What did the Hawthorn Studies reveal about human behaviour in the work place?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Surprisingly, the Hawthorn studies reflected very little about mechanistic changes to the workplace and worker productivity.  The pervading thought at the time of the studies, emerging in the wake of Industrialization, was that workers were mechanistic, similar to the machinery that enveloped them.  As with a machine, the belief was that technical refinements can be made to increase productivity.  For example, adding more lights  was seen as a way to generate greater work output from workers.  However, the Hawthorn studies revealed that human behavior and human productivity is far more complex an issue.  The studies demonstrated that workers are not automatically going to positively respond to technical refinements.  Rather, a more open and understanding approach would be needed to understand how to generate greater productivity from workers.  Hawthorn's studies reflected the idea that the psychological dimension to the worker must be understood in order to better understand his productivity range. 

This is about the same time when psychoanalysis was becoming a phenomena to which many started displaying an sense of openness.  While Hawthorn did not conclude the need for a psychological approach to understanding workers (which would be more present in the applications of Maslow's hierarchy of needs), he did suggest that human productivity lay in individual and group interaction, humanistic management skills, and social relationships in the workplace, embracing a more holistic understanding of the worker.

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