Hawthorne Studies

This essay will review the writings of “Hawthorne, the myth of the docile worker, and class bias in psychology” an article by D. Bramel and R. Friend. It will then go on to further critique academic articles that both support and disagree with the primary source and demonstrate how the Hawthorne studies have influenced contemporary organizations. The Hawthorne experimental studies conducted at the Western Electric Company Works has attracted considerable amounts of sharp critical scrutiny; it has practically “become an intellectual battle” (Miner, J. 006. p. 68) as it has been interpreted in various ways. The studies basically concluded that social and psychological factors are responsible for workers productivity and job satisfaction. Many psychologists, sociologist and critics attack the research procedures and criticize the analyses of the data and their conclusions. Bramel and Friend (1981) are a classic example of those exact critics who consider the Hawthorne studies to be contradictive, distorted and overall undeserving of receiving recognition and respect for their research.
Bramel and Friend’s main aim in the article however is to “show not simply that Mayo’s conclusions were unrealistic and politically reactionary” but to alternatively demonstrate that there is “bias at the level of interpretation of the available data” (p. 868) and how this had a negative influence in effecting the results, due to the assumption that their workers can be manipulated and fooled with ease (p. 869). There are many other critics that strongly support the views and opinions presented by Bramel and Friend in regards to the Hawthorne studies and how they consider the research to be insufficient and misleading.
The article “Shining New Light on the Hawthorne Illumination Experiments” by M. Kawa, M. French, and A. Hedge (2011) reinforces the arguments that feature in Bramel and Friend’s work. Like them they agree that the studies performed at the Western Company Works provided inconsistent evidence and that all experiments conducted including the results were seriously flawed. Basically they conclude that the inadequacies in the experimental designs tell an incomplete and sometimes inaccurate story and show the inconsistent associations between working conditions and productivity. p. 546) The article “Questioning the Hawthorne effect” shares the exact same views that were established in “Hawthorne the myth of the docile worker”. It argues that the data collected from the experiments had never been analyzed rigorously, no systematic evidence was implemented and the inconsistent ways in which the experiments were executed has lead to a misleading interpretation of what happened. (“Questioning the Hawthorne Effect”, 2009, p. 74)

