What is Human Relations (HR)? Meaning and Definitions

Human Relation
Human Relation

Human relations is a broad term that can be used to describe any relationship between people.

The human relations field is split into two major categories: organizational and interpersonal. Organizational human relations is the study of how workers interact with their employers, while interpersonal human relations is the study of how people interact with each other.

Organizational human relations focuses on employee-employer relationships and how they affect performance, productivity, and turnover rates in the workplace. It also studies how the employer-employee relationship affects an organization’s culture and climate.

The meaning of human relations is depicted and explained below:

  1. Layman’s language: A human relation is one person’s relationship or connection with another person. It means how an individual man or woman is related or connected to another man or a woman.
  2. In general: It implies how people interact and cooperate with each other when they come together in a group to achieve objectives.
  3. Context of an industry or business: Human relations (HR) is about how people integrate (i.e. come together) in a work-like situation. Later, forms a workgroup (team) with some motivation and cooperates to achieve organizational goals effectively. Here, HR is also referred as Industrial-Relations (IR).
  4. An academic viewpoint: It first studies human behavior at a workplace and then uses systematic knowledge to analyze and suggest necessary efforts required to maintain and enhance the performance of humans.
  5. Ethical and moral sense: It means to recognize, respect, and also safeguard the dignity of every individual along with his or her’s sincere efforts and valuable contribution made for the achievement of given objectives.

A study of human relations along with a clear understanding of its essentials helps us to know better:

  1. Our psychology and that of others with whom we interact.
  2. Why are our belief-system, prejudices, attitudes, and behaviors, sometimes creates problems in our personal, professional, and social life?
  3. Which crucial steps we must take to mitigate and solve relationship-related problems in our life?
  4. How to utilize the obtained knowledge appropriately and implement the learned skills to build, improve, enhance and maintain healthy relationships with others to achieve our goals smoothly without any conflicts and hindrances.

Human relations mostly include or revolve around:

  1. Interactions happening among people,
  2. Conflicts that arise out of these interactions,
  3. Collaborations are formed if conflicts get resolved successfully, and
  4. Groups emerged as a result of such successful collaborations.

Definitions of human relations

In the 19th century, the concept of human relations first gained attention and has evolved since then with the help of contributions made by different subject scholars. It is worth discussing statements or definitions put forward by experts like Owen, Davis, Gellerman, Sansford, and Dubrin.

Discussed below are some notable definitions of human relations.

1. According to Robert Owen,

“Human Relations is interaction and cooperation of people in a group.”

In the above general definition, Owen stressed on how people integrate themselves in a work-like situation, and communicate better (with each other) to prepare and execute plans. Later, get motivated enough by probable rewards and, as a result, cooperate to achieve common goals.

Here, the word ‘group’ mainly comprises of different institutions and organizations. Namely; families or homes, businesses, companies, governments, associations, cooperative societies, non-governmental organizations, schools, colleges, universities, banks, hospitals, churches, trusts, clubs, and so on.

2. As per the observation made by Keith Davis,

“Human relations are motivating people in organizational settings to develop teamwork that accomplishes the individual, as well as organization’s goals efficiently.”

Sir Davis gave the above statement in his book Human Behavior at Work ‐ Human Relations and Organizational Behavior, published in 1972 by McGraw-Hill (New York).

According to Keith, human relations are about, first bringing people together within some structure or framework of an organization. Then motivating or inspiring them to achieve their personal, as well as organizational objectives jointly, by working hard as a team.

3. According to Saul Gellerman,

“Human relations is simply a catchall term for describing the way in which people who comprise an organization think about each other and deal with each other.”

Sir Gellerman wrote this definition in his book The Management of Human Relations, published in 1966 by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

According to Saul, the term human relations encompass everything that is used to describe how people that form an organization think, interact, behave and deal with each other.

4. According to Aubrey Sanford,

“Human relations is the development of an environment which motivates individuals to achieve organization objectives because of the need satisfaction such an achievement provides.”

Sir Sanford stated the above definition in his book Human Relations ‐ Theory and Practice, published in 1973 by Merrill.

According to Aubrey, human relation is about creating a motivational environment within an organization that inspires its members to achieve organizational goals whose attainment fulfills the need, aspirations, and satisfaction attached to its success.

5. According to Andrew DuBrin,

“Human relations is the art and practice of using systematic knowledge about human behavior to achieve an organizational as well as personal objectives.”

Sir DuBrin mentioned the above sentence in the glossary section (page 510) of his book Fundamentals of Organizational-Behavior ‐ An Applied Perspective 2nd Edition, published in 1978 by Pergamon Press.

According to Andrew, human relations first involve learning about human behavior and obtaining a systematic knowledge about it. Then gradually mastering its art of application to real-life scenarios that can help in achieving personal, as well as organizational goals.

6. Some writers also attribute human relations as,

“Something concerned with the study of human behavior at work and added efforts for performance.”

Note: The statement or the definition of human relations mentioned in point no. 2,3,4 and 5 given by Davis, Gellerman, Sansford and Dubrin respectively, are best suited to understand HR in the context of business and industry.

7. In the ethical sense, human relations encompass,

“Individual’s dignity and individual’s efforts and valued contribution to the achievement of the assigned goals are well recognized and given due respect.”

In this context, human relations mean to treat an individual with great dignity and respect as well as understanding to acknowledge his hard work and valuable contribution made by him to achieve a given task. It’s all about making a person realize that his efforts are well-noticed (not overlooked) and also giving credit to him for the accomplishment of a goal.

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