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  • Forfatters billedeMark Hallander

A Tale of Two Management Styles: Classical vs. Humanistic

Within the field of management, two prominent approaches have emerged, each with its distinct philosophy and principles: Classical Management and Humanistic Management. These two styles represent contrasting views on how organizations should be led and managed. In this article, I will explore and compare these management styles, reflect on their respective pros and cons, and provide recommendations for today’s managers.

management playing pieces

Let's start with diving into the definition of the two different approaches to management.

Classical Management: The Efficiency-Driven Approach

Classical management is a management approach that gained prominence during the early 20th century, primarily through the work of American engineer and management consultant, Frederick Taylor.

It is characterized by a focus on efficiency and productivity through principles like task standardization, time and motion studies, piece-rate payment systems, and a clear hierarchy of authority. Classical management is rooted in the belief that efficiency can be optimized through the scientific analysis of work processes.

Imagine a car manufacturing plant where tasks are highly specialized, processes are meticulously analyzed for efficiency, and employees are often incentivized based on their productivity.

Standardization, Time and Motion Studies and Piece-Rate Payment

The classical management style of the plant emphasizes breaking down tasks into standardized, repetitive steps. Each worker is responsible for a specific task in the assembly line, such as installing doors, attaching tires, or installing engines. These tasks are highly specialized and standardized to ensure consistency and efficiency.

The management team conducts time and motion studies to analyze how long it takes workers to complete each task. By carefully observing and measuring work processes, they identify areas where improvements can be made. For instance, they may find that a particular step in the assembly process can be completed more efficiently.

To motivate employees and reward productivity, the plant uses a piece-rate payment system. Workers are paid based on the number of units they produce. This incentivizes them to work quickly and efficiently, aligning with classical management’s emphasis on productivity.

Clear Hierarchy, Efficiency Focus and Productivity

Furthermore, Classical Management principles often involve a clear hierarchy of authority. In the manufacturing plant, there is a clear chain of command, with supervisors overseeing workers and ensuring that they adhere to standardized procedures.

The primary goal of the plant is to maximize efficiency. To achieve this, management continually looks for ways to reduce waste, minimize downtime, and streamline processes. This might involve reorganizing the layout of the assembly line, improving tool ergonomics, or optimizing inventory management.

While classical management principles like these can lead to increased productivity and cost-effectiveness in manufacturing settings, they have also been critiqued for their potential to devalue the human element of work and for not accounting for the complexity of modern organizations.

Many contemporary management approaches, such as humanistic management and total quality management, have evolved to address these limitations by incorporating a more holistic and people-centric perspective.

Humanistic Management: The People-Centric Approach

Humanistic management is an approach that prioritizes the well-being, empowerment, and engagement of employees within an organization.

Rooted in the Hawthorne Studies conducted by Elton Mayo, the human relations approach underscores the importance of social and psychological factors in the workplace. It emphasizes employee satisfaction, teamwork, and open communication as drivers of organizational success.

Imagine a technology company that embraces humanistic management principles to create a positive and empowering work environment.

Engagement, hybrid work and employee development

The company places a strong emphasis on employee engagement. They regularly conduct surveys to gather feedback and understand employees’ needs and concerns. This feedback is used to make improvements and adjustments to the work environment and policies.

Recognizing that employees have different needs and workstyles, the company offers flexible work arrangements. Employees have the option to choose between in-office work, remote work, or hybrid arrangements, depending on their preferences and job roles.

Humanistic management encourages the development of employees. The company provides opportunities for skill development, continuous learning, and career advancement. They offer training programs, mentorship opportunities, and support for further education.

Work-life balance, collaborative culture and empowerment

The company promotes a healthy work-life balance. They have policies in place to prevent overworking and burnout. Employees are encouraged to take regular breaks, use their vacation time, and maintain a manageable workload.

It fosters a collaborative and inclusive culture. The company encourages open communication and teamwork. Cross-functional teams are formed to tackle complex projects, and employees are given a voice in decision-making processes.

This example illustrates how humanistic management values the holistic well-being and empowerment of employees. It focuses on creating a workplace where individuals are motivated, fulfilled, and enabled to contribute their best to the organization’s success.

Humanistic management principles have gained recognition as a way to enhance employee satisfaction, retention, and overall organizational performance.

Comparing the Two Styles

Let's break down the pros and cons of each managereal style.

Classical Management

Key principles: Task Standardization, Time and Motion Studies, Piece-Rate Payment, Clear Hierarchy, Efficiency Focus



Efficiency: Classical management excels in optimizing processes to achieve peak productivity. It rigorously evaluates workflows and tasks to eliminate inefficiencies.

Rigidity: The strong emphasis on hierarchy and strict processes can stifle innovation and adaptability in rapidly changing environments.

Clarity: The classical approach provides a clear and well-defined structure with established lines of authority and responsibility. This reduces ambiguity and ensures accountability.

Employee Satisfaction: The exclusive focus on efficiency and productivity may inadvertently neglect the human aspect, potentially leading to reduced employee morale and engagement.

Standardization: Tasks and processes are standardized, leading to consistency in output quality and reduced margin for error.

Humanistic Management

Key principles: Employee Engagement, Flexible Work Arrangements, Professional Development, Work-Life Balance, Collaborative Culture, Empowerment, Recognition and Rewards, Diversity and Inclusion, Ethical and Social Responsibility.



Employee Engagement: Humanistic management places a strong emphasis on employee satisfaction and motivation, resulting in higher levels of engagement, loyalty, and retention.

Potential Inefficiency: Overemphasizing employee well-being without a balance of oversight can lead to reduced operational efficiency and productivity.

Innovation: By fostering a work environment that values creativity and individual contributions, humanistic management encourages innovation and fresh ideas.

Challenges in Implementation: In larger, hierarchical organizations, implementing a humanistic management approach may prove challenging due to its emphasis on individual empowerment and decision-making.

Adaptability: Humanistic management is inherently flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances and evolving employee needs.

Classical management prioritizes structured efficiency, while humanistic management centers on nurturing people and their well-being. The choice between these styles depends on various factors, including organizational culture, industry, and leadership preferences.

For example, a manufacturing facility might lean toward classical management to optimize production processes, while a creative agency may find success with humanistic management, encouraging innovation and employee creativity.

Recommendation for Today's Managers

In today's dynamic business landscape, a pragmatic approach blending elements from both classical and humanistic management styles often yields the best results. To excel, modern managers should:

Understand Your Organization

Thoroughly assess your organization's culture, objectives, and industry context to determine whether efficiency or creativity holds greater significance for success.

Embrace Flexibility

Be prepared to adapt your management style based on specific circumstances. Recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach may not be suitable for all situations.

Invest in Leadership Development

Equip yourself and your team with skills in emotional intelligence, effective communication, and conflict resolution. These competencies contribute to creating a positive and productive work environment that harmonizes both process efficiency and employee well-being.

Final remarks

Classical and humanistic management styles offer divergent approaches to leadership, each possessing unique advantages and limitations. Flourishing in today's business environment necessitates a harmonious blend of efficiency and employee-centric values. A flexible, hybrid management approach that values both structured processes and individual empowerment is the key to thriving in the contemporary world of business.


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