Popular Management Theories

Jackson Cummiskey
3 min readJun 21, 2023
Jackson Cummiskey attends the University of Georgia

Management theories are guidelines created by experts to help managers define their leadership approach, implement best practices, and further their company’s growth. Understanding and implementing management theories can increase productivity. Each model analyzes the strategies for optimizing individual and collective output and documents these details for use by managers. Management theories explain the challenges managers may encounter and puts forth counter-strategies to boost productivity.

The models also simplify decision-making. Each framework suggests strategies for devising and implementing critical business decisions. The models explain the benefits and limitations of the decision-making approach, leaving managers to choose one that fits their situation, company culture, and objectives.

Management theories improve workplace relationships. The theories identify the need for creating and maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships at work. This encourages collaboration and increases employee engagement in decision-making.

Scientific, human relations, and bureaucratic models are popular management theories that offer insight into managing modern organizations. Frederick Taylor, an American mechanical engineer and management theorist, developed the scientific approach by studying employee productivity and evaluating ways to optimize it. His controlled experiments suggested that managers should analyze employee tasks, develop the most efficient way to complete them, and assign the jobs to those with the highest qualifications.

Taylor’s model argues that managers should not rely on workers’ judgment, but rather should provide clear instructions for performing a job and supervise employees to ensure it’s carried out properly. The model also suggests that money is the primary incentive for employees, and managers should pay fair wages.

The scientific management theory has influenced collaboration between managers and employees and is credited for promoting teamwork and valuing training programs. However, critics argue that the model overlooks the workers’ well-being in an attempt to motivate them and achieve efficiency. Accordingly, it is considered irrational to expect workers to work at their limits simply for extra money.

Elton Mayo, a psychologist and industrial researcher at Harvard Business School, developed the human relations theory. This model, similar to the scientific approach, focuses on improving productivity. However, unlike the scientific theory, the human relations theory does not view money as the primary incentive, but advises managers to adopt a worker-oriented approach.

Mayo studied dissatisfied employees to discover how he could overturn their negative attitudes and optimize their output. He improved the workplace by changing workplace lighting and ambient temperature, break times, and work duration. Mayo found that employee productivity improved with each change, leading him to suggest that addressing workers’ well-being was important to achieving performance boosts. His theory urges managers to consider employees’ social and psychological aspects to optimize output and efficiency. Maintaining healthy social ties at work, making workers feel they belong, and being attentive to their needs are important for succeeding in managerial roles.

The bureaucratic theory highlights the major works of German sociologist Max Weber. This model suggests a hierarchical organizational structure with clear rules and instructions for everyone. Weber put forth a number of principles, such as a clear division of work responsibilities, a hierarchical chain of command, accurate recordkeeping, and the separation of owners’ assets from company resources. He also advocated hiring and promoting workers based on merit, and the strict adherence to rules and regulations.

Weber admitted his approach may stifle individual freedom and possibly creativity, but defended his work by explaining it was the best approach for regulating output and employee behavior. The bureaucratic theory emphasizes the need for developing and implementing clear standards in the workplace, which has become the core management approach of most modern companies.

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Jackson Cummiskey
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Jackson Cummiskey is a finance student at the University of Georgia in Athens. He began the bachelor of business administration.