The Hawthorne Studies


Theories of management can be tracked back to 1800s when there was industrial revolution and growth in the factory. The Hawthorne studies contributed a lot to understanding and interpretation of the human behavioral norms in a workplace. The studies also determined what relation was there between environment of work and the production capacity.

Summary of the Hawthorne Studies

Researchers from Western Electric and Harvard University led the Hawthorne studies. The first study they carried out was the illumination study. The main objective of these studies was to determine the effects of environmental elements on a group of production workers. There were two categories of the group of worker.

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The first group was a test group, which went through environmental changes. The second group was the control group whose members would operate under normal, constant environments. The researchers started by studying the test group and varied results analyzed. An increase in the lightening for the test group resulted in an increase in productivity and the control group productivity.

Each test period had continual supervision. Increase in production capacity gave the test group and control groups competition amongst them. Several conclusions came out from this experiment. First, illumination did not have a positive effect on the motivation of production workers. Other factors not put into consideration in control negatively influenced the test results.

The second study was the relay-assembly test that took off before winding of the illumination study. The study test objective was to determine the effect rest duration and work hours would have on efficiency. George Pennock who was a chief researcher in the study led this research study. The study also included six volunteered women who went through physical examination prior to the study. Re-examination every six weeks thereafter is to investigate the effects of varying working conditions on their health.

The researchers had to be put on different rooms to ensure outputs of the experiments are accurate, since temperature, humidity are regulated and other factors inclusive. The test subjects were peace-work groups with efforts made to keep a record on the study work pattern. The researchers tried to build a sense of confidence and pride to women by introducing a male observer in the test rooms to keep track of records and ensure friendly working conditions.

The process had high labor requirement, and the productivity was affected by slow assembly speed. The researchers concluded that initial life experience had a significant impact on workers attitudes, while the change of lighting, pay, supervision and working conditions does not play a role in the targeted change[1].

The final research study was the bank-wiring test, which kicked off in the year 1931. The banks were one of the key elements of the automatic telephone exchange. Several terminals had to connect with a set of banks.

The work, which was done was very tiresome and required the workers to extend their working hours for long. Dropping of factors such as pay incentives and productivity standards was necessary, but a researcher had to go to a test room as an observer to other workers.

The research team here included W. Lloyd Warner who trained as an anthropologist with interests in the social stimulus of a group. The second member was William J. Dickson Warner who had a deep interest on tests than the entire Harvard team. The bank wiring study went down in the year 1932 in reaction to layoffs generated because of depressions.

The test objective was to study a group of an active unit and make observations on its behavior. The results that were analyzed were that a group’s relations are complex and emphasized that the group expectations are more than an individual’s interest. The conclusions from these findings were to evaluate the significance of workers feelings against one another and their motivation[2].

Are Hawthorne studies surprising?

Yes, the findings are surprising. This is mainly because as much as it has errors, Hawthorne studies are still important in promoting management.

Significance of the Hawthorne studies

Hawthorne studies were a key turning point in the history of management. The studies helped in the rise and inventions of many management theories today, which would not have survived through without these study tests. Elton Mayo’s test findings are a preserve to most researchers today in defending their thesis.


Although Hawthorne studies analysis has a number of criticisms, the rise of many management theories today may not have been successful without these studies. The studies are the foundation and pillar of human relations group covering the various fundamentals of management[3].


Childress, Boyd. “Hawthorne Experiments.” 05.08.2011.05.08.2011.

Childress, Boyd. “Hawthorne Experiments.” Reference for 05.08.2011.05.08.2011.

Gillespie, Richard. Manufacturing Knowledge: A History of the Hawthorne Experiments. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Boyd Childress, “Hawthorne Experiments,”, 05.08.2011.05.08.2011,
Richard Gillespie, Manufacturing Knowledge: A History of the Hawthorne Experiments (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991).
Boyd Childress, “Hawthorne Experiments,” Reference for, 05.08.2011.05.08.2011,