“Critically discuss the continued relevance of the Hawthorne studies to 21 st
Century Management. In developing your argument, please give
consideration to the work of McAuley et al. (2014), Burnes and Cooke (2013),
Roethlisberger (1948), Franke and Kaul (1978) and any other relevant sources
you wish to use.”
What is expected of me?
With regard to the above title and making use of a range of resources please provide a
critical discussion of the arguments for and against the continued use of the insights
published by the Hawthorne Studies collaborators. Please provide some insight into the
epistemological models that your arguments are built on (See Lecture 9 – Organization
Theory 2). How might engagement with other models have changed the course of your
In developing your work you should use a range of sources including, but not restricted to,
the ones in the title. All these works have already been set as lecture and/or workshop
readings with the exception of the final one 17 that you should be able to find in the library
using the skills you have learned in the information retrieval sessions. It is through your
learning from the library session that you will, also, be able to search out other, relevant,
material to enhance your argument.
Six Key Points
- The hand-in deadline is Thursday December 3 rd 2015 at 12 noon.
- The weighting for this essay is 30% of the total course marks.
- The expected word count for the essay is 1500 – 2000 words excluding
bibliography/reference list. Please note that you are expected to include a word count
(excluding the bibliography) on the cover sheet of your essay.
- Please note that the reference style must be Harvard: Author (Date). Footnote referencing
styles are not permitted.
- Standard School of Management rules are that under/over length of 10% is permitted but
that any greater deviation may be penalised.
- Please see your Essay Writing and Referencing Guide and the Handbook for The Marking
Criteria for a full discussion of assignment expectations in the School.
In the 21st century, people cannot live without organizations. People need to interact
with each other and help each other. Indeed, there are social activities to be asked people to ‘a
degree, cooperate and coordinate their efforts with some sense of purpose’ (Mcauley,
Duberley & Johnson, 2014, p. 10). For instance, people could not get substance alone, such
as food, and clothes, which is required of people come together to produce and transfer them.
Moreover, people need theories to understand and predict what might is going to happen. It is
believed that people not only work for monetary, but they also want to be a ‘membership of a
social group, ‘belong’ to an organization’ and have a right of speech in the organization
(McAuley, Duberley & Johnson, 2014, p. 94). It is necessary to motivate workers by meeting
their needs for the more efficient organization. According to McAuley, Duberley and Johnson
(2014, p. 23), people might change their behaviors and try to affect others’ activities because
of ‘social scientists analyses’, which make human understand their own behaviors. Moreover,
Human relation is one of the traditions of the organization, indeed, ‘the Hawthorne studies as
a classic example of applied organizational research within the human relations tradition’
(McAuley, Duberley & Johnson, 2014, p. 113). Theories play a critical role in the operation
and functioning of entities as they predict and guide people to carry out their duties. Because
of the continued evolution and new development in operations in the organizations, new
perspectives and theories develop to explain the changes. This however, does not mean that
ideas and concepts developed from the former theories are not applicable in certain current
situation. This essay will first explain what Hawthorne Studies are; and then discuss whether
Hawthorne Studies still work in 21st Century Management.
Description of Hawthorne Studies
Companies use scientific methods to manage their employees, lead to increase the
worker productivity. All the sense to start was Hawthorne Studies in 1924 and run-through
1933 at the Western Electric Company in Chicago (Franke and Kaul, 1978, p. 624).
Meanwhile, Hawthorne Studies are worthy of reliable research projects, organized by
Harvard business school, which has had impacts on the development of organization research
for a long time (McAuley, Duberley & Johnson, 2014, p. 93). More specifically, they indicate
that the Hawthorne studies started to experiment with five workers and end up with 20,000
workers as samples. Hawthorne experiments began with five people in the Relay Assemble
Test Room as ‘an experimental group’, and another five workers in the room as ‘a control
group’ (McAuley, Duberley & Johnson, 2014, p. 114), to investigate the hypothesis that
labor’ productivity was under the influence of physical factors, such as the level of
illumination, temperature, and amount of break. Researchers led by Elton Mayo when
conducting the study, discovered that increasing and reducing lighting had similar impact –it
increased the level of output (McAuley, Duberley & Johnson, 2014, p. 114. The reasoning
was that, altering the environment was the reason for the positive effects observed. Further
observation in the study, revealed that, workers did not respond to the changes in the lighting
conditions but the behavior change came about because of the fact that the experimenters
were observing them. This phenomenon is what led to the development of the concept of
Hawthorne effect. Just because, workers became aware of the fact that they were under
scrutiny this was enough to increase their productivity. Since the advancement of this theory,
it has attracted mixed reactions as well as criticism.
