Scientific Management

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rom 1924[-]32, an innovative series of research studies was funded by the Western Electric Company at its Hawthorne plant in Chicago, then a manufacturing division of AT&T. The plant was one of the oldest in operation and employed approximately 25,000 of Western Electric's 45,000 workers. The research proceeded through five phases: (1) The initial Illumination studies (1924[-]27) were aimed at evaluating the effect of lighting conditions on productivity; (2) the Relay-assembly Room studies (August 1928[-]March 1929) assessed the effects of pay incentives, rest periods, and active job input on the productivity of five selected woman workers; (3) the Mica-Splitting Test group (October 1928[-]September 1930) in which a group of piece-workers were used to corroborate the relative importance of work-group dynamics vs. pay incentives; (4) the Bank Wiring Observation group (November 1931[-]May 1932) a covert observational design in which the dynamics of control in a work-group of 14 male employees on the regular factory floor were observed; and (5) the plantwide Interviewing program (September 1928[-]early 1931) essentially an attempt by the company to categorize concerns, mitigate grievances, and manipulate employee morale according to the principles of social control learned in the previous phases). The latter two phases were interrupted by the detrimental effects of the Great Depression on company production orders, but the interviewing phase was later reinstated as a "Personnel Counseling" program, and was even expanded throughout the Western Electric company system between 1936[-]1955. The Hawthorne effect, defined as the tendency under conditions of observation for worker productivity to steadily increase, was discovered during the earliest "scientific management" phases of the research. It was suggested that when human work relations (ie., supervision and worker camaraderie) were appropriate, adverse physical conditions had little negative effect upon worker productivity. If the company could only learn more about the human relations aspects of the workplace, they might soon be able to utilize them to increase overall plant production. The latter phases of research, therefore, become more sociopsychological in design. MAY0 was the most prominent early popularizer of these studies. His previous industrial psychology work included reducing turnover in a Philadelphia area textile mill by establishing a system of rest periods for workers but he now stressed a social relations interpretation of the ongoing Hawthorne research. This portrayal had the eventual disciplinary effect of extending the purview of industrial testing beyond the previous individualized placement of workers toward the wider realm of manipulation of work-place relationships. Mayo’s account is altogether more programmatic than the guarded comments of WHITEHEAD or of ROETHLISBERGER and DICKSON in their official company research report (where more of the messy empirical details of the early phases of research were presented). All three sources, however, intentionally portray the Harvard Business School researchers as equally benevolent toward worker and company interests. The standard portrayal of wholehearted cooperation between the workers and supervisors in the latter phases of research came under sharp attack from industrial sociologists from 1937 onward including: GILSON; LYND; MILLS; LANDSBERGER. It was BARITZ, however, who popularized the notion that industrial researchers were inevitably "servants of power." The counseling phase of research in particular was designed to apply the listening techniques of the "Catholic confessional" and the "psychiatric couch" (p. 116) with the aim of adjusting people to situations (rather than alleviating those situations from the workplace). An attempt at disciplinary damage control was then published by DICKSON and ROETHLISBERGER. A more convincing counter argument can be gained from other sources. Baritz clearly...
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