Hawthorne experiment by Elton Mayo

Contribution of Elton Mayo Hawthrone Experiments

George Elton Mayo was the first person to look into the matter of human relations emphasising the importance of the desires, attitude and feelings of the workers. Hawthorne experiment by Elton Mayo gets credit for the change in the outlook of the management towards workers. George Elton Mayo and his colleagues conducted the Hawthorne Experiments. Hawthorne’s Experiments are an important landmark in the history of the Human Relations Movement.

The Hawthorne Experiment also referred to as the Hawthorne Studies comprised a series of investigations carried out at the Western Electric Hawthorne Works in Chicago between the 1920s and 1930s. These studies sought to explore the connection between workplace conditions and employee productivity.

The initial goal of the experiments was to examine the impact of lighting conditions on worker productivity. However, the researchers quickly recognized that additional factors, including social interactions and management practices, significantly contributed to productivity.

While the Great Depression and the labour movement were significant indirect factors influencing the practice of human relations, it’s the Hawthorne studies that take the forefront in discussions of historical development. These studies played a key role in establishing the academic field of organisational behaviour.

Elton Mayo and the Origins of the Hawthorne Studies

Researchers conducted the studies at Hawthorne Works, a plant owned by the Western Electric Company in Cicero, a suburb of Chicago. These studies are closely linked with the name of Elton Mayo a Professor of Industrial Research at the Harward School of Business Administration. Mayo played the most prominent role in conducting the studies and promoting their significance. Many people rightly refer to him as the “father of the human relations movement.”

When they started, the Hawthorne studies reflected the scientific management tradition of seeking greater efficiency by improving the tools and methods of work-in this case lighting. GE wanted to sell more tube lights, so, alongwith other electric companies; it supported studies on the relationship between lighting and productivity that were to be conducted by the National Research Council.

Hawthorne Studies: A Closer Look at Four Interrelated Experiments

The Hawthorne studies consist of four different, interrelated, experiments. They were:

1) Illumination Experiment

They named this experiment the “illumination experiment” because they wanted to study how lighting affects productivity.

The methodology adopted for this experiment was:

i) They arranged the workers into two groups.

ii) One group worked under consistent lighting, while the other group worked under varying light conditions.

iii) The object of this experiment was to determine how the independent variable lighting would inflame dependent variable productivity.

iv) They experimented with altering the light’s brightness to observe its impact on the test group’s productivity.

To their surprise, reducing the level of illumination resulted in increased productivity. The study’s findings indicated that factors beyond illumination played a significant role.

2) Relay Room Experiment

The object of this experiment is to identify the physical factors that dominate a worker’s productivity. The methodology adopted was:

i) The researchers chose six female employees who were assembling telephones, and they manipulated various physical environment variables to gauge their impact on productivity.

ii) The researchers manipulated several physical elements, such as working hours (which they either increased or decreased), rest pauses, improved physical conditions, temperature, and special group incentives.

iii) The employees were in total separation from the rest of the plant during their work.

iv) The employees had no regular supervisor but they were subject to the observation of the researchers.

The researchers identified that there is no strong correlation between any of these variables and productivity. Productivity steadily improved despite the alterations.

3) Bank Wiring Observation Room Experiment

The researchers aimed to identify the true factors influencing productivity. They employed the following technique:

i) The researchers selected a group of fourteen workers.

ii) They compared their production records with previous production records.

The findings of this experiment were:

i) Each individual was restricting output.

ii) The group had its own ‘unofficial’ standards of performance.

iii) Individual output remained fairly constant over some time.

iv) Departmental records became inaccurate due to disparities between actual and reported output, or between standard and reported working hours.

4) Interview Program

The purpose of this program was to explore additional variables through interviews. The researchers conducted 20,000 interviews. The workers were provided with a questionnaire and asked to answer it while keeping their identities undisclosed. The findings validated the significance of social factors in the overall work environment. The findings underscored the significance of social factors in the overall work environment.

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Findings of Hawthorne experiment by Elton Mayo

1) Understanding workers as individuals is the primary step in comprehending them as organization members because they are fundamentally social beings. Social expectations from both inside and outside the workplace shape their attitudes and effectiveness.

2) Work is a group activity. Workers may react to management and the organization, and work as members of groups of informal organisation rather than as individuals.

