Management: The Hawthorne Studies by Elton Mayo

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The management of people in a modern organization is essential in the co-ordination of their individual efforts. Hence, it makes a contribution towards the achievement of the companies’ aims and objectives. Hawthorne studies, done by Elton Mayo, have been conducted to evaluate the working conditions that people are exposed to at work, and how they affect their productivity (Chen &Huang 2009). The studies’ findings formed the basis of human resource management and other related concepts in modern organizations. Although the studies had beneficial findings, some scholars have criticized them and disapproved the experiment. Nonetheless, the findings of Hawthorne Studies have greatly redefined the way the management of people is done in modern organizations (Brewster 2007).

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According to the Hawthorne studies, people work best when in teams, since work is a group activity (Cappelli 2008). The impact of group participation in the achievement of target goals is greater than the one attained when working individually. For instance, in the packaging area of an industry, having a group of workers interacting together would be more efficient compared to individuals doing the work in isolation. This idea has since been applied in many organizations, where each activity is usually assigned to a team of workers with a leader, rather than assigning to individuals.

Secondly, the management of people’s welfare should consider the social demands of the workers (Gunn 2011). For some people, effectiveness in their service delivery is largely dependent on whether or not their social demands have been met. Managing such workers would mean ensuring that they are in a good social state inside and outside the organization (Jackson & Schuler 2008). Different age groups in an organization have various social worlds. In particular, adults are primarily focused on their work activities while youths have more focus on non-work issues (Cropanzano & Mitchell 2005). Therefore, in the process of managing different groups, various techniques have to be put into consideration. This would ensure that the organization is able to meet the social demands of all workers belonging to different age groups.

Next, according to the findings of the studies, the change undergone by employees while shifting from their established society (at home) to an adoption one in the work-place tends to disrupt their smooth social organization (Gould-Williams & Davies 2005). This has pushed modern organizations to adopt measures that help reduce the disruption process (Guo et al 2011). For instance, workers are usually encouraged to spend as much time as possible with their families during non-work hours. However, when they go to work, the social environment changes abruptly. They have to follow certain codes of organizational conduct while working, and they are constantly watched by supervisors. This helps create a social barrier in the organisation (Jager & Beyes 2010). In addition, some organizations promote interactions and friendly working environments so as to overcome the problem of disruption.

Apart from that, workers’ security, recognition and sense of belonging are more significant in influencing employees’ morale and productivity compared to the physical conditions under which they work (Lengnick-Hall, Lengnick-Hall, Andrade & Drake 2009). This suggests that management should value the welfare of its workers rather than focusing on material motivations, such as salary increments. For instance, when it comes to workers with families, an organization should devise ways of showing concern, such as offering sponsorships to their children.

Again, a worker’s complaint is not always an objective of fact enumeration since it might be a manifestation of their discomforts (Torka 2011). When it comes to management, complaints from workers should be handled with a lot of concern and care in order to get to the bottom of the problems and clear the issues. For instance, a worker could be complaining about their work, yet the real problem is back at their home. Without a critical evaluation of such situations and the application of the Hawthorne effect, a manager would fail to solve the problem, hence, it would hurt the organization’s productivity.

Hawthorne studies’ findings have, to some extent, undermined some of the components of the concept of managing people. Training is a core aspect of any organization as far as the improvement of workers’ productivity is concerned (Muldoon 2012). However, due to the findings of Elton, the importance and relevance of organizational training are currently being overlooked. The basis for this is that production improves automatically as soon as Elton’s work is applied with or without training (Kuvaas & Dysvik 2009). As such, when the productivity in an organization increases, trainers would not be credited for their effort, since the outcome would be linked to the positive impacts of the Hawthorne effect.

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In conclusion, the findings of Hawthorne studies are of great importance to the management of people in modern organizations. They have gone a long way in influencing how management is done in the modern world. The studies emphasize on the need for team-work in organisations so as to foster relationships that facilitate efficiency. They also bring to the fore the need for in-depth analysis of all complaints from the work force of an organisation. On the other side of the coin, Hawthorne studies also have a limitation. They tend to encourage managers to focus on the implementation of their findings at the expense of organizational training. Theories developed from the findings are also shaping the modern management of people in various ways. In totality, the findings lead to improved working conditions for employees and high productivity for organizations.


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Cappelli, P 2008, ‘Talent management for the twenty-first century’, Harvard Business Review, pp. 74–81.

Chen, CH &Huang, JW 2009,. ‘Strategic human resource practices and innovation performance – the mediating role of knowledge management capacity. Journal of Business Research, vol. 6, pp. 104-114.

Cropanzano, R & Mitchell, MS 2005, ‘Social exchange theory: an interdisciplinary review’, Journal of Management, vol. 31, pp. 874–900.

Gould-Williams, J & Davies, F 2005, ‘Using social exchange theory to predict the effects of HRM practice on employee outcomes’, Public Management Review, vol. 7, pp. 1–24.

Gunn, C 2011, ‘Workers participation in management’, Review of Radical Political Economies, vol. 43.

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Guo, C, Brown, WA, Ashcraft, RF, Yoshioka, CF & Dong, HK. 2011, ‘Strategic human resources management in nonprofit organizations’, Review of Public Personnel Administration, vol. 31, pp. 248–269.

Jackson, SE & Schuler, RS 2008, ‘Understanding human resource management in the context of organizations and their environments’. Annual Review of Psychology, vol 46.

Jager, U & Beyes, T 2010, ‘Strategizing in NPOs: a case study on the practice of organizational change between social mission and economic rationale’, Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, vol. 21, pp. 82–100.

Kuvaas, B & Dysvik, A 2009, ‘Perceived investment in employee development, intrinsic motivation and work performance’, Human Resource Management Journal, vol. 19, pp. 217–236.

Lengnick-Hall, ML, Lengnick-Hall, CA, Andrade, L & Drake, B 2009, ‘Strategic human resource management: The evolution of the field’, Human Resource Management Review, vol. 19, pp. 64–85.

Muldoon, J 2012, ‘The Hawthorne legacy: a reassessment of the impact of the Hawthorne studies on management scholarship, 1930-1958’, Journal of Management History, vol. 18.

Torka, N 2011, ‘Agency workers and organisation’s commitment to its work’, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, vol. 22.

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