Critic of Hawthorne Studies
Hawthorne studies has been subjected to scrutiny and further studies by many
researchers despite the fact that it helps to create an understanding of how social and
psychological factors impact on the workers productivity. According to McAuley, Duberley
& Johnson (2014, p. 114) Hawthorne effects helped to recognize the benefits of social
factors as well as psychological factors in organizations helping to advance the human
relations theory. Studies carried out have indicated that indeed Human factors contribute to
the workplace motivation and productivity (Kirwan 2013, p. 25). These research
developments have been advanced from the Hawthorne studies. In the 21st century, even
though, the workers value space and freedom, they require supervision to execute their
mandates (Kirwan 2013, p. 56). The role of supervisors is to provide a sense of direction
towards achievement of the goals and aims. The study has therefore, helped in establishing
that social aspects affect the level of productivity in an organization. Managers nowadays in
the 1 st century have no obligation but rather to appreciate the people have the potential to
increase their efficiency if they are motivated and given the right tools to execute their
According to Franke & Kaul, (1978), Hawthorne studies have provided a basis for
most current studies in human relations and other areas such as leadership, organizational
development, participation, and organizational design. The contribution of the studies
therefore cannot be overruled. However, Franke & Kaul, (1978), on the contrary argue that
the complex data that the study findings collected in the span of 8 years to reach its
conclusion, is not available and has not been subjected to scientific analysis. Therefore, the
methodology of the study is what has been in question. However, using their data, Franke, &
Kaul, (1978), concur and support the contribution that these studies have done in the area of
human approaches in the organization. The studies have indicated the importance of
participative treatment of workers as this contributes or leads to better economic performance
Franke & Kaul, 1978).
Moreover, also Franke and Kaul (1978, p. 623) note that the Hawthorne studies
indicated that the more charitable an organization treated staffs, the harder they would behave
like, which could lead to better economic performance since 1924. Even in the 21 st century,
organizations have embraced some of the concepts and attributes in the Hawthorne studies.
Competition has increased, and to overcome the same and gain a competitive edge, many
entities are putting in place measures to increase the level of efficiency and competitive.
Motivation is one of the ways that organizations in the 21 st century are using to motivate their
employees. The application of neo modernist theories or motivational such as Maslow
theories has enabled these organizations to provide this motivation and this has contributed to
their motivation and increased productivity. According to the Maslow theory, the human
needs are classified into five categories on the pyramid (Kirwan 2013, p. 25). Once the lower
needs are satisfied, the workers aspiration is to satisfy the needs at the highest level of the
pyramid. The needs include physiological needs, safety needs, belonging or social, esteem,
Hawthorne studies (as McAuley et al. (2014) and Roethlisberger (1948) argue,
interaction within groups of workers has more impact on worker productivity than
management action. For this to be achieved there needs to be some modifications on how the
supervisors carry themselves around. It is also important that there be
managerial/organizational support through counseling and interviewing. In this age,
organizations have invested more on nurturing their workers. The emphasis has been on
creativity and innovation. Teamwork and groups have attained high level of freedom with
less motivation to ensure that people come up with different views and ideas to help in the
progress of the organization.
As the social psychologist, Kurt Lewin mentions ‘in the environment, every
individual has his goals they want to achieve (Kirwan 2013, p. 58). The environment keeps
on changing and the individual as well improvises the best ways to achieve their goals.
