The Hawthorne Studies

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Despite fierce and ongoing arguments of the results delivered by the Hawthorne studies, the significance of the vast degree of contribution is unquestionable. The Hawthorne studies had steered the focal point on Scientific Management introduced by Frederick W Taylor to human relations and motivational issues in the workplace. Indirectly, over the century, the Hawthorne studies had raised several well-known theorists such as Douglas McGregor, Frederick Herzberg and Abraham Maslow to study and invent their own set motivational theories. Yet, this is barely the only repercussion of the Hawthorne studies. Thus, supporting the argument that findings of the Hawthorne studies should not die away in historical records, three findings shall be discussed here. They are mainly (1) the formation of informal groups, (2) leadership and supervision style and (3) the nondirective interviews.

The legacy of the Hawthorne studies began in 1924 in the Hawthorne plant of Western Electric Corporation in Chicago. In this company which manufactures equipment for the Bell Telephone System for its monopoly company, American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) Company, seven studies of which some are discussed in the paper took place with spear headers such as F J Roethlisberger and George Elton Mayo of Harvard University and W J Dickson of Western Electric Corporation (Parsons 1974; Gale 2004). In spite of examining how work conditions could affect productivity which the Hawthorne studies was set out to serve, surprising twist of events sprung and created what was later known as the “Hawthorne Effect” (Kiviat 2007; Shivers 1998).

Almost throughout the whole Hawthorne studies, the formation of a social system is highly evident among employees who were selected to participate in illumination experiments, relay assembly test and bank wiring observation. Despite changes made to variables such as lighting, rest breaks, wages, work schedule, group productivity continue to rise. Unexpectedly, the chosen participants have established among themselves an informal work group and developed their own set of norms (Kiviat 2007; Gautschie 1989). These norms are a display of common work behavior or rather an unofficial code of conduct binded together by social pressure. For instance, the social group would have lunch and breaks together as well as maintain a constant level of production through “binging”. Should one tries to out-perform those in the team, he/she will be treated differently or out casted (Shivers 1998; Sommer & Marsnik 1993; Wren 2005).

As Ken Gaffey, Staffing Specialist for Fidelity Investment commented in his article, “If You Have To Tell Your People They Are A Team, They Probably Aren’t!”, individuals work together and fuse themselves into a team sharing a common set of goals. In addition, Workplace HR & Safety Magazine (13 March 2008, p.8) also states in its CEO Best Practices Interview with Paul Graziani, president and CEO of Analytical Graphics Inc (AGI), that teambuilding and bonding has a vital role to play for AGI’s success. AGI create opportunities to achieve their success. They have common family day, seasonal parties besides luncheons on Fridays themed “Storytime” where employees will gather and share all sorts of stories, personal encounters and good news with fellow colleagues. Employees at AGI also get their chances to contribute in projects and even lead in industrial presentations.

Nonetheless, complementing the performance of the social group, the type of supervision and leadership style plays a part (Carey 1967). Substantiated by the query of why productivity kept increasing, both Theresa Layman and Wanda Blazejak-Beilfus, two of the five relay assembly girls who were interviewed commented that they perform better when they feel relaxed and happy towards work in the Relay Test Room as compared to being closely watched under strict supervision. At the initial stage of the Relay Assembly Test, Frank...
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