Evaluate the Contribution of the Hawthorne Studies to the Development of Management Theory and Practice.

Topics: Maslow's hierarchy of needs, Management, Motivation Pages: 6 (1736 words) Published: October 25, 2007
Hawthorne Studies have been subjected to many criticisms. Yet, the evolvement of many of the management theories today would not have come about without the experiments done by Elton Mayo. This essay will cover the various aspects of management that has been refined through the findings of the tests conducted and how improvements were made to aid in the development of organisational behaviour. It will also discuss the various studies and will show how these theories implement Hawthorne studies as the foundation and the basis of the human relations movement. It will also investigate the criticisms that arise within it.

In the past, managers considered workers as machinery that could be bought and sold easily. To increase production, workers were subjected to long hours, miserable wages and undesirable working conditions. The welfare of the workers and their need were disregarded. The early twentieth century brought about a change in management and scientific management was introduced. This sort of management, started by Frederick Winslow Taylor, emphasised that the best way to increase the volume of output was to have workers specializing in specific tasks just like how a certain machine would perform a particular function. His implementation of this theory brought about tremendous criticism by the masses arguing that the fundamentals of Scientific Management were to exploit employees rather than to benefit them (Mullins, 2005)

The period between the 1920 and 1930 saw the introduction of the Hawthorne Studies and brought about radical changes in organisational behaviour. The once popular belief that increasing output of an organisation was directly related to increasing workers' wages was disproved. Experiments conducted by Elton Mayo proved that there were more than economic factors that improved efficiency. During the tests, behavioural science which is also known as human relations was a key component to improve organisational output.

By conducting the Hawthorne studies, various assumptions were discovered. A person's work behaviour is not easily determined as a cause and effect relationship; however it is determined by a complex set of attributes. Informal groups that were present in the organisation form a social structure which was preserved through job related symbols of prestige and power. Change in the organisation can be avoided by being more aware of the employees' sentiments and their participation. The findings of the experiments led to the discovery that the workplace is a close knit social system and not just a production system.

Hawthorne studies also established the evolution in methodology. Actual test results and findings were implemented in the study rather than depending on sources from the library books or laboratory tests. In conclusion, the experiments resulted in the advantages in generating theories and conducting tests to reiterate the research done.

Human relations stressed that more attention must be paid to the workers well being and welfare to create a motivational environment in the workplace. The Hawthorne studies were the building blocks to numerous studies conducted that improved the development in management theory.

Many theorists have made important contributions to the study of behavioural science with the basis of the results of the Hawthorne studies as their foundation in their findings.

The earliest study after Elton Mayo was in 1943 when a psychologist, Abraham Maslow, suggested that a motivational hierarchy theory was present in everyone and workers' behaviour was influenced by the importance of their needs. This was more commonly known as Maslow's hierarchy of needs. He explains that a "motivation starts when an individual experiences a need; the individual then formulates a goal, which, upon achievement, will satisfy the need" (Maslow, 1954). Maslow identified these needs and further classified them in a hierarchical manner where if applied to workers, their...
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