Furthermore, Lewin argues that every person has his own experiences that they bring into a
work place. These experiences shape the way they approach to life. This theory therefore,
builds on the Hawthorne studies that even if people work in groups, they have their own
experiences and goals that will drive them. In the 21 st century, a lot of changes have happened
in the environment as well as in the lifes of the people. The changes therefore, require that
managers or organizations change the way they manage or run their entities to achieve the set
Jones, (1990) argues that (again, using statistical method), Hawthorne researchers’
findings are reinforced. This point of view, therefore, refutes some of the views held by other
researchers or critics such as Carey. Carey believed that financial environmental and
physiological factors could not be taken alone without outside social context (Shepard, 1971,
- 25). Furthermore, he believed that supervision was the cure- all for industrial relations
(Shepard, 1971, p. 26). Whether his arguments hold truth, is subjects o m critics as well.
Burnes and Cooke discuss the relevance of statistical/ mathematical models in
understanding the human (as opposed to the physical) world. There is further work available
on the balance to be struck between rigor and practicality in academic work. Based on own
epistemological approaches or reasoning, this is applicable in the 21 st century where it is very
critical to define and understand the model before applying the same to your organization.
Statistics or information is important in making or reaching appropriate decisions on how to
provide leadership and manage the organization (Kirwan 2013, p. 15).
Other criticism of the theory argues that it is irrelevant because it was advanced more
than 90 years ago. The situation and the patterns of working have changed in this time span.
The setting of the company the experiment was done is in America. The setting has changed
and the concepts may not be relevant in the 21 st century where systems have changed. At the
time of the experiment, the workers were engineers and were working or assembling
electronic components. Therefore, the work environment may not be the same across other
professionals that have different approach to work. Hassard (2015) as well provides in insight
on the changes that have occurred in the 21 st century organizations. These changes are
reminiscent in the lives of people the behaviors and the introduction of technologies such as
social media as well as changes in the family structures and distributed workforce. These
changes have impacted on the way people or workers execute their daily duties (Martins,
2014, p. 23). Human relations movement has changed and people way of responding to
external stimuli has changed impacting on the works they do.
Therefore, neo modernist theory of human relations is a critical trait of organizational
theory. Organizations nowadays are flexible as they incorporate different styles of
management. They embrace some traditional attributes that foster their achievement of goals
as the same time they adopt new styles and approaches of doing work to ensure they remain
competitive. Socio-psychological aspects of human behaviors nowadays are applied. Human
beings are social animals and require better terms of service and motivation.
As Jones said that the Hawthorn studies ‘have had a widespread influence in
industrial sociology and provide the foundation for the sub-fields of human relations,
organizational development and organizational design’ it is true (1990, p. 176). In other
words, Hawthorn studies have played a significant role in the development of other
approaches. The studies have formed as the basis of new models and theories that
organizations have embraced to advance their goals. Even though, the studies may have some
drawbacks as cited by critics such as not basing the conclusion on statistical analysis, they
have impacted greatly on the operations in organizations (Marcuse, 1964, p. 35). It is
important for managers to understand ways of motivating their employees. It may not be the
case like in the Hawthorn studies where by supervisors are used , it can be through provision
of better and fulfilling working environment, providing them with incentives among many
others. Like the human relations theories, the managers, and organizations have to understand
the social and psychological needs of their employs to be in a position to provide them with
what they want. This will as well help them to achieve their objectives. Gaining a competitive
edge, in the 21 st century is not easy and therefore, investing in the human capital is so critical
to achieving a competitive edge. Employees must be given time and space to come up with
new ideas and innovations. Companies depend on innovation and creativity to achieve their
goals. Therefore, working in a conducive and a fulfilling environment will enable these
workers to be efficient and help increase the productivity of the organization. It is also
important to acknowledge the fact that there needs to be goals an visions that should provide
guidance to ensure that these workers remain committed and work hard towards their
achievements. The people or workers have their own goals but they also must be able to work
had to achieve the organizational goals.
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Martins, B 2014, Managing for the Future, a Lectured delivered for MSc Management
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