Hawthorne Studies

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This essay will review the writings of “Hawthorne, the myth of the docile worker, and class bias in psychology” an article by D. Bramel and R. Friend. It will then go on to further critique academic articles that both support and disagree with the primary source and demonstrate how the Hawthorne studies have influenced contemporary organizations.

The Hawthorne experimental studies conducted at the Western Electric Company Works has attracted considerable amounts of sharp critical scrutiny; it has practically “become an intellectual battle” (Miner, J. 2006. p.68) as it has been interpreted in various ways. The studies basically concluded that social and psychological factors are responsible for workers productivity and job satisfaction. Many psychologists, sociologist and critics attack the research procedures and criticize the analyses of the data and their conclusions. Bramel and Friend (1981) are a classic example of those exact critics who consider the Hawthorne studies to be contradictive, distorted and overall undeserving of receiving recognition and respect for their research. Bramel and Friend’s main aim in the article however is to “show not simply that Mayo’s conclusions were unrealistic and politically reactionary” but to alternatively demonstrate that there is “bias at the level of interpretation of the available data” (p. 868) and how this had a negative influence in effecting the results, due to the assumption that their workers can be manipulated and fooled with ease (p. 869).

There are many other critics that strongly support the views and opinions presented by Bramel and Friend in regards to the Hawthorne studies and how they consider the research to be insufficient and misleading.

The article “Shining New Light on the Hawthorne Illumination Experiments” by M. Kawa, M. French, and A. Hedge (2011) reinforces the arguments that feature in Bramel and Friend’s work. Like them they agree that the studies performed at the Western Company Works provided inconsistent evidence and that all experiments conducted including the results were seriously flawed. Basically they conclude that the inadequacies in the experimental designs tell an incomplete and sometimes inaccurate story and show the inconsistent associations between working conditions and productivity. (p. 546)

The article “Questioning the Hawthorne effect” shares the exact same views that were established in “Hawthorne the myth of the docile worker”. It argues that the data collected from the experiments had never been analyzed rigorously, no systematic evidence was implemented and the inconsistent ways in which the experiments were executed has lead to a misleading interpretation of what happened. (“Questioning the Hawthorne Effect”, 2009, p.74)

Another article that strongly disapproves of the Hawthorne studies is A. Carey’s article “The Hawthorne Studies: a Radical Criticism”. In Carey’s (1967) opinion the research conducted is nearly absent of scientific merit and the conclusions drawn are supported by so little evidence that it’s basically inappropriate that the studies have gained a respected place within scientific discipline and have held this place for so long. (p.403) However Carey does believe the importance of the studies is actually declining. In his opinion later studies are struggling to display any “reliable relationship between the social satisfaction of industrial workers and their work performance”(p.403). Carey criticizes Mayo’s approach, research and assumptions and claims that his reports are completely bias and invalid. He states that the “Statistical analysis of the relevant data did not show any conclusive evidence in favor of the first hypothesis” (p.405) which makes it extremely difficult to develop a correct conclusion.

Although there are critics that attack the Hawthorne studies and downplay the work of Mayo and Roethlisberger there is also many others that completely support the research conducted and believe it...
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