The Hawthorne Studies and the Norms of Behaviour in the Workplace

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Management theories could be traced in 1800s during the industrial revolution and factory growth time (Bartol, Tein, Matthews, Ritson & Scott-Ladd 2006, p.16). The history of management viewpoint is partly involved in developing understanding about the norms of behaviour in the workplace. In fact, the Hawthorne studies did a lot of contributes to that. It also altered the focus of management study, in contrast with the classical management. This essay is trying to demonstrate that how the Hawthorne studies contribute to developing understanding about the norms of behaviour in the workplace and find out researchers’ experience of how group relationships have influenced work performance.

Between 1924 and 1933, a series of the Hawthorne studies was conducted by researchers, including Elton Mayo, of the Hawthorne Works which belonged to the Western Electric Company. Scientists attempted to determine the relation between work environment and productivity over the series of the Hawthorne studies. The first series of studies, called The Hawthorne Illumination Tests (HIT), was performed between 1924 and 1927. The purpose was just to find the optimal lighting for productivity (Sheldrake 1998, p.105). These experiments had two groups, control group (the group with lighting changed) and experimental group. Surprisingly, both of their performance enhanced at last, whether illumination declined or not. Due to Sheldrake’s viewpoint (1998, p.108), the results showed that there was no clear relationship between the intensity of lighting and the rate of output. Thus, researchers realised that there could be something else besides lighting to affect productivity. They doubt that the supervision of the researchers may have some effects on it. (, March 2006).

After the first experiment, researchers wanted to identify what other elements could influence productivity, so they began to perform the second set of studies (, March 2006). The second one was the most famous one, which was conducted between 1927 and 1933 by the Hawthorne Works. As Sheldrake (1998, p.108) has argued, six young women, aged from 15 to 28, were chosen to participate in the Relay Assembly Test Room (RATR) experiments. Researchers provided the six women different work conditions such as pay rules, workday length, rest periods, free lunches and then evaluated results they had got. Through the study, researchers found that six workers became a team and ‘productivity generally increased, no matter how elements changed’ (Bartol, Tein, Matthews, Ritson & Scott-Ladd 2006, p.24). Several years later after those experiments, Mayo (1945, cited in Pyöriä 2005) also wrote about that the experiment ‘was responsible for many important findings, but the most important finding of all was unquestionably in the general area of teamwork and cooperation’. A Harvard University research group also did other experiments about changes to supervision after that. In those experiments, researchers assumed that choosing some co-workers, working as a group, being treated specially, and having a kindly supervisor probably were the actual reasons for the productivity increase. This result was the famed the Hawthorne effect, which is that the researchers’ attention could make people enhance the performance of study, not any other specific factors (Bartol et al. 2006, p.24). Scientists were still not sure about the results they had got, so they continued to perform more experiments.

The third experiment including Bank Wiring Observation Room Study was based on the second’s findings and conducted by Elton Mayo and Lloyd Warner from 1931 to 1932. They segregated a group of fourteen men in different rooms with similar production facilities and varied work conditions, then observed the effects on morale and production (Chong n.d.). The purpose of this study was to figure out how payment incentives would have...
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