Hawthorne Studies

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Hawthorne Studies

1927-1933 WESTERN ELECTRIC CO.Cicero, Illinois Hawthorn Plant

Dr. Elton Mayo

Hawthorne Studies Conducted in late 1920s Western Electric Hawthorne plant Showed importance of the individual in the workplace Showed the presence of a social system in the workplace

Hawthorne studies defined

A series of experiments in which the output of the workers was observed to increase as a result of improved treatment by their managers. Named for their site, at the Western Electric Company plant in Hawthorne, Illinois.

Hawthorne Studies: Workplace Lighting

Originally intended to examine effects of lighting on productivity

Scientific management proposed that physical conditions affect productivity

Result: Productivity increased regardless of lighting level Conclusion: Increased productivity was due to workers receiving attention

Illumination Studies

The first illumination study was made in three departments The illumination level in each department was increased at stated intervals Puzzling results Increased production did not correspond with increased lighting Reduced production did not correspond with reduced lighting

Illumination Studies

The second illumination study utilized a test group and a control group. Illumination intensities were varied in the test group and compared to the control group. Both groups showed increases in production rates that were not only substantial but also nearly identical.

Illumination Studies

The third illumination study reduced the lighting for the test group and held the control group constant. Efficiency of both groups increased. Production rates increased in the test group until the light became so poor that the workers complained.

Illumination Studies

Conclusions: Employee output was not necessarily related to lighting conditions, and Too many variables had not been controlled in the experiments.

Hawthorne Studies: Piecework Pay Examined effects of group piecework pay system on productivity Workers under piecework system should produce as much as possible

Scientific management assumes that people are motivated only by money

Result: Production less than maximum Conclusion: Social pressure caused workers to produce at group-norm level


Study Background

Hawthorne studies were conducted from 1927 to 1932 by Harvard Business School Professor Elton Mayo. Purpose of study was to examine what effect monotony and fatigue had on productivity and how to control them with variables such as rest breaks, work hours, temperature, and humidity.

Normal conditions

Under normal conditions, the work week was 48 hours, including Saturdays. There were no rest pauses.

Experiment One

The workers were put on piece-work for eight weeks.Output went up.

Experiment Two

The workers were given two rest pauses, five minutes each, in the morning and afternoon for a period of five weeks.Output went up again.

Experiment Three

The rest pauses were increased to ten minutes each.Output went up sharply.

Experiment Four

The workers were given six five minute breaks.Output fell slightly.

The workers complained that the work rhythm was broken by frequent pauses.

Experiment Five

The two original rest pauses were put back in place, and the workers were given a free hot meal by the company.Output went up.

Experiment Six

The workers were dismissed at 4:30 p.m. instead of 5:00 p.m.Output went up.

Experiment Seven

The workers were dismissed at 4:00 p.m.Output remained the same.

Experiment Eight

All improvements were taken away and the workers returned to their original working conditions.Output was the highest ever recorded!


of production is set by social norms, not by physical capacities Non-economic rewards and sanctions affect the behavior of workers Often workers react as members of a group, not as individuals Management should recognize group behavior and act accordingly

Hawthorne StudiesHawthorne Effect:The phenomenon that employees perform better when they feel singled out for attention or feel that management is concerned about their welfare

Percentage of Standard Output






Two 5-min. rests

In general, productivity increased with each change in work conditions

Six 5-min. rests 15-min. rests + lunch Same + 4:30 p.m. stop Same + 4 p.m. stop

15-min. rests + lunchSame + Sat. a.m. off Standard 15-min. rests + lunch


Standard work conditions

Hawthorne Study ResultsTest Room/Control Room Changes to work conditions do not produce linear responses to productivity. Workers appear to respond to managements attempts to improve work place.

Bank Wiring Room Workers will scale back productivity to suit group norm. Organizations are social systems in which human interactions play a critical role.

Explanation of Findings

The experimental group had considerable freedom of movement compared to other workers in the plant. The group developed an increased sense of responsibility and discipline no longer needed to come from a higher authority, it came from within the group.

Real World Example

Workers improve their productivity when they believe management is concerned with their welfare and pay particular attention to them. Productivity can also be explained by paying attention to the workers social environment and informal groupings.

An Exercise

What kinds of issues affect your productivity? What can a principal/superintendent do to increase or decrease your productivity?