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  • Subject Code : HI6005
  • University : Holmes Institute
  • Subject Name : Managing Organization in Global Enviroment


Executive Summary 

Hawthorne studies features bunch of trials were conducted in the Hawthorne plant based in Chicago. The tests were studied and planned by the investigators of the same organization, and it was named Hawthorne studies or the Hawthorne effect. The experiment was conducted mainly to measure the influence of diverse working conditions (i.e. levels of lighting, change in activities, payment systems as well as the change in working hours) on the overall productivity of the employees. It has been further assessed that researcher has tried to impart effort on the single measurement i.e. analyzing the output of the workers. Apart from this, implementation of Hawthorne experiments it has been assessed that all the trials emphasis on undertaking the group decision-making rather than focuses on taking individual decision.


Executive Summary 


Main Body 

The Illumination Studies 

The Relay Room Experiments 

The Bank Wiring Experiments 




Hawthorne study has positively contributed towards analyzing the organizational behaviour along with identifying the impact of the social and physical environment on the productivity of employees. The study has emphasizes on conducting a series of experiments to examines the results and conclusions on improving the workers’ productivity. Presently, the research paper will include an emphasis on the overall context of the Hawthorne studies along with the addressing their different experiments and phases. Apart from this, report will also feature the key significance of conducting the study along with the criticism faced by researcher at the time of undertaking the experiments. 

Main Body

Hawthorne Studies 

As per the view of McCambridge et al. (2019), Hawthorne study get started in 1924 with the implementation of scientific approaches with inclining people to perform and work harder even though they are being witnessed as a part of an experiment. However, a bunch of trials were conducted in the Hawthorne plant based in Chicago. These trials were studied and planned by the investigators of the same organization, and it was named Hawthorne studies or the Hawthorne effect. The experiment was conducted mainly to measure the influence of diverse working conditions (i.e. levels of lighting, change in activities, payment systems as well as the change in working hours) on the overall productivity of the employees. Along with this, the experiment also includes allowing the participation of employees or workers in the management decision that raises morale and further lead to boost their productivity. Therefore, all the trials conducted showcases the Hawthorne effect deals with change in individual behaviour in response to the changing working condition (Gachabayov et al. 2019). It’s significant to note that the growth in employee productivity was only because they were aware that they were being observed by researchers. In this situation, Elton Mayo one of the researcher at Hawthorne, has described the certain factors that emphasis on other factors that positively results in enhancing the overall productivity. 

Apart from this, Hawthorne studies has emphasis on undertaking the pioneer change in the perception of management that despite of focusing towards the human factors there are some social and physical factors that needed to be consider for enhancing the overall productivity of individuals. On the other hand, McDonald et al. (2018) have stated that Hawthorne researchers have also revealed that group life is significant among the workers. The studies also showed that the relations that supervisors develop with workers tend to influence the manner in which the workers carry out directives.

It has been further contrasted with the Scientific Management approaches that brutalized or de-grade the employees by concentrating towards enhancing the productivity alone while the Hawthorne approach settled with the notion that workers are strived by the money and other factors in the working environment. Therefore, enabling Hawthorne studies or experiments provide the rationale for enhancing human relations within the organization in order to increase workers’ productivity.  

The Illumination Studies

The first experiment in the Hawthorne studies was to determine the existing relationships among the illumination (i.e. lighting or radiance) and worker efficiency. Western Electric Hawthorne Works was primarily engaged in manufacturing the telephones; the company has provided a place to liaise with the NRC (National Research Council) to conduct the series of test room studies. The basic idea for conducting the experiment was to address the record levels of illumination with stating that an increase in the lighting would result in increasing the productivity of workers too. In the other test room, illumination was decreased that has resulted in reducing the level of productivity too (Lorino, 2018). The overall intensity of light was continuously increased and decreased to discover the consequence of lightening on the productivity of groups. Shockingly, the researcher had stated that productivity improved when the level of lighting was reduced. The electrically powered industry delivered a surplus incentive for conducting these tests expecting to reassure industries for using the simulated lighting instead of using the natural light. Therefore, for enabling the successful experiment Illuminating Engineering Society’s Committee has supported the investigations and collaborated with the NRC for enhancing workers’ productivity (Fry, 2018). 

After the completion of the experiment and its assessment, the researchers did not find constructive and lined connection among the illumination and individual efficiency. It has been further assessed that problems of workers, i.e. enhancing productivity, could not be resolved by compelling one factor, i.e. lighting factor. However, management could not attain the outcomes by just highlighting one aspect. Thus, it would be required by the researcher to determine the other factors with the discussion so that it might result in enlightening the whole situation. Implementation of the balanced approach to the whole situation results in showcasing the better results (Wilkinson and Mowbray, 2019). It was found that there must be other factors than the light that is also important for amending the workers’ productivity. Thus, it is determined that researchers and academics must take emphasis on starting their second experiment, i.e. Relay Room Experiments for gaining the Hawthorne effect. 