3) The need for recognition, security, and a sense of belonging is more important in determining a worker’s morale and productivity than the physical ability or stamina and the physical conditions under which he works. In other words, social and psychological factors have a significant impact on productivity, beyond just the conditions of work.

4) Non-economic factors, i.e., social rewards and sanctions are significant determinants of worker’s motivation and their level of job satisfaction. In contrast, economic incentives have less potency as motivators in the workplace.

5) Informal groups (i.e., natural groupings of the people in the work situation) within the work plant exercise strong social control over the work habits and attitudes of the individual worker. Group standards strongly influence the behaviour of individuals in organisations.

6) The most effective supervisory approach is achieved when managers consult with work groups and their informal leaders before implementing any changes in the work schedule. This is what is called participative management. This style of management allows the workers to influence decisions that affect them and leads to the highest level of workers’ effectiveness. It not only prevents the alienation of workers but also wins their acceptance of organisational goals.

Implications of Hawthorne experiment by Elton Mayo

The key findings of the Hawthorne experiment by Elton Mayo are outlined below.

1) Social Factors in Output

An organisation is influenced by social factors. Elton Mayo has described an organisation as a social system, a system of groups, an informal status system, a ritual, and a mixture of logical, non-logical and illogical behaviour. Thus an organisation is not merely a formal structure of functions in which production is determined by the official prescription but the production norm is set by social norms.

2) Group Influence

Workers being social beings, create groups which may be different than their official group. Groups are created to address the limitations of formal associations. The group establishes the standard behaviour for its members. When an individual opposes a specific group behaviour norm, they attempt to alter the group norm because deviating from it may lead to rejection by the group. Thus management cannot deal with workers as individuals but as members of a work group subject to the influence of the group.

3) Conflicts

The informal relations of workers create groups, and there may be conflict between the organisation and the groups created. The conflict may arise from the conflicting goals of the two parties. However, groups may help to achieve organisational objectives by overcoming the restraining aspect of the formal relations which produce hindrances in productivity. Conflict may also arise because of maladjustment of workers and organisations. As the individual moves through the time and space within the organisation, there constantly arises the need for adjustment of the individual to the total structure.

4) Leadership

Leadership is important for directing group behaviour, and this is one of the most important aspects of managerial functions. However, leadership cannot come only from a formally appointed superior as held by earlier thinkers. Informal leaders can emerge, as demonstrated in the bank wiring experiments. In some cases, the informal leader is more important in directing group behaviour because of his identity with the group objective.

5) Supervision

The supervisory climate plays an important role in determining efficiency and output. A friendly, attentive, and genuinely concerned approach from supervisors has a positive impact on productivity.

6) Communication

The experiments demonstrate the significance of communication in an organization. Communication serves several purposes: it can clarify the rationale behind specific actions, involve workers in decision making on important matters, identify their problems, and attempt to resolve them. A better understanding between management and workers can be developed by identifying their attitudes, opinions and methods of working and taking suitable actions on these.


The Hawthorne experiment by Elton Mayo showed that productivity isn’t only about the workplace’s physical conditions. It’s also affected by how people feel and how they interact with each other at work. The researchers discovered that when employees felt valued, listened to, and involved in making decisions, they were more motivated and did better at their jobs.

These important discoveries changed how managers do their jobs. They showed that it’s important for employees to be happy and engaged in their work. The Hawthorne Experiment made it clear that managers should treat employees as people with their own needs and motivations, not just as parts of a big system.

Furthermore, these studies demonstrated how getting along with your coworkers in a team can make a big difference. Researchers found that when workers felt like they were part of a group and had good relationships, they did better at their jobs. This discovery encouraged companies to create a friendly work environment that encourages teamwork, working together and open communication.

The Hawthorne experiment by Elton Mayo is a very important study of how we understand and manage workplaces. It reminds us that good management isn’t just about making the physical environment better; it’s also about creating a workplace where people feel supported and included.

The Hawthorne experiment by Elton Mayo showed us that there’s more to getting work done than just the physical stuff. It’s also about how people feel and interact at work. This idea still affects how managers run things today. It reminds us that it’s important to keep employees happy, and content, and make the workplace a positive and friendly place.

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