Thursday, August 8, 2013

Elton Mayo and His Experiments

George Elton Mayo is considered as one of the pioneers of the human relations movement. He advocated a humanistic not mechanistic employer-employee relationship. The workers in an organization should be treated with self-esteem and dignity rather than mere factors in production or mere cogs in machine. He advocated the concept of looking at organizations as psycho-social entities comprising of human beings whose welfare, behavior, needs & satisfactions, inter-personal relationships & mutual co- operation etc. are to be taken care of if the organization has to flourish. The physical, psychological and economic aspects were taken care of by him while studying the workers' behavior in organization. Mayo called this the "clinical method". In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the Harvard Business School under the leadership of Elton Mayo, conducted a series of experiments called the Hawthorne experiments at the Hawthorne plant of Western electric company. This research was a landmark in the history of organization theory and first of all visualized the organization as a "social system". In all four experiments were conducted by Mayo. These are described below:

Early Experiment

Mayo undertook his first research at a textile mill which came to be known as the "first enquiry". This was undertaken before the Hawthorne experiments. This research was conducted at a textile mill near Philadelphia in 1923. This textile mill was considered a model organization with humane conditions & highly enlightened surroundings. The overall turnover of labor was low at about 5 per cent but surprisingly it was quite high at about 250 per cent in the mule spinning department of the mill. Despite the incentives given by the management to lower this turn over the situation did not improve. Finally Mayo decided to study this problem.

On the basis of his observation and study Mayo found that it was basically the lack of rest in the mule spinning department which was causing the fatigue to workers thereby causing large turnover of the workers. To solve this problem he introduced the rest periods. This motivated the workers to work and the turnover in the mule spinning department almost came to an end. As a result of this the productivity of the factory as a whole also increased. The morale of the workers improved substantially. Mayo also introduced bonus system on the basis of extra production by workers. The introduction of rest periods along with the bonus system made the employees happy and motivated.

A novel thing that was made in this experiment was that the control of the rest periods was given wholly to the workers. Due to this "social interaction" started taking place in the mule spinning department and this imbibed a culture of "collective decision making" in the department.


Must Read --> Hawthorne Experiment


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