The Relay Room Experiments

When illumination test was in the end phase, planning for another test took place, on April 25, 1987. The second test which was conducted is known as relay-assembly tests were done with the purpose to evaluate the employee’s efficiency when they are given incentives and rest periods. Researchers were intended to address a series of queries related to the previous test that why the work was affected more in the afternoon: Do the workers need proper rest periods? Do the workers were tired out? If the equipment is change will that work out? How the attitude of a worker can affect their efficiency? The engineer committee was led by George Pennock and the test was scheduled for a few months but it got increased to 2 years (Haveman and Wetts, 2019). The test was started with 6 women and later 2 more joined the group. The test started in 1927 and concluded in 1928. All the volunteers were physically examined before the test started so the researchers can also keep a check on their health when the work environment changes. These women were kept in an isolated room where the humidity and temperature of the room can be adjusted to measure the quality of output. The test group was divided into 2 groups, the first one is to control and the other group was the test group. For the group both payment and work patterns were kept steady. The researchers want to gain the confidence of all the volunteers for their participation. Also a male employer was appointed for supervising the test group so the result can be more qualitative and accurate (Williams and Mills, 2019).

These women were given the task to assemble electromagnetic switches which is helpful in automatically switch the telephone calls. The result of this task was extraordinary as they congregated 35 parts by hand. These parts were tested by the experts as the process required intensive labor and the effect on productivity was tested.

Initially the participants were tested only on the basis of productivity but some group members initiated to take the task of supervising and they were paid extra for their initiatives. The extra incentive idea motivated the women drastically although the change in productivity lasted 3 months only, so another change was introduced to give them rest period. Also the working days was also shortened. The effect of this change lasted a year, the productivity keep on increasing with the time.

The test group productivity was increased by 30 percent and researchers found steady growth in productivity throughout the duration of the test. Also the researchers found improved health and less sick leaves for the test group (Muldoon, 2017). In the interview with the women the researchers found that there is increased satisfaction in women regarding the job. The researchers also concluded that increase in the wages and rest periods with proper supervision in the work has improved the efficiency and overall productivity of test group. Also, the researchers realized that the atmosphere which was created for the group was more influential in the case. And the key role was played by the attitude of the women when they were given motivation through extra incentives and rest periods (Chen et al. 2015). The team also got motivated due to teamwork, they felt like students in classroom whom the same material to study is given on a daily basis, and the result was more than expected.

As per the view of Paradis and Sutkin (2017), this experiment of Hawthorne Study has focused on modification of the employees’ conditions as well as its working condition because of the researcher aim towards addressing the relationship of working conditions or change in the number of hours on the employee productivity. It had further concluded that the individuals were more prolific when they were subjected to enjoyable working conditions and progressive relations. However, it was also stated that employees those who render services in a collaborative environment will not be able to deliver poor performance. Rather than they would be inclined towards forming the cohesive groups in the setting that would remain loyal to the firm (Jin et al. 2017). It has been further contrasted with the Scientific Management approaches that brutalized or de-grade the employees by concentrating towards enhancing the productivity alone while the Hawthorne approach settled with the notion that workers are strived by the money and other factors in the working environment. 

The Bank Wiring Experiments

This trial began in the year 1931 for identifying the impact of the social system in the internal environment and performance of the employees. The experiment was conducted in the bank wiring room with the key aim to found that the norms set by the group had prevailing influence over the productivity of the group or not. However, the trial has confirmed the assessment of the influence of the peer group and its influence on the behaviour of individual worker and productivity (Nicotera, 2019).

In order to conduct the experiment, a group of 14 male workers were placed in the bank wiring room underneath the surveillance for six months. It has been identified that in the organization, individual pay and compensation is depended on its performance rendered in the group. Through conducting the experiment, the researcher has assumed that competent employees in the group would put the burden on the less proficient workers to complete the allotted task. Conversely, it was set up that the group has engaged in creating their standards, i.e. using social pressure to accomplish the desired output (Pope and Bromley, 2019). 

Apart from this, the researcher has also found that workers were paid accordant with their performance and productivity outcome. However, the productivity of individual gets decrease because they were afraid that if they accomplish the standard of social structure, then management would lower their base rate. In regard to this, the detailed observation was conducted on the workers that clearly showcase the existence of informal groups inside the formal groups. These informal groups have engaged in developing their own rules of behaviour along with the processes or mechanisms to enforce them successfully (Muldoon and Zoller, 2019). The group was served to control the activities of members and manage bosses. In the situation when boss inquire about the performance, then clique members have given the same responses that clearly show that workers are more reactive and open to the social strength of their groups instead of management.

