The Hawthorne Experiment
George Elton Mayo:
The Hawthorne Experiment
The purpose of this paper is to explore the management theory of George Elton Mayo and how it applies to the current status of management in business today. This will include the examination of the behavioral aspect of management by studying Elton Mayo's Hawthorne Experiment and its conclusions. Introduction
George Elton Mayo was born the second child of an Adelaide, South Australian colonial family on December 26, 1880. It was expected of Mayo that he would follow in his grandfather's footsteps by studying medicine, but turned to writing when he failed at university studies. Elton Mayo was a self-taught public speaker appointed as a philosophy and logic teacher at the university in Queensland. It was at this university that he met and married Dorothea McConnel (Thoemmes Press 2007).
Mayo immigrated to the United States under a grant from the Laura Spelman Rockefeller fund. Here, he worked with the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce of the University of Pennsylvania. His research studied worker productivity in various textile firms due to rest breaks. The foremen of these firms opposed rest breaks; therefore, they returned workers to past practices while Mayo was gone. Productivity declined, thus proving the effectiveness of rest breaks. Mayo realized that worker's problems had to be dealt with in what he called "the psychology of the total situation" (Wren 1994, p. 240).
After his research at the University of Pennsylvania, Mayo went to the Harvard Business School to continue his study of how changes in working conditions impact physical and psychological welfare of employees. Here, Western Electric Company's controller of manufacturing approached Mayo regarding research findings on employee productivity due to rest periods. Mayo concluded that the behavior of employees seemed to be affected by their attitude toward the work that they were performing. Because of Mayo's conclusion, the management of Western Electric Company implemented an interviewing program to learn the workers thoughts and feelings about their work. They wanted Mayo to head this program. He suggested that they could do it on their own by following a few rules. The rules included: "give your full attention to the interviewee, and make it evident that you are doing so; listen and do not talk; never argue or give advice; listen for what the interviewee wants to say, does not want to say, and cannot say without help; as you listen plot tentatively, and for subsequent correction, the pattern of experience that is being presented before you; to test your grasp of the pattern summarize cautiously and clearly what has been said without twisting it; and finally, treat what has been said in confidence" (Thoemmes Press 2007).
The Hawthorne Experiment, what George Elton Mayo is most noted for, will be discussed in more detail in the following section. The Hawthorne Experiment
The Hawthorne Experiment was a combination of studies to see what factors affected worker productivity. This experiment took place from 1927 to 1932 at the Western Electric Hawthorne Works in Chicago (Work Force 2007). The Hawthorne Experiment consisted of three separate stages. Stage One
In stage one, Mayo's team picked six female workers from the Relay Assembly Department. These women were placed in a separate room from all of the other employees. Mayo's team provided them with the same type of production facilities as in the main department, but they varied their working conditions. Such conditions that were varied included rest breaks, work hours, temperature, and lighting (see Appendix A for more varied working conditions). Mayo always made sure that the women were made aware of these changes in advance.
Elton Mayo and his team were startled with the outcome of this study. They found that no matter...