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Hawthorne Studies Largely About Improving Employee Morale

Autor:   •  March 8, 2011  •  Essay  •  1,534 Words (7 Pages)  •  2,354 Views

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This research essay will give a brief introduction to the Hawthorne studies followed by an analysis of the different experiments to show that the Hawthorne studies were largely about improving employees' morale instead of being genuinely committed towards improving employees' experience of work.

Hawthorne studies also known as the Hawthorne experiments were conducted at the Western Electric Company's Hawthorne Works in Chicago. It involved a number of researchers from prestigious schools and one of them was George Elton Mayo (1880~1949). The Hawthorne studies lasted over a period of eight years from 1924 to 1932. It consisted of six experiments which ran from a few months to a few years (Wren & Bedeian 2009). These experiments are namely: the illumination studies, relay assembly test room, interview programme, mica splitting test room and bank wiring observation room (Sonnenfeld 1985).

From the various experiments done, it can be seen that the Hawthorne studies were largely about improving employees' morale. Employees' morale is affected by every individual's motivation (Kumar 2003). In the Hawthorne studies, most of the experiments were focused on a small group of employees or an individual as seen in the relay assembly test and interviewing program respectively. This motivated the selected individuals involved in the experiments and hence the improvement of the morale as a group which will be seen in the next few paragraphs.

During the relay assembly test which lasted for almost five years, many factors were introduced and changed. Such as the increase in rest periods, change of supervision style and wage incentives (Hoopes 2003). These changes boosted employees' morale as it allowed them to feel more at ease during work without a controlling supervisor. In the meantime, they were also able to socialise and bond with the people around them. This further enhanced employees' sense of belongingness which in turn improved their morale due to the positive change in the work environment. Therefore, when some of these factors were revert to the original form, productivity level showed no significant change (Sonnenfeld 1985).

In addition to that, the joining of Elton Mayo was the biggest step taken towards the improvement in employees' morale. Mayo's assistance towards the interviewing programme changed the style of interviewing from a directive approach to a non-directive approach. The non-directive style of interviewing lasted more than four years and interviewers were required to listen and refrain from displaying any kind of authority, offering advices or arguing with the speaker (Wren & Bedeian 2009). This was different from the old supervising methods which was very much top down and autocratic. The change was a welcoming one and a great boost to the employees' morale. The employees now have an avenue to voice their


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