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The Life of Elton Mayo and His Key Theories

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Table of contents

  1. Elton’s Theory
  2. Elton and Food Processing
  3. Conclusion

Elton’s Life Professor George Elton Mayo was born in Australia on December 26, 1880 (Elton Mayo: The Hawthorne Experiments Thinker). He was the oldest son of a civil engineer and a stay at home mom (Bourke, H. ). Initially after graduating high school he went into the medial field but lost interest (Bourke, H. ). In 1907 he went to the University of Adelaide and began to study philosophy and psychology (Bourke, H. ). Mayo won numerous prizes and honors with his academics and moved to take a professor position on the University of Queensland in 1911 teaching logic, ethics, and psychology (Elton Mayo: The Hawthorne Experiments Thinker). While living in Brisbane, he lectured for the Worker’s Educational Association and serves on the university’s war committee (Bourke, H. ). This placed him in a position to pioneer the psychoanalytic treatment of shell-shock in military personnel (Bourke, H. ). An endorsement by John D Rockefeller Jr. brought Elton to the states and began his career at Pennsylvania University in 1923 (Elton Mayo: The Hawthorne Experiments Thinker).

This was to investigate the high labor turnover at a local textile mill (Bourke, H. ). His research and efforts here caught the attention of Harvard School of Business Administration and lead his to a new associate professor position in 1926 (Bourke, H. ). Again, with a new position, he was placed on a study involving work output at the Western Electric Company’s Chicago plant, known at the famous Hawthorn study (Bourke, H. ). With his effort involving this research he became a very influential scientist not only in the psychology world but a business theorist as well. Hawthorne Study The Hawthorne study took place at the Western Electric Hawthorne Works. George Pennock welcomed Mayo’s arrival at the Hawthorne Works in 1928 (The “Hawthorne Effect”. ). The company had another study currently taking place that involved wage incentives which made them skeptical of Mayo trying to prove any of his connections (The “Hawthorne Effect”. ). Roethlisberger, who was another researcher that assisted in Mayo’s study, gave two instances on how to go about the study. First, lighting was improved in the experimental room, production went up; but it rose also in the control room (Mayo, E. pg. 69). The opposite happened when lighting was diminished from 10 to 3-foot candles in the experimental room, production again went up and simultaneously in the control room (Mayo, E. pg. 69). With lighting seeming to have the opposite intended effect and no effect in relation to the control and experimental room, Mayo evolved his investigation to two phases. Phase one was known as the “Test Room”. To this point, evidence has shown that the individual workers have became a team, committing to the project (Mayo, E. pg. 71). The conditions of work were now altered one at a time, these included rest periods, shorter working day, shorter working weeks, and food with soup or coffee in the morning break (Mayo, E. pg. 71). The results seemed to come in slowly at first but later increasing significantly.

At each point in the investigation, the employees were consulted with what was about to occur, this moved them to a point of free expression of ideas and more positive feelings toward management (Mayo, E. pg. 71). Over the course of time, each girl had increased her output of units by 400-500 additional units per girl. (Mayo, E. pg. 72). The workers themselves were surprised by their results, they felt as if they had been working under less pressure and at a more relaxed pace, however they were producing units at an increasing number (Mayo, E. pg. 72). Phase two of the Hawthorne discovery consisted of an interview program. This allowed workers to confide and talk freely on any topic, under the privacy of professional confidence (Mayo, E. pg. 73). This was a great opportunity for management and the employees to connect a build a stronger bond. Elton notes in The Social Problems of an Industrial Civilization that “the experience itself was unusual; there are few people in this world who have had the experience of finding someone intelligent, attentive, and eager to listen without interruption to all that he or she has to say” (Mayo, E. pg. 73). This involvement was geared not toward the employees but to management. Allowing them to learn how to listen to their people and not listen to respond.

Mayo created rules to guide the interviewer and they were listed as follows (Mayo, E. pg. 74):

  • Give your whole attention to the person interviewed and make it evident that you are doing so.
  • Listen – don’t talk
  • Never argue; never give advice
  • . Listen to:

a. What he wants to say.

b. What he does not want to say.

c. What he cannot say without help.

