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 Wisdom to Win
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Elton Mayo (1880-1949)Elton Mayo


Australian professor at Harvard Business School (pictured right) and founder of the Human Relations Movement which believes that employees are motivated by satisfying their needs.

Mayo is most famous for his research study of workers at the Hawthorne factory of the Western Electrical Company in Chicago from 1927 to 1932 (known as the Hawthorne Experiment) which emphasized the importance of informal work groups.


Key book


The Human Problems of an Industrial Civilization (1933)

This book explains what happened in the Hawthorne Experiment (see above)

This occurred in two stages:


1st Stage - The Relay Assembly Test Room

This involved six female assembly line workers.

Improvements in their pay and working conditions (e.g. rest pauses and shorter hours) increased their productivity.

Then these improvements were removed, and productivity continued to rise!

So Mayo concluded that the women were motivated by other factors:

  • supportive supervisors.
  • the women's work group which increased their freedom, control and participation at work.


2nd Stage - The Bank Wiring Observation Room 

This involved a group of male workers who

  • restricted their output, even when they were offered more money to increase it.
  • regulated their work by their informal work group - too much work (“ratebusting”) and too little (“chiselling”) were both discouraged.
  • were motivated by the novelty and special attention from being in the research study (which later became known as the Hawthorne effect).


 An organization must reconcile the different interests of:

  • employees (“sentiment” is managers’ concern for their welfare).
  • management (driven by cost and efficiency).

This reconciliation will improve relations between them and increase employee motivation.


Key quote on management

The desire to stand well with one's fellows...easily outweighs the merely individual interest.

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