On the other hand, the study findings confirmed that the complication of group relations and stressed group members negatively affects the individual's preference. Thus, it clearly demonstrates that employees had physical and social needs that needed to accomplish by the company gradually with developing the program associated with human relations (Zhu and Warner, 2019). The program mainly comprises of two activities, i.e. employee counseling along with performing proper supervision on the individual workers so that its performance can be easily measured. The result identified by the research has reinterpreted group behavior, along with enhancing human relations.  

In the contemporary scenario, Hawthorne Studies has gained significant pace because it developed as a human relations movement in the management to determine the strengths and proficiencies among the workers. With the help of addressing the competencies of worker management can easily engage in managing, developing and improving the overall capabilities of the worker (Muldoon, 2019). One of the major efforts of Hawthorne Study was to concentrate on employees rendering services in the workplace, not on their rate of productivity, same like the implementation of Scientific Management approach grounded on the aspect of punishment and fear. However, the scientific method in the organization has supported in generating the stressful conditions for the workers so that they may perform in the extreme condition. 

On the other hand, Zoller and Muldoon (2019) has also stated that with undertaking the Hawthorne experiments the researchers have become more and more interested towards developing the informal groups in the setting so that it influences the behaviour of workers towards their activities. While, they have also found that there is group life among the workers that might be focused towards independent or maintaining the organizational relationships. The researcher has also perceived that the associations with supervisors develop with the workers will positively affect the workers to carry out tasks in a proper manner. That's the reason it is stated that culture can make or disrupt the company. 

Significant outcomes from the studies

From the above assessment of different experiments of Hawthorne studies it has been identified that there are significant outcomes from the experiments that are as follows- 

  1. The experiment states that only good working conditions are not sufficient to upsurge the individual productivity. Factors associated with the social and psychologies are also accountable for enhancing the productivity of workers' along with attaining the job satisfaction (Mannevuo, 2018).

  2. Existence of informal associations among the workers in internal environment stimulates the employees’ behavior and performance exceeding the formal relations in setting. 

  3. Employees will engage in imparting productive and effective practices if they are permitted to contribute in undertaking the decision-making process. 

  4. On the other hand, outcome of experiment also state that imparting respect and dignity in the working environment will results in improving the performance of employees (Mathieu et al. 2018). 

  5. With the implementation of mass interviewing program it was derived that indulging in good communication among the superiors and subordinates outcome in improving the existing relations and the productivity of subordinates. Thus, it would further benefit the overall organization in enhancing the level of output with the workers’ productivity (Berthelot et al. 2018). 

Criticism of Hawthorne studies/experiments 

Despite of the positive aspects, it has been identified that Hawthorne experiments have faced certain criticisms on following ground that has resulted in affecting the individual productivity and performance level (Lorino, 2018). The criticisms of experiments are as follows- 

Lack of validity 

One of the main drawbacks of conducting experiment is that they are directed under controlled situations that might not be work in the real setting or environment. However, the workers are under supervision and they knew about the experiments so they might work in proper manner. Thus, it results in improving the performance of workers only for the experiments. In addition to this, worker will perform the effective practices and be motivated only in the situation when they are aware the there is something in return. 

More importance of human aspects 

On the other hand, it has been also assessed that the Hawthorne experiments contribute towards imparting importance to the human aspects rather than focusing towards providing the working condition or good physical environment (Wilkinson and Mowbray, 2019). The researcher has also stated that focusing towards the human aspects alone might not improve the overall production activities. Production factor also depends on successfully implementing the technological and other factors that enhances performance level of employees. 

Emphasis on undertaking group decision making 

With the implementation of Hawthorne experiments it has been assessed that all the trials emphasis on undertaking the group decision-making rather than focuses on taking individual decision. In the present situation, group decision making is not feasible as there is no time to have conversation or consult with other employees regarding taking the decision (Williams and Mills, 2019). Therefore, individual decision-making cannot be completely neglected in the setting. 

Giving excess of importance to freedom of workers 

Another criticism of Hawthorne experiments is that it delivers lot of significance to the freedom of the workers. It does not give prominence to the productive role of the supervisors. However, in the reality giving too much of liberty to the workforces can worse or decline their performance or productivity (Jin et al. 2017). Through providing freedom to the worker they will be not able to perform accordant with the requirement that will negatively affect the performance level.  


