The Hawthorne Effect
In essence, the Hawthorne Effect, as it applies to the workplace, can be summarized as "Employees are more productive because the employees know they are being studied." Elton Mayo's experiments showed an increase in worker productivity was produced by the psychological stimulus of being singled out, involved, and made to feel important.
Additionally, the act of measurement, itself, impacts the results of the measurement. Just as dipping a thermometer into a vial of liquid can affect the temperature of the liquid being measured, the act of collecting data, where none was collected before creates a situation that didn't exist before, thereby affecting the results.
Elton Mayo's studies grew out of preliminary experiments at the Hawthorne plant from 1924 to 1927 on the effect of light on productivity. Those experiments showed no clear connection between productivity and the amount of illumination but researchers began to wonder what kind of changes would influence output.
Specifically, Elton Mayo wanted to find out what effect fatigue and monotony had on job productivity and how to control them through such variables as rest breaks, work hours, temperature and humidity. In the process, he stumbled upon a principle of human motivation that would help to revolutionize the theory and practice of management.
Elton Mayo selected two women, and had those two select an additional four from the assembly line, segregated them from the rest of the factory and put them under the eye of a supervisor who was more a friendly observer than disciplinarian. Mayo made frequent changes in their working conditions, always discussing and explaining the changes in advance.
The group was employed in assembling telephone relays - a relay being a small but intricate mechanism composed of about forty separate parts which had to be assembled by the girls seated at a lone bench and dropped into...