lead to maximum production, poor or lack of interaction between the employees at all levels may hinder it to cope with the ever dynamic workforce environment. However, contemporary approaches employ wider scopes or dimensions that provide flexibility through the establishment of a close relationship with the environment (Schonenberg et al., 2008). For instance, one of the approaches view firms as different and requires different methods of management. In this regard, the methods exhibit more similarity between them and human relations theory compared to the classical theory of management. For example, during its early inception period, General Motors operated as if it were a closed system with the management deciding on the type of products to produce and sell to the customers (Goel, 2014). During this period, the employees basically did not "exist". The organization virtually ignored everyone around it and believed that whatever it made to the public was right (Cole, 2004). The executives of the firm viewed the immediate environment and human relations as having almost no significant impact on the performance of the organization. However, as more similar companies started to rise up, the organization failed to cope with the dynamics as more workers started becoming dissatisfied. General Motors is a classic example of a firm that employed the classical theory of management due to the fact that it did not represent any aspect of human relations theory of management (Jackson, 2007). However, over the years, the company has embraced contemporary approaches and the organization has become more open to the environment and human relations, which in return has provided it with an opportunity to exist in the current market.

Employee Motivation and Satisfaction

Unlike contemporary approaches that focus on motivating the employees and other human-related aspects, classical theories of management leave the impression that a company is a machine and all the employees are facilitators or parts that should be fitted into it in order to make it run effectively (Steers et al., 2004). This view does not consider other significant human aspects such as employee satisfaction or other needs. In this regard, given the close similarity between human relations theory and contemporary approaches such as employee satisfaction, make the two methods more reflective of each other than the classical theory of management approach (Miller, 2008). For example, Adidas is one of the successful manufacturing companies today and is a classic example of a firm that employs contemporary approaches in its management. The firm encourages effective communication of all the employees and the autonomy to make informed choices regarding particular products (Adidas-group, 2018). In this regard, the workers are not treated just like machines, but rather they are included as part of the larger organization's team members. Moreover, the organization believes in creating a work environment where individuals are stimulated to innovate, achieve, engage with each other and work as a team rather than focusing on individual efforts (, 2018).

Division of Labor and Teamwork

The classical theory of management advocates for the division of labor with each individual responsible for certain tasks. However, this is not always the case in human relations theories which focus on teamwork and collaboration (Cole, 2004). Contemporary approaches discourage division of labor by promoting contingency approaches, which in return make it more reflective of human relations theory of management (Beardwell & Claydon, 2007). Although contemporary methods appreciate individual success, the emphasis is on the need to work as a team in order to bring about cumulative success within an organization rather than personal achievements which do not have lasting effects to the company's performance. In this regard, the management team builds rapport and encourages team performance. For example, Apple Incorporation is a modern day example of an organization that approaches division of labor, which in return classifies it to fall under classical theory of management. The other organization that has depicted poor characteristics of human relation theory is Nike incorporation. However, the company holds some of the most significant aspects of contemporary approaches such as inclusivity and teamwork (Nike incorporation, 2018). Due to the fact that contemporary approaches advocate for teamwork, Nike does not fall under this category, but rather seems to follow the classical theory approach.


In conclusion, due to the fact that classical management theory is grounded on a belief that employees are in need of only physical and economic needs and ignore other significant aspects such as workers' job satisfaction; it makes it less reflective of human relations theory. On the other hand, contemporary approaches are more reflective of human relations theory due to the fact that the two methods have striking similarities such as putting more emphasis on employee motivation and involvement in non-formal communications within the workplace.


Aadidas-group. (2018, April 21). Employees. Retrieved from https://www.adidas-  

Beardwell, J., & Claydon, T. (Eds.). (2007). Human resource management: A contemporary approach. Pearson Education.

Cole, G. A. (2004). Management theory and practice. Cengage Learning EMEA.

Goel, V. (2014, March 23). G.M. Uses Social Media to Manage Customers and Its             Reputation. New York Times [New York].

Jackson, M. C. (2007). Systems approaches to management. Springer Science & Business          Media.

Miller, K. I. (2008). Organizational Communication. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Nike incorporation. (2018, April 21). Unleash Human Potential. Retrieved from   

Petty, R. E. (2018). Attitudes and persuasion: Classic and contemporary approaches. Routledge.

Rankin, J. (2014, April 9). Toyota recalls more than 6.5m cars over steering and seat             problems. The Guardian [London].

Schonenberg, H., Mans, R., Russell, N., Mulyar, N., & van der Aalst, W. (2008). Process            flexibility: A survey of contemporary approaches. In Advances in enterprise engineering            I (pp.16-30). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

Stacey, R. D. (2002). Complexity and management. Routledge.

Steers, R. M., Mowday, R. T., & Shapiro, D. L. (2004). Introduction to special topic forum: The      future of work motivation theory. The Academy of Management Review, 29(3), 379-387.

October 30, 2023

Business Economics

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Company Organization

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