The Hawthorne Studies Essay Research Paper

The Hawthorne Studies Essay, Research Paper

“The Hawthorne studies are said to have been an important milestone in management thinking. Discuss this idea with reference to the thoughts on management both before and after the Hawthorne studies took place”.



Management is ” the process of coordinating and integrating work activities so that they are completed efficiently and effectively with and through other people”(Robbins et al 8:2000). Modern managers use many of the practices, principles, and techniques developed from earlier concepts and experiences. The Industrial Revolution brought about the emergence of large-scale business and it’s needed for professional managers. “Early military and church organisations provided the leadership models” states Oldcorn (Oldcorn 3:1996).

Organisational Behaviour

It is evident that large numbers of people have been doing work for a long time. Pyramids and many other huge monuments and structures were built, armies and governments were organised and civilisations spread over vast territories. This took organisation and management. There are some writings from history indicating that systematic approaches to management and organisation did evolve and were transmitted to others. However the primary influences in organisations and management today stem from more recent events.


Scientific Management

The Industrial Revolution that started with the development of steam power and the creation of large factories in the late Eighteenth Century lead to great changes in the production of textiles and other products. The factories that evolved, created great challenges to organisation and management that had not been confronted before. Managing these new factories and later new entities such as railroads with the requirement of managing large flows of material, people, and information over large distances created the need for some methods for dealing with the new management issues.

The most important of those who began to create a science of management was Frederic Winslow Taylor. Taylor was one of the first to attempt to systematically analyse human behaviour at work. His model was the machine with its cheap, interchangeable parts, each of which does one specific function. Taylor attempted to do to complex organisations what engineers had done to machines and this involved making individuals into the equivalent of machine parts. Just as machine parts were easily interchangeable, cheap, and passive, so should the human parts be the same in the Machine model of organisations.

This involved breaking down each task to its smallest unit and to figure out the one best way to do each job. Then the engineer, after analysing the job should teach it to the worker and make sure the worker does only those motions essential to the task. Taylor attempted to make a science for each element of work and restrict behavioral alternatives facing the worker. Taylor looked at interaction of human characteristics, social environment, task and physical environment, capacity, speed, durability, and cost. The overall goal was to remove human variability.

The results were profound. Productivity under Taylorism increased dramatically. New departments arose such as industrial engineering, personnel, and quality control. There was also growth in middle management as there evolved a separation of planning from operations. Rational rules replaced trial and error, management became formalised and efficiency increased. However, this did not come about without resistance. First the old-line managers resisted the notion that management was a science to be studied not something one was born with (or inherited). Then inevitably, many workers resisted what some considered the “dehumanisation of work”. To be fair, Taylor also studied issues such as fatigue and safety and urged management to study the relationship between work breaks, and the length of the work day and productivity and convinced many companies that the careful introduction of breaks and a shorter day could increase productivity.

Administrative Management

Administrative Management emphasizes the manager and the functions of management. Henri Fayol was the Father of Modern Management and defined the five functions of the manager to include plan, organise, command, coordinate and control. His fourteen principles of management included division of work, authority and responsibility, discipline, unity of command, unity of direction, subordination of individual interests to general interests, remuneration of personnel, centralisation, scalar chain, order, equity, stability of tenure of personnel, initiative and esprit de corps (union is strength). Mary Parker Follett’s concepts included the universal goal, the universal principle and the Law of the Situation. The universal goal of organisations is an ” integration of individual effort into a synergistic whole” (Massie 43:1979). The universal principle is ” a circular or reciprocal response emphasising feedback to the sender” (Massie 43:1979), two-way communications. The Law of the Situation emphasises that there is no one best way to do anything, but that it all depends on the situation.


Despite the economic progress brought about in party by Scientific Management, critics were calling attention to the severe labor/management conflict, apathy, boredom, and wasted human resources. These concerns lead a number of researchers to examine the discrepancy between how an organisation was supposed to work versus how the workers actually behaved. In addition, factors like World War I, developments in psychology (e.g. Freud) and later the depression, all brought into question some of the basic assumptions of the Scientific Management School. One of the primary critics of the time, Elton Mayo, claimed that this ‘alienation’ stemmed from the breakdown of the social structures caused by industrialisation, the factory system, and its related outcomes such as growing urbanisation.

The most famous of these studies were the Hawthorne Studies which showed how work groups provide mutual support and effective resistance to management schemes to increase output. This study fournd that workers didn’t respond to classical motivational approaches as suggested in the Scientific Management and Taylor approaches, but rather workers were also interested in the rewards and punishments of their own work group. These studies conducted in the 1920’s, started as a straightforward attempt to determine the relationship between work environment and productivity. The results of the research led researches to feel that they were dealing with soci-psychological factors that were not explained by classic theory which stressed the formal organisation and formal leadership. The Hawthorne Studies helped us to see that an organisation is more than a formal arrangement of functions but is also a social system.

The Hawthorne Experiments were conducted between 1927 and 1932 at the works of the Western Electric Company in Chicago. Basically the aim of these experiments was to ” attempt to reduce worker dissatisfaction and resist trade union influence by the putting in place of a paternalistic package of social and recreational benefits calculated to sustain workers’ loyalty”(Sheldrake 105:1996). Many little assignments were conducted in hope of putting into practice the above theory.


These studies added much to our knowledge of human behaviour in organisations and created pressure for management to change the traditional ways of managing human resources. The Human Relations Movement pushed managers toward gaining participative support of lower levels of the organisation in solving problems. The Movement also fostered a more open and trusting environment and a greater emphasis on groups rather than just individuals. According to Oldcorn although Mayo’s research has been criticised from many angles, there is not so much argument about his central conclusion being that:

· “people are motivated by more than pay and conditions

· the need for recognition and a sense of belonging are very important

· attitudes towards work are strongly influenced by the group “(Oldcom1996:167)


According to Sheldrake, although it is more than half a century since they were conducted (they) are still among the most frequently cited and most controversial experiments in the social sciences (Sheldrake 104:1996). This statement alone depicts their popularity within the management world today, despite their controversial issues. As we have noticed, management existed many years ago and will inevitably exist for many more. Each day more management viewpoints are emerging. Professional management emphasises achieving customer satisfaction by providing high quality goods and services. However to ensure this to happen you must make sure employees, those indirectly determining the quality of your goods and services, are adequately provided for. Only then will the whole cycle be complete. Inevitably the organisation redesigns the processes that are crucial to customer service. Management models the corporation as a complex adaptive stem that interacts and evolves with its surroundings.


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