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Beginning in 1927 and running through 1932, the Hawthorne Studies took place at the Western Electric Company’s Chicago Plant, who employed mostly women who assembled telephone equipment. The number one objective of the Hawthorne Studies was to examine how different work conditions affected employee productivity. When Mayo first began, he experimented with the plant’s physical environment, adjusting lighting and humidity, later moving on to changing the hours worked, break times and lengths, and finally the leadership style of the manager/management (Boundless, 2016).
Studies lasted for nearly six years, Elton Mayo became famous for a small portion of the experiment, which included six female workers in the Relay Assembly Room. During this portion, Mayo’s staff sat in the Assembly Room with the women and took note of everything they did, all the while talking with the female workers, keeping them up to date on the experiment and asking them about themselves. Mayo then started with carefully controlled changes over the course of four to twelve weeks. The changes included adjusting the lighting in the room, adjusting the time at which breaks were taken and the length of the breaks, as well as the time the workers were able to leave work. Under most of these conditions, Mayo found that work productivity increased. Only when too many breaks were introduced, did production fall. Mayo found that by adding too many breaks, he was actually halting the rhythm the workers were in (The Hawthorne Experiments, 2017).
When Mayo began to go through the experiment results, he noticed that Assembly Room results seemed out of place and illogical.
At the time, the belief was that people worked purely for money and to make a living.
Mayo realized that was not the case.
He discovered work was a social atmosphere and the behavior and interaction of employees, managers, and/or observers affected productivity.
Mayo also discovered that the physical conditions, such as lighting and humidity did not affect productivity as much as the recognition and attention they received.
Increased production was due to the workers being observed and not because of the condition changes.
When workers feel valuable and noticed, their work performance increased (The Hawthorne Experiments, 2017). In addition, the Hawthorne studies gave way to a more open and trusting environment that put greater emphasis on groups rather than just individual.
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