Hawthorne Studies (Organisational Behaviour)

Category: Behavior, Experiment
Last Updated: 19 Mar 2023
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Hawthorne Studies

The most important contribution to the human relations movement within organizational behavior came out of the Hawthorne studies undertaken at western electric company’s Hawthorne works in Chicago in between 1924 and 1932. Main researches were Elton Mayo, Dickson, Whitehead, and Rothlisberger. The researchers originally set out to study the relationship between productivity and physical working conditions. They conducted various researches in four phases with each phase attempting to answer the question raised at the previous phase.

The four phases were:

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  1. Experiments to determine the effects of changes in illumination on productivity; Illumination experiments (1924-27)
  2. Experiments to determine the effects of changes in hours and other working conditions on productivity; Relay assembly test room experiments (1927-28).
  3. Conducting plant wide interviews to determine worker attitudes and sentiments, Mass interviewing program (1928-30).
  4. Determination and analysis of social organization at work; Bank wiring observation room experiments (1931-32). Illumination experiments.

The Experiments

The experiments began in 1924 and extended over several years. The purpose was to examine the relation of quality and quantity of illumination to efficiency of industrial workers. Control and experimental groups were established. The experimental group was presented with varying illumination intensities, while the control group worked under a constant intensity. The researches were surprised to see that productivity increased to roughly the same rate in both the test and control groups. It was only in final experiment, where they decreased illumination levels to 0. 0f foot candle (roughly moonlight intensity) that an appreciable decline in output occurred. The engineers concluded that illumination intensity was not directly related to group productivity, but they could not explain the behavior they had witnessed. Relay assembly test room experiments:- Relay assembly test room experiments were designed to determine the effect of changes in various job conditions on group productivity as the illumination experiments could not establish relationship between intensity of illumination and production.

For this purpose, the researchers set up a relay assembly test room and two girls were selected. These girls were asked to choose four more girls as company-workers. Following ere the changes and the resultant outcomes;

  1. The incentive system was changed so that each girl’s extra pay was based on the other five rather than output of larger group. The productivity increased as compared to before.
  2. Two five-minute rests –one in morning session and other in the evening session – were introduced which were increased to ten minutes.
  3. The rest period was reduced to five minutes but frequency was increased. The productivity decreased slightly and the girls complained that frequent rest intervals affected the rhythm of the work.
  4. The number of rest pauses was reduced to two of ten minutes each, but in the morning, coffee or soup was served along with sandwich and in the evening, snack was provided. The productivity increased.
  5. Changes in working hours and workday were introduced. Productivity again increased.

The Productivity Increased

As each change was introduced, absenteeism decreased, morale increased and less supervision was required. Mass interviewing program During the course of experiments, about 20,000 interviews were conducted between 1928 and 1930 to determine employee’s attitude towards company, supervision, insurance plans, promotion and wages. Initially these interviews were conducted by means of direct questioning but later it was changed to non-directive interviewing where interviewer was asked to listen to instead of talking, arguing or advising.

During the course of interviews, it was discovered that worker’s behavior was being influenced by group behavior. Bank wiring observation room experiments The concluding study at Hawthorne was significant because it confirmed that the importance of one aspect of the informal organization on worker productivity. Specifically, the researchers studied workers in the bank wiring room and found the behavioral norms set by the work group had a powerful influence over the productivity of a group. The higher the norms, the greater the productivity.

The lower the norms, the lower the productivity. The power of the peer group and the importance of the group influence on individual behavior and productivity were confined in the bank wiring study. Findings ?Workplaces are social environments and people are motivated by much more than economic self-interest. The girls were allowed to have a friendly relationship with their supervisor and they felt happier at work. They felt like part of a team when changes were discussed in advance with them. Flowing from the findings of these investigations he came to certain conclusions as follows: Work is a group activity.


The social world of the adult is primarily patterned about work activity. The need for recognition, security and sense of belonging is more important in determining workers' morale and productivity than the physical conditions under which he works. A complaint is not necessarily an objective recital of facts; it is commonly a symptom manifesting disturbance of an individual's status position. The worker is a person whose attitudes and effectiveness are conditioned by social demands from both inside and outside the work plant. Informal groups within the work plant exercise strong social controls over the work habits and attitudes of the individual worker. The change from an established society in the home to an adaptive society in the work plant resulting from the use of new techniques tends continually to disrupt the social organization of a work plant and industry generally. Group collaboration does not occur by accident; it must be planned and developed. If group collaboration is achieved the human relations within a work plant may reach a cohesion which resists the disrupting effects of adaptive society.

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Hawthorne Studies (Organisational Behaviour). (2017, Jan 30). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/hawthorne-studies-organisational-behaviour/

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