From the above report it has been concluded that implementation of Hawthorne studies have been termed as one of the most significant social science experiment that has been ever piloted in an industrial setting. However, the studies/experiments have faced certain criticism regarding its lack of validity as well as focusing more towards the human factor etc. The study starts with undertaking the good practices by defining the effect of the social, physical and psychological setting on the productivity of industrial workers. It has been further assessed that researcher has tried to impart effort on the single measurement i.e. analyzing the output of the workers. Researchers in the experiments has also stated that they have limited their studies to the small group in the situation if they would select the large groups for the experiments then they would easily generalize the conclusions with achieving the great scientific value. From the assessment of all the experiments or studies it has been concluded that Hawthorne studies would have been relevant in the contemporary scenario if the researcher would have consider other factor also for enhancing the workers’ productivity. The factors will concern the relationships among social, physical, psychological environment on the individual productivity. 


Berthelot, J.M., Nizard, J. and Maugars, Y., 2018. The negative Hawthorne effect: Explaining pain overexpression. Joint Bone Spine.

Chen, L.F., Vander Weg, M.W., Hofmann, D.A. and Reisinger, H.S., 2015. The Hawthorne effect in infection prevention and epidemiology. infection control & hospital epidemiology, 36(12), pp.1444-1450.

Fry, D.E., 2018. The Hawthorne Effect Revisited. Diseases of the Colon & Rectum, 61(1), pp.6-7.

Gachabayov, M., Dyatlov, A. and Bergamaschi, R., 2019. Hawthorne Effect Should Be Controlled for in Quality Control Studies. JAMA surgery.

Haveman, H.A. and Wetts, R., 2019. Organizational theory: From classical sociology to the 1970s. Sociology Compass, 13(3), p.e12627.

Jin, L., Hawthorne, S., Sorensen, J., Pekot, L., Kurz, B., Smith, S., Heebink, L., Herdegen, V., Bosshart, N., Torres, J. and Dalkhaa, C., 2017. Advancing CO2 enhanced oil recovery and storage in unconventional oil play—experimental studies on Bakken shales. Applied energy, 208, pp.171-183.

Lorino, P., 2018. Pragmatism and organization studies. Oxford University Press.

Mannevuo, M., 2018. The riddle of adaptation: Revisiting the Hawthorne studies. The Sociological Review, 66(6), pp.1242-1257. 

Mathieu, J.E., Wolfson, M.A. and Park, S., 2018. The evolution of work team research since Hawthorne. American Psychologist, 73(4), p.308.

McCambridge, J., Wilson, A., Attia, J., Weaver, N. and Kypri, K., 2019. Randomized trial seeking to induce the Hawthorne effect found no evidence for any effect on self-reported alcohol consumption online. Journal of clinical epidemiology, 108, pp.102-109. 

McDonald, E.G., Smyth, E., Smyth, L. and Lee, T.C., 2018. Hand hygiene “hall monitors”: leveraging the Hawthorne effect. American journal of infection control, 46(6), pp.706-707.

Muldoon, J. and Zoller, Y.J., 2019, July. Mayo’s Beacon: How Hawthorne, Logical Positivism, and Psychology Shaped Social Exchange Theory. In Academy of Management Proceedings(Vol. 2019, No. 1, p. 12813). Briarcliff Manor, NY 10510: Academy of Management.

Muldoon, J., 2017. The Hawthorne studies: an analysis of critical perspectives, 1936-1958. Journal of Management History, 23(1), pp.74-94.

Muldoon, J., 2019. Organizational Psychology and the Rise of Human Resource Management. The Palgrave Handbook of Management History, pp.1-27.

Nicotera, A.M., 2019. 6 Human Relations Theory. Origins and Traditions of Organizational Communication: A Comprehensive Introduction to the Field.

Paradis, E. and Sutkin, G., 2017. Beyond a good story: from Hawthorne Effect to reactivity in health professions education research. Medical education, 51(1), pp.31-39.

Pope, S. and Bromley, P., 2019. Management Ideas and the Social Construction of Organizations. The Oxford Handbook of Management Ideas, p.411.

Wilkinson, A. and Mowbray, P., 2019. Creating and Sustaining Involvement and Participation in the Workplace. The SAGE Handbook of Human Resource Management, p.253.

Williams, K.S. and Mills, A.J., 2019. The problem with women: a feminist interrogation of management textbooks. Management & Organizational History, pp.1-19. 

Zhu, C.J. and Warner, M., 2019. The emergence of human resource management in China: Convergence, divergence and contextualization. Human Resource Management Review, 29(1), pp.87-97.

Zoller, Y.J. and Muldoon, J., 2019. Illuminating the principles of social exchange theory with Hawthorne studies. Journal of Management History, 25(1), pp.47-66.

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