Behavioral Science Theory of Management?

Cite this article as:"Behavioral Science Theory of Management?," in The Business Professor, updated April 1, 2020, last accessed October 29, 2020,

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What is Behavioral Science Theory of Management?

Behavioral Science Theory combines elements of psychology, sociology, and anthropology to provide a scientific basis for understanding employee behavior. It examines why employees are motivated by specific factors, such as social needs, conflicts, and self-actualization. It recognizes individuality and the need for managers to be sociable.

The behavioral approach is unique from the human relations theory in that it emphasizes leadership as a determining factor in management success. It presents an increased focus on group relationships and group behavior in organizational effectiveness. The objective of behavioral science is the ability to predict future employee behaviors.

The main propositions of the behavioral science approach can be summarized as under.

  • An organization is a socio-technical system
  • The interpersonal or group behavior of people in the organization is influenced by a wide range of factors.
  • The goals of the organization are to be harmonized with an understanding of the human needs
  • Multitude of attitudes, perceptions, and values are prevalent amongst employees and these characterize their behavior and influence their performance
  • As a result, some degree of conflict is inevitable in the organization and not necessarily undesirable.

Who are the primary contributors to the Behavioral Science Theory of Management?

As previously discussed, the early contributors to Behavioral Theory in the area of human relations were Professor Elton Mayo and Professor Mary Parker Follet. Building upon the work of these scholars, several sociologists and psychologists contributed early on to the development of behavioral science approach to Behavior Management Theory.

Contributors and theories in the area of Motivation or motivating worker productivity include:

  • Need Hierarchy Theory – Abraham Maslow, an eminent U.S. psychologist, gave a general theory of motivation known as Need Hierarchy Theory in his paper published in 1943. Maslow made assumptions that people need to satisfy each level of need, before elevating their needs to the next higher level e.g. a hungry person’s need is dominated by a need to eat (i.e survival), but not to be loved, until he/she is no longer hungry. The level of needs include Physiological, Safety, Social, Ego or Self Esteem, Self-Fulfillment or Self-Actualization.
  • Theory X & Y – Douglas McGregor was a social psychologist. Theory X, the employee is lazy and avoids responsibility. These employees need coercion and control. This type of person is the “rational economic man”. Theory Y, the employee likes working, accepts or seeks responsibility. These employees need space to develop imagination and ingenuity. This type of person is the “self-actualizing man”. This approach identifies just two extreme types of employee; but, it laid the groundwork for how management deals with employee motivation based upon personality type.
  • Two-Factor Theory – Frederic Herzberg found that from his research, in workplace there actually two factors that influence motivation – Motivators and Hygiene. Motivators include: Achievement, Recognition, Nature of the Work, Responsibility, Advancement. Hygiene includes: Company Policy and Recognition, Supervision of Technical work, Compensation, Interpersonal Relations – Supervision, Working Conditions. While motivators promote employee satisfaction, hygiene prevents dissatisfaction. This work provided an additional framework for how individual relationships and environmental factors contribute to employee motivation.
  • Hugo Munsterberg – Munstberg’s work gave rise to the modern understanding of industrial psychology. His work dealt with many topics including hiring workers who had personalities and mental abilities best suited to certain types of vocations as the best way to increase motivation, performance, and retention, methods of increasing work efficiency, and marketing and advertising techniques. MĂĽnsterberg focused upon selecting the person with the correct skillset with the correct position to maximize their productivity, and to select those that have “fit personalities and reject the unfit ones.” He used psychological tests that limit subjectivity that is possible through more traditional techniques of introspection instead of using measurements of one’s personality, intelligence, and other inherent personality traits to try to find the best possible job for every individual. MĂĽnsterberg also explored under what psychological conditions that an employer can secure the most and highest quality output of work from every employee by looking at the effects of changing the workspace environment, what can possibly affect workers production, problems of monotony in the factory and other vocations that involve tedious repetitive tasks and how to avoid these situations, studied attention and fatigue in the workplace, and the Physical and social influences on the working power.

A contributor and theorist in the area of Management Style includes:

  • Likert’s System 1-4T – System 1-4T alternatively known as likert system analysis. The organizational dimensions Likert addresses in his framework seven variable: motivation, communication, interaction, decision making, goal setting, control, and performance. He categorized management styles as follows:
    • Exploitative – This is a highly task-oriented management style. It is authoritative where power and direction come from the top downwards. Managers employ threats and punishment. Communication is generally poor and teamwork is rare. Individual productivity is generally low to medium. This environment is best for the “Rational Economic Man”.
    • Benevolent – authoritative is similar to the above but allows some upward opportunities for consultation and some delegation. Rewards may be available as well as threats. Productivity is typically fair to good but at the cost of considerable absenteeism and turnover. This environment is best for a weaker version of the “Rational Economic Man”.
    • Consultative – where goals are set or orders issued after discussion with subordinates, where communication is upwards and downwards and where teamwork is encouraged, at least partially. Some involvement of employees as a motivator. This environment is best for the “Social Man”.
    • Participative – This is a more group-oriented management style. The main aspect is group participation. The result is an increased commitment to the organization’s goals. Communication flows more readily up and down the organization. Productivity tends to be higher with lower employee turnover. This environment is best for the “Self-Actualizing Man”.

A contributor and theorist in the area of the Nature of the Organization includes:

  • Chris Argyris – Chris Argyris’ early research explored the impact of formal organizational structures, control systems and management on individuals and how they responded and adapted to them.

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