The Hawthorne Studies

The behavior of people at work holds important. A series of studies was conducted to learn the behavior at work providing different conditions for working. Prior to the human relations movement, Scientific Management dominated most approaches to managing employees. This study was conducted during 1920s and 1930s that provided new insight individual and group behavior. This series was conducted at Western electric Company. These studies were initiated by the engineers of Western Electric Company as a scientific management experiment to examine the various illumination levels on workers’ productivity. They designed an experiment in which there were two groups under observation, one control group and the other experimental group. The experimental group exposed to various intensities of light during working hours while control group was working under constant lighting conditions.

The results were quite unbelievable and shocking, as they were expecting that intensity of light will have direct relationship with productivity but results were quite surprising that with both increased and decreased intensity of light in experimental group, the productivity of both groups increased. Infact the productivity decrease was seen in the experimental group only when the light was made to moonlit night. So it was concluded that intensity of light does not have direct relation with productivity there is something else that is playing its role, but that “something” was still a question mark.

In 1927 western Electric engineers asked Harvard Professor Elton Mayo and his associates to join as consultants. They designed various experiments in the redesign of job, changes in workday and work lengths, introduction of rest periods and individual versus group wage plans. For example one experiment was designed to evaluate the group piecework incentive pay system on group productivity. The results came out were that incentives had less effect on productivity rather group pressure; acceptance and security were more evident features that effected the productivity. So they concluded that group standards and norms were the main things that affected the productivity of the workers.

These studies showed a new dimension to the management that is the role of human behavior in organization and its productivity. Mayo concluded that group influences significantly affect individual behavior that group standards establish individual worker output, and that money is less a factor in determining output than are group standards, attitudes and security. Workers’ behaviors are more important in increasing and decrease of productivity rather physical environments and tools.


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