Another article that strongly disapproves of the Hawthorne studies is A. Carey’s article “The Hawthorne Studies: a Radical Criticism”. In Carey’s (1967) opinion the research conducted is nearly absent of scientific merit and the conclusions drawn are supported by so little evidence that it’s basically inappropriate that the studies have gained a respected place within scientific discipline and have held this place for so long. (p. 403) However Carey does believe the importance of the studies is actually declining.
In his opinion later studies are struggling to display any “reliable relationship between the social satisfaction of industrial workers and their work performance”(p. 403). Carey criticizes Mayo’s approach, research and assumptions and claims that his reports are completely bias and invalid. He states that the “Statistical analysis of the relevant data did not show any conclusive evidence in favor of the first hypothesis” (p. 405) which makes it extremely difficult to develop a correct conclusion.
Although there are critics that attack the Hawthorne studies and downplay the work of Mayo and Roethlisberger there is also many others that completely support the research conducted and believe it has been of crucial importance and consider it to be a “major intellectual building block of organizational behavior” (Miner, J. 2006. p. 68. ) A. Brannigan and W. Zwerman’s (2001) article “the Real Hawthorne Effect” completely disagrees with the arguments that were presented by Bramel and Friend. Their article in contrast strongly supports the Hawthorne studies and emphasizes just how valuable they.
Brannigan and Zwerman actually view the studies as being “the single most important investigation of the human dimensions of industrial relations in the early 20th century” (Brannigan, A. Zwerman, W. 2001. p. 55). They recognize the fact that the Hawthorne studies have received harsh critical disapproval over the decades due to potential flaws in the research and experiments conducted. However Brannigan and Zwerman are able to look past that and purely see the innovative ideas that grew around these studies.
They express that “the main idea should not be undermined by these shortcomings” and that sometimes the actual idea itself is more meaningful then the evidence on which it is based. (p. 59). B. Reiger’s article “Lessons in Productivity and People” also disagrees with the negative statements that are directed towards the Hawthorne studies. Reiger’s article aims to show how the studies executed had an enormous influence in the way managers and supervisors now interact with their employees.
Which in result has positively affected worker productivity, Due to implementing a less mechanical view and paying more attention to the human influences within the workplace. Not only does Reiger (1995) view the studies as being critical to the positive change in the company and employee relationships but they also “provided some clear insights into industrial operations and psychology, personal management, organizational development and human resources” (p. 58).
Overall his intention is to show how the studies contributed to the improvement in manager and employee relationships by providing the employees with respect, attention and recognition will then in turn increase their productivity and efficiency. C. Hall (1984) further backs up the views of Reiger in his article “Hawthorne Effects- Still a Potent Supervisory Tool”. Although the experiments were conducted decades ago Hall still believes that they still have practical value today. (p. 6).
Hall concludes that employees respond with greater job efficiency when they sense that they are being observed or “regarded as important valued members of an organization” ( p. 6) and that The behavioral approach can positively affect performance, group dynamics, encourage cooperation and overall increase work satisfaction. The Hawthorne Studies and the behavioral approach has played a major role in shaping todays organizations, from the way manager interact with their employees, the way they use open communication and the way they design motivating jobs we are able to detect elements of the behavioral approach (Robbins, S. Bergman, R.
Stagg, I. Coulter, M. 2012. p. 54) Telstra’s call centers are a classic example of a contemporary organization that has been influenced by the Hawthorne effect and the behavioral approach. Within the center they have managers, supervisors and team leaders that create a working environment that aims to provide a premium employee experience. More specifically their job entails implementing and executing programs, supervising and motivating their workers to ensure that they are effectively completing their tasks and meeting objectives and to basically respect and pay attention to their staff in order to establish good relations and co operation.
The efficient supervision that takes place within the factories has definitely been influenced by the Hawthorne studies. They have recognized through the Hawthorne studies that subtly observing the workers and making them feel like a valuable member of the company keeps them motivated which in result maximizes employee productivity. The Hawthorne studies has played a fundamental role in the progression of organizational behavior and influenced the positive change in the relationship between managers and their employees.
Although there have been flaws and inconsistencies in the ideas, research and conclusions that were developed they are still extremely influential. The results emphasized the value of group dynamics, interaction and applying a humanistic management approach. These factors overall are a crucial force of producing greater effectiveness and productivity in employees. Although there are critics that have attempted to crush the importance of the Hawthorne studies through their harsh criticisms it still has done little to shake the essential validity and influence of the research. (Miner, J. 2006. p. 67) References Bramel, D. & Friend, R. 1981). Hawthorne, the Myth of the Docile Worker, and Class Bias in Psychology. American Psychologist. 36,8,867-878. Brannigan, A. & Zwerman, W. (2001). The real “Hawthorne Effect”. Society, 38(2), 55-60. Retrieved from ABI/INFORM GLOBAL. (Document ID: 65713065). Carey,A. (1967). The Hawthorne Studies: A Radical Criticism. AmericaSociologyReview, 32,3,401-416. Finance and Economics: Light Work; Questioning the Hawthorne Effect. (2009, June). The economist. 391(8634),74. Retrieved from ABI/INFORM GLOBAL (Document ID: 1740340161) Hall, C. (1984). Hawthorne Effects- Still a potent supervisory tool. Supervision, 46 (10), 6.
Retrieved from ABI/INFORM GLOBAL. (Document ID: 1322247). Izawa, M. French, M. Hedge, A. (2011). Shining new light on the Hawthorne Illumination experiment. Human Factors, 53,528. Retrieved from Academic Research Library. (Document ID: 2532057371). Miner, J. (2006) Organization Behavior 3: Historical Origins, Theoretical Foundations and the Future. America: ME Sharpe. Reiger, B. (1995). Lessons in productivity and people. Training and development, 49 (10), 56. Retrieved from ABI/INFORM GLOBAL. (Document ID: 7011573). Robbins, S. Bergman, R. Stagg, I. Coulter, M. (2012) Management: 6th Edition. Sydney: Pearson Australia Group.

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