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Hawthorne Experiments – Elton Mayo With Roethlisberger and Dickson

This paper discusses the Hawthorne experiments; a brief description of the background of these studies is also given. It describes the social and environmental effects of the time that were observed on these theories. The relevance of these theories to the present time is also discussed. The various drawbacks and comments have been mentioned.

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The Hawthorne experiments were conducted in the period of 1924-1932. The location that was chosen for these experiments was Western Electric Company’s Hawthorne Works. This company was situated in Chicago. The Hawthorne studies illustrate changes in the environment. These changes are in the form of improvement. It discusses changes in the environment. These changes are temporary and occur due to changes in the environment. This phenomenon is also referred to as Hawthorne effect, a term coined by Henry. A. Landsberger in 1955. Hawthorne effect can be defined as: “An improvement caused by observation of the performance of the workers. This improvement is usually short termed.”

These studies have a very significant effect on the management of different organizations. It discusses the reaction of people to various situations. Although the basis of Hawthorne studies is thought to be illumination research, other changes also have a great effect on the management and performance of the workers in any workplace. This includes maintaining a clean workplace, clearance of obstacles, and relocation of workplaces. All these factors brought about a positive change in the productivity of the workers. The productivity of the workers increased for a short period of time. (Louis, 1990).

Elton Mayo and his Contributions

Elton Mayo was born in 1880 in Australia. He applied the theories studied by him in Sociology to the management studies that were being conducted at that time. His research had a prominent impact on the various management theories. Elton Mayo was famous for leading one of the most prominent experiments which were considered as a turning point in the field of management. During the Second World War, he provided services for the development of supervisor training with the help of his TWI program. He is well known for his contributions in Hawthorne’s experiments for the concept of motivation. He contributed to the human relations management methods. (Trahair, 2006).

Contribution of Elton Mayo’s Personal Background to His Theory

Elton Mayo belonged to a Sociology background. He used to assemble the different sociology theories and apply them on human relations management research. He was able to do this with great efficiency since he excelled in the concept of the needs and requirements of social man. The role that Mayo played in the advancement of management was due to the fact that he had made discoveries about social man and his desired position in the workplace. He stated that employers produced according to their sentiments. (Wood, 2004).

Comments on Hawthorne Experiments

There were prominently three factors defined by the Hawthorne experiments which boasted that they bring about changes in the productivity of the workers. They are as stated below:

  • Rest periods
  • Learning
  • Work pay; this means that the workers will be paid according to the amount of work done by them.

This point faced few criticisms. Theorists said that these factors were not the sole reason for employee effective performance or productivity. Whereas according to Parson, the warm welcome and regard from the observers as well as attention is not the reason workers perform well. However it is the incentives that they are provided make the difference. He says that increase in the incentives, increment in rewards and change in feedback on the performance of the workers is the main reason why workers are motivated to concentrate on their job. He also states that the process of learning affects the procedure of the improvement of the workers’ skills and it is also the feedback that encourages the workers to meet the desired goals of any particular organization.

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The Hawthorne effect writing was also criticized by Parson. According to him, the principle of illumination is not worthy to analyze since it has not been published properly. Therefore it is almost impossible to get the details right.

Elton Mayo’s Theory and its Relevance to the Times

Mayo presented his theory after examining and studying an electrical company and observed how change in the physical factors can bring a change in the performance of people. He came to the conclusion that it was not the physical or environmental change that boosted the performance. On the contrary, it depends on the following factors:

  • Working in a team with a competitive boss.
  • Improved communication.
  • Interest should be known in the employees.

With the introduction of Hawthorne’s experiments, the entire scenario of the organizations and their way of working revolutionized. According to mayo, people should be given equal importance in work and their feelings should be regarded. According to him a better working place, a healthy environment, provision of incentives, and proper feedback on the workers’ performance improves the productivity of the workers and ultimately of the organization.

Two aspects of this entire study were observed. The workers were very satisfied and welcomed this new notion. Whereas on the other hand, the organizations were a little hesitant and reluctant in accepting this new approach, since by accepting this concept, they would have to give incentives and more regard to the workers. (Haslam, 2004).

Relevance of this Theory to the Present Time

The Hawthorne theories have brought about a positive change in the behavior and attitude of the managers as well as the workers. The organizations grant the employees their basic rights. The workers are given equal importance and are allowed to participate in discussions. The trend of ultimate boss and subordinates is not very strong anymore. There is mutual collaboration and cooperation among all the employees. Different motivational strategies are being introduced so that the workers can work at a better pace and with more dedication and interest. The employees enjoy their work as a natural part of work experience. Previously people were punished in case the work was not done properly. Nowadays this pattern of work is hardly followed. Currently employees are more capable of directing their own selves and exhibit a better level of commitment to their work as well as organization. (Henderson, 1996).


The Hawthorne experiments were conducted in the period of:

  • 1924-1932
  • 1923-1931
  • 1925-1930

Hawthorne effect discusses change in:

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  • Attitude of the employee
  • Behavior
  • Environment

The term Hawthorne effect was coined by:

  • Elton Mayo
  • Roethlisberger
  • Henry. A. Landsberger

Dickson did his PhD in;

  • Philosophy
  • Economics
  • Management

The publication of Hawthorne effect was criticized by:

  • David
  • Maslow
  • Parson


Haslam. S. A. (2004) Psychology in Organizations. Sage Publications.

Henderson. G. (1996) Human Relation Issues in Management. Greenwood Publishing Group.

Louis. J. Budd (1990) On Hawthorne. Duke University Press.

Trahair. R. S. (2006) Elton Mayo: The Humanist Temper. Transaction Publishers.

Wood. C. J. (2004) George Elton Mayo: Critical Evaluations in Business and Management. Taylor and Francis.

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