Hawthorn Studies and Analysis of Group Behavior

The following sample essay on Hawthorn Studies and Analysis of Group Behavior about a study that aimed to find the relationship between the physical environment and productivity.

The Hawthorn Studies took place in Western Electric Company’s Hawthorne works in Chicago between 1924 and 1932. Originally setting out with the objective to find the relationship between physical environment and productivity, their conclusion was far different. Stephen P. Robbins (2000, p93) ‘ The Hawthorn Studies made an important contribution to our understanding of group behavior. Before the contribution of the Hawthorne studies very different theories were prominent within organizations.

Fordism and Taylorism

Rather than a Human Resource culture, scientific management, such as Fordism and Taylorism were popular, and these theories concentrated on the workers’ motivation to work being money. Many believe that the Hawthorn studies were a precursor to the Human Relations approach that is in wide use today. That the findings of the studies led to more research into behavior at work, rather than concentrating on other production varying factors.

To show how much of a contribution the studies made to the understanding of behavior at work, it is also necessary to look into modern studies.

This is so that the value of the initial Hawthorn Studies can be gauged on how studies and theories were approached in their wake. When the Hawthorne Studies began, the aim was to find a relationship between workers’ physical environment and their output. This task was much in tune with the scientific management approach which measured workers an attempted to increase production by increased efficiency.

Get quality help now
Dr. Karlyna PhD

Proficient in: Employment

4.7 (235)

“ Amazing writer! I am really satisfied with her work. An excellent price as well. ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

Firstly, a study into the effect of lighting on production took place. Rather than finding a direct relationship as expected, it was found that groups under close observation had rising production.

This rise in output was independent of any changes in the lighting, and this could not be explained. Looking for answers into the rising production, new experiments were set up and overseen by Harvard Professor Elton Mayo. During the next phase of experiments in the relay assembly, test room, a small group of women workers was isolated so that they could be studied more carefully. Over a multiyear period, it was found that this small group’s production was increasing steadily. Sickness and absence also dropped to a third of that in the rest of the factory.

The conclusion was that the women saw themselves as a special group, and this was resulting in the increased production. A third phase of the experiment was set up in the bank wiring observation room. The aim of this experiment was to ascertain the effect of a piece rate wage incentive plan. Assumptions were made that individuals would maximize their own output and therefore their earnings. However the study discovered that the employees did not individually maximize their performance. Instead the output was controlled by their group. Stephen P. Robbins (2000, p92) ‘Their output became controlled by a norm that determined what was a proper day’s work’.

This conclusion was very different from previous theories where it was assumed that a worker motivation came from pay and conditions. Morgan Witzel (2000, p8) ‘By the time the project was finished, ten years later, its scope had been widened to include nearly every factor, psychological and physical, personal and professional, in work and home life, which might affect the employee and his or her performance, and more than 20,000 people had been studied and interviewed’.

So although setting out with intentions of carrying on scientific management, the Hawthorn studies uncovered new theories and observations of motivation and employee behavior. In order to assess the contribution of the Hawthorne Studies, we must look at how behavior at work was understood before them, and the theories that were utilized by management. Scientific management was born in the early 1900’s by Frederick W Taylor. Taylor’s theories were very different to those born out of the Hawthorn Studies.

Tony J. Watson (1980, p44) ‘Taylorism sees the worker basically as an economic animal, a self-seeking non-social individual who prefers managers to do their job- related thinking for them’. Using this model of the motivation to work of employees, management simply needed to organize the work and offer monetary incentives which would increase production. Many large organizations such as Ford adopted this strategy, and scientific management was the accepted management theory.

Taylor was the first to write on the subject of scientific management, but it was Henry Ford who famously implemented it. Fordism treated workers as another machine and had very simplistic assumptions regarding motivation to work. Taking scientific management on board, these companies were also accepting that their employee’s behavior was dependent on pay and conditions. It was not that these companies dismissed other factors, more that they were as yet undiscovered. There were however many critics of Scientific Management and some problems associated with it.

Many union leaders were concerned by the practice of introducing this system, not by the higher rates of pay and security offered by any practices. It was the practices where employers introduced piece-rate wages, then cut the rates as soon as higher production was reached. Other practices which had introduced correct rates, found production did not meet targets set, and a punitive action was then taken. Because Scientific Management did not take into account groups and social behavior, if targets were not met there was no other explanation other than the workers were not trying their best.

It was not until the conclusions of the Hawthorne Studies that other factors were taken into account, and more explanations of workers’ behavior could be made. It is widely recognized that the Hawthorne Studies were key in the development of HR (Human Relations) concept. Buchanan, D. and Huczynski, A (1985, p186) ‘Companies concluded that the employee’s receptivity to management’s goals depended on the extent to which the boss could meet the employee’s social needs, such as that for acceptance.

In this sense, the human relations approach to management was born’. This approach is widely used today and takes into account the factors such as groups and social variables, which were documented during the Hawthorn Studies. To Human Relations theorists, management needs to provide a work environment, within which employees can fulfil their social needs. These social needs were identified from the Hawthorn studies, and have since been used in many HR models.

Management can use this information to introduce modern techniques such as team building, communication and supportive supervision. All of these techniques, as with scientific management are implemented to managerial needs, and ultimately to increase productivity. Other studies have since been carried out in the wake of the Hawthorne observations. The Luton studies conducted by Goldthorpe et al (1962) were carried out to establish the worker orientation to work. The workers there were well paid and perceived their work as a means to secure pay and security.

The employee’s orientation to work was formed independently from their current employment. It was of little intrinsic value to them, their motivation came from class, community and family background. These studies opened up new areas of debate, and posed questions to management. How could they motivate workers, who gained little or no motivation from work, but only from personal backgrounds? This forced management theorists to think about the employee’s life outside the organization as well as within the work.

Cite this page

Hawthorn Studies and Analysis of Group Behavior. (2017, Dec 28). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/paper-on-11605-the-hawthorn-studies/

Hawthorn Studies and Analysis of Group Behavior
Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7