Humanistic Perspective of Psychology

Humanistic Psychology looks at the individual from a holistic perspective and lays a lot of stress on the concepts like self-actualization, free-will and self-efficacy. Instead of focusing on individual limitations, the objective of this school of thought is to facilitate people realize their potential to the fullest and improve their lives.

Also referred to as Humanism, this school of thought emerged around 1950s, in reaction to the then prevalent theories behaviourism and psychoanalysis which dominated at that point of time. The focus of psychoanalysis was on analyzing the unconscious patterns that influence behaviour, whereas behaviourism analyzed the conditioning process that rules the behaviour. Humanistic perspective considered psychoanalysis and behaviourism as very narrow focused and pessimistic since the emphasis was on tragic emotions or negative thoughts. Humanistic perspective has provided an entirely new dimension to the study of human behaviour which is quite comprehensive and holistic.

Main Focus of Humanistic Perspective

Humanistic approach emphasizes on individual’s potential and much importance has been given to self-actualization and growth. The basic premise around which this theory was formed was that all humans are inner self is good, but the social and mental problems make them actually deviate from their true self. Another major emphasis of this theory was that humans exercise their free will to pursue their aspirations and achieve their long term goals. Humans are influenced by the motivation to grow and realize their fullest potential. People look for new ways to achieve growth, learn new alternatives to pursue their ambitions and achieve success in life, experience self-actualization and growth psychologically.

Historical Backdrop of Humanistic Perspective

Humanistic Psychology during its early stages was influenced by the thoughts of theorists like Maslow and C. Rogers. The other thinkers who have also substantially contributed to this school of thought are Erich Fromm and Rollo May.

Abraham Maslow in the year 1943, published his Theory of Human Motivation in Psychological Review, in which he mentioned about the “Hierarchy of Needs”. During 1950s later, Abraham Maslow along with a group of psychologist thinkers reached at a consensus on a felt need for a professional organization which focused on the humanistic approach. Humanistic approach to psychology focused on themes such as self-actualization, individuality, creativity and a lot more related themes.

Carl Rogers in 1951 published his Client-Centered Therapy, in which the focus was again on humanism and client-focused approach in therapy. American Association for Humanistic Psychology was formally established in the year 1962 and in 1971 humanistic psychology was recognized as an APA division. According to Abraham Maslow, in one of his published works “Toward a Psychology of Being” published in 1962, humanistic psychology was viewed as the third force after the first force which was behaviourism and second force which was psycho analysis according to him.

Humanistic Perspective and Management

In the era of automation, technological innovation, lean methods of production, narrowing down of organizational hierarchies and virtual/contractual teams replacing the permanent workforce, managers are more concerned about how they would motivate teams and facilitate them to realize their complete potential. Humanistic perspective attempts to address the employee-centric issues and recommends solutions for grooming employees and develops high-performance teams.

Humanistic perspective considers that effective interactions and human relationships are primary pillars for the organizational success. According to Daft, Humanistic perspective in the context of management gives utmost importance to strengthening relationships, understanding the causes of differences in human behaviours, employee attitudes towards their workplace and also group processes. According to him, the three crucial components of Humanistic perspective in the organizational context are:

  • Employee’s job performance will increase when they are treated with respect and dignity by their managers.
  • The theorist analyzed the relationship between employee motivation and the nature of task.
  • Focus has been given on analyzing the complex relationship and interactions within the organizational setting.

Humanistic perspective believes in empowering teams, boosting and motivating the teams to deliver excellence in performance and building cohesive or more unified teams. Through his Needs Hierarchy theory, Abraham Maslow too has tried to describe the factors which influence the task motivation of people which is ranked on a lowest to highest scale. The doctrine of Maslow tries to analyze the relationship between human motivation and needs which are not fulfilled. He further describes that lack of motivation of the employees or lack of productivity can be attributed to employees unmet needs and need not necessarily be due to efficiency issue of the employees. By identifying their unmet needs and helping them to realize their unfulfilled needs, employee’s motivation and productivity can be increased in the workplace. Further, he goes on to explain that employees firstly strive to fulfil their lower order needs like basic needs (food, clothing & shelter) and safety needs. Once they fulfil their lower order needs, only then they can move up the need hierarchy eventually achieving self-actualization, thus developing a highly motivated and equipped workforce.

Strengths and Limitations of Humanistic Approach

One of the strengths of Humanistic approach is its focus on employee empowerment. This approach of psychology stresses on workforce empowerment instead of controlling. Managers should try their level best to build an environment of trust and mutuality, by empowering teams and giving them the autonomy to work and express their views freely. A relationship which rests on the pillars or trust and mutuality, helps in building a smooth and an efficient workplace. One of the key limitations of this approach is, though this perspective stress a lot on employee empowerment, but the question of employee responsibility is completely ignored. This could be explained in the words of Blanchard, Empowerment provides the freedom to work and act, but it also involves the element of accountability for delivering results.


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