  • 5. As you listen, plot out tentatively and for subsequent correction the pattern (personal) that is being set before you. To test this, from time to time summarize what has been said and present for comment.
  • 6. Remember that everything said must be considered a personal confidence and not divulged to anyone. With Elton’ strides with the during phase one and phase two of his studies, his focus was clear. The psychological and social background that Mayo had obtained through years of schooling and his works at Pennsylvania University and later Harvard, caused him to think about the people. In this case, with his experience at the workers at the Hawthorne plant, he focused on them. In the first phase, he wanted to observe how they handle incentives, and how that effects their overall production levels. These women in the experimental group not only increased their production numbers but formulated a team comradely that had effects on the individuals after the experiment. In phase two, he challenged the managers to improve their listening skills to create a better atmosphere for the employees. Neither of these placed a physical alternation on how they performed their job but altered their mental state and perception of the job and the individuals in higher positions. Taking Fredrick Taylor’s theory of getting the most out of a worker, but this is from and intrinsic very rather an extrinsic.

Elton’s Theory

Elton Mayo summarized his vision on the world in two assumptions. The first one is how men are impelled by their own natures to seek some bases for social alliance and productive cooperation with one another (Sarachek, B. ). This basically means that men strive to connect with one another, but they want to do this in a way that they are familiar with from their past. The second assumption addresses the mental status of a person has a direct connection of the environment they are in. “Appropriate mental health and individual satisfactions. S well as calling forth more productive cooperation between individuals and between the groups to which they feel affiliations (Sarachek, B. ).

The theory of “universal cooperation” that was considered to be Mayo’s goal was understood to not omit then innate fear man has of “the stranger” (Sarachek, B. ). Upper management falls into a stigma of less personal and more fluid than those who work on the line and mingle on a daily basis. Mayo also work into a deeper dimension of this “universal cooperation” theory that is highly relatable to the workplace environment. When discussing the theory with cooperation and conflict, it is highly linked to the idea that full commitment enhances cooperation (Sarachek, B. ). Elton and Fredrick Taylor Fredrick Taylor and Elton Mayo were two scientists that were very connect throughout many of the sources I had reviewed. Taylor was slightly before Mayo, but the both conducted research around the same time and ran into many similarities through their findings. Some of their differences included “Taylorism” having a single-minded focus on measurable productivity outcomes and low-level financial methods involving motivation (Bruce, K. , & Nyland, C. ).

Taylor also focused on conception and executing productive tasks, to conduct a job in the simplest and most efficient way (Bruce, K. , & Nyland, C. ). Mayo, in contrast, looked at the social being behind the job and his/her position in the workplace (Bruce, K. , & Nyland, C. ). He considered humans not as utilitarian economic beings but that they assess high levels of psycho-social needs and their social relationships play an important role in their job performance (Bruce, K. , & Nyland, C. ).

During Taylor’s study, he put much focus on the economic incentives, but made important contributions to modern thinking about human motivation (Bruce, K. , & Nyland, C. ). With Taylor’s focus on economic incentives, Mayo broke away and tried to work on a direct opposite approach. “Mayoism” unlike like “Taylorism” offered a more indirect and efficient way of observing mental status of employees through their cognitions and emotions (Bruce, K. , & Nyland, C. ). By doing so, he concluded that there are psychological counseling needs that only management could administer (Bruce, K. , & Nyland, C. ). This not only brought Taylor and Mayo into similar studies but also allowed them to differ. Taylor placed more of an emphasis on the physical demand of a job but was sure that it was performed in an efficient manner. Mayo enjoyed the efficient aspect of a tasked but looked at the psychological well being of the individual. With Mayo conducting his studies after Taylor’s findings, it allowed his research to be that more conclusive and resourceful on how management can connect with their employees.

Elton and Food Processing

Elton’s Take Elton Mayo’s study done at Hawthorne could have easily been something that could be conducted at a Pilgrim’s plant.


Elton Mayo was a pioneer in the psycho-social business world. He placed his mark in the psychology and business world with his efforts in the Hawthorne studies, and it effected the way some employers work today. They still think superficially at the financial and economical effect they can use to motivate their employees but have also consider other ways that involve nothing more than attention. Mayo and Taylor’s studies could be compared to the discussions of hygiene and motivating factors. Taylor was aware that some of the factors he looked at for motivation in the workplace lead to levels of satisfaction and dissatisfaction. With Mayo’s focus on psychology, may of his factors lead to overall satisfaction if met by management. When meeting these qualities, it would keep employees making a career for an organization and happy in doing so. Mayo introduced the need for management getting to know the needs of their employees and doing their best to meet these needs.

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