Hawthorne Studies: Productivity of Workers

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Hawthorne Studies

The Hawthorne Studies, conducted at Western Electric's Hawthorne plant outside Chicago, starting in 1924 and running through 1936, were intended to bring about a greater understanding of the effects of working conditions on worker productivity. The results of the experiments were contrary to the management theory of the time (Scientific Management), and were key in bringing about an understanding of motivation factors in employment

Basically, a series of studies on the productivity of workers introduced several deliberate various conditions (pay, light levels, rest breaks etc.), but each change resulted on average over time in productivity rising, including eventually a return to the original conditions. This was true of each of the individual workers as well as of the group's average. Clearly the changes that the experimenters deliberately introduced were not the only or dominant causes of productivity. One interpretation, mainly due to Mayo, was that the important effect here was the feeling of being studied: it is this that is now referred to by "the Hawthorne effect". Specifically, Mayo wanted to find out what fatigue and monotony has 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 will help to transform the theory and principles of management. The Experiments

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. He changed the hours in the working week, the hours in the workday and the number of rest breaks, the time of their lunch hour. Occasionally, he would return the women to their original,...
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