The Hawthorne studies, carried out by Fritz Roethlisberger, William J. Dickson and directed by Elton Mayo, were held from1927 to 1932 at the Western Electric Company in Chicago. The original intention was to study the relationship between workplace lighting and worker’s productivity. However, results yielded were vague and they felt that there was something beyond those factors. It was then that the focus of the study shifted towards fatigue.
Mayo’s initial interest was in studying how rest times and physical conditions would affect fatigue and turnover (Pugh & Hickson 1993). His research also enabled managers to see the how groups will affect individual behaviours at work. Throughout this study, Mayo (1930) stated that workers involved were cautioned not to make a race out of the test and to work at a comfortable pace.
In this essay, we will analyse the different phases of the experiment and see that the original intention of the Hawthorne studies were leaned towards improving staff morale but however also realised that their experience at work had changed in the process.
This illumination test was designed with the aim of adjusting lightings to determine how it affects productivity level. The experiments were conducted by placing candles of different heights in a room and then recording production levels accordingly. On the other hand, another group of workers were given constant lighting conditions. Here, results showed that there was an increase in productivity regardless of the height of the candles for both groups (Pugh & Hickson 1993). It was evident that this test displayed an objective to improve employees’ experience of work as lighting plays an important part in enabling workers to work without the difficulty of sight. However, it was a stand-alone factor as good lighting may not necessarily mean good productivity. Other considerations included workplace relationships, supervision, motivation and physiological fatigue. Researchers then concluded that there were stronger factors that were not controlled and lighting was only a minor factor in this study of output (Sonnenfeld 1985).
Relay assembly test room
Following which was the relay assembly test room where variables were controlled. A few women who assembled magnetic relays were isolated from the main shop floor so as to be able to investigate other explanations of productivity in greater detail (Sonnenfeld 1985). Conditions of work were changed one at a time: length of rest periods, working hours, working week and food provided in the morning break (Mayo 1949). This was done in hope to see how workers’ morale and productivity fluctuated according to fatigue and meals provided. Despite the changes, it was seen that output still steadily increased, meaning that there was something else going on. Mayo (1949) then discovered that the individuals became a team, wholeheartedly and spontaneously cooperating in the experiment which led to them freely participating without afterthought. These had subconsciously improved worker’s experience at work as there was cohesion and a sense of belonging in the test group. They also felt less pressure than before as their mental attitudes were different. Following results also explained that although incentives were given, it was not a main contributor of production, but influence and supervision method also had a role to play (Rairdon 2008). In this, the relationships formed led to an improved experience in the workplace but the incentives introduced in this experiment helped to increase morale and productivity.
There were two other studies that checked other possible explanations of improvements in productivity. Special group output incentive plans was introduced and production increased for one group but were unfortunately disbanded as complaints of inequity was present (Sonnenfeld 1985). It was confirmed that incentives were secondary when output fell due to rumours...
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