The Hawthorne effect is the psychological effect that was first studied at Western Electric's factory at Hawthorne in the end of 1920s and the beginning of 1930s. According to that experiment, workers on the factory were studied in terms of their productivity, and they knew about the experiment. There researchers studied the influence of light at the factory on workers’ productivity. When it was increased, the productivity grew. However, when it was decreased again by mistake, productivity was still growing. It seemed that workers increased productivity not because of working conditions, but because they knew about the experiment and wanted to satisfy the researchers. This effect is widely used in contemporary practices in different spheres, in particular, in management. In this essay, the possible ways to use the Hawthorne effect in management will be studied.
Before studying the use of the Hawthorne effect in management, it is necessary to understand how exactly this effect arises. The first main finding of the Hawthorne effect is that it does not have clear definition and conditions, and can arise in different ways. “One of the difficulties associated with testing for Hawthorne effects is the absence of a precise definition of the Hawthorne effect”. The Hawthorne effect can appear via at least three different channels, and it should be remembered when this effect is used in managerial practice. The results may be different depending on the channel. The first channel is emphasis on the process of experiment and increased attention to it, for instance, reading instructions and signing documents. When employees know instructions, they know what to do to satisfy them, and try to do that when they work. The second channel for the Hawthorne effect is created by the experimental treatment itself. The situation in the initial experiment was such. Workers showed higher productivity because they saw changes in lightning and thought they had to work better with the changes of light intensity. Lightning was a reminded that they were under experiment. The third channel for the Hawthorne effect is the demand effect of the experimenter. It means that people under experiment try to satisfy the expectation of the researcher and show better results. For example, if workers think that higher lighting is expected to lead to better productivity, they work harder when the lightning is increased, and worse if it is decreased, even though the light intensity does not influence productivity in reality.
The second main finding includes the importance of workplace for productivity. The studies show that there are four general conclusions from the Hawthorne studies. The individual has productivity that depends on his/her physical and mental potential. Nevertheless, the productivity depends more on social factors at work. Workers change their productivity in dependence with their co-workers and their results. Each group has its own norms that affect the group’s productivity. Finally, the workplace is a complete social system where its members influence each other. Thus, it can be stated that the productivity of worker depends mostly on the workplace and co-workers.
The third finding is that workplace and attitude from others can be more important for employee’s productivity than money or power. The Hawthorne studies are widely used in contemporary management. The manager should use the power of workplace to influence employees’ productivity. Not all individuals are motivated only by money or boss’s power. People work better in appropriate atmosphere. Employees tend to show better results in places where others have a positive and enthusiastic attitude to them, and where co-workers appreciate and motivate each other. If others show good results and appreciate the worker, he/she is motivated to do the same.
All three main findings can be widely used in the contemporary management practice. The first finding is the set of channels of the Hawthorne effect influence. All those channels can be considered and used in management for better productivity of employees. The first channel focuses on the process of experiment, in particular, instructions and documents. It can be used in management. For instance, managers can make regular experiments in workplace and provide clear instructions to employees. In practice, there are employees who show moderate or low performance because they do not know exactly what they should show. Thus, such instructions and being under experiment can motivate employees because they would know what exactly to do. The second channels (the experimental treatment itself) can be used, too. For example, an experiment should show that the productivity depends on manager’s attitude to workers. They will work better because better attitude remind that they are under experiment. The third channel (demand effect of the experimenter) can be used in managerial practice, too. Employees are likely to work better just because they know they should satisfy the demands. However, for the success, it is necessary to state clear demands to the results of the experiment. In order to increase productivity, managers can first provide a real experiment, and then just use the channels that show that experiment is still present, but in fact, it is not. Thus, employees are likely to continue working better because they feel the influence of one or several channels, although the experiment has finished already.
The second finding is the importance of workplace for employees’ productivity. In contemporary management with its stress on social relations, this finding is very important. The manager should influence the creation of social systems and groups in the workplace. Influenced by a group, an employee is likely to work better, because he/she is ashamed of bad results when others show better results. The manager can help in achieving particular group norms that influence the productivity of all workers. When norms are stated, employees are likely to follow them because they do not want to be worse than others do.
The third finding based on the attitudes in the workplace should be used in contemporary management, too. Simple power and money do not always influence productivity greatly. When appreciated badly, employees are not willing to work well. Therefore, the manager should create good personal relationships in the workplace. It is likely to lead to better performance.
In conclusion, the Hawthorne effect is a psychological effect that influences the productivity in the workplace. The experiment was provided in 1920s, and it showed that employees are likely to show better results when they are under experiment and know about it. The Hawthorne effect also shows the influence of workplace, its social conditions and attitudes on an employee. Employees work better if others in the group work better, or if others treat them well. In modern management, the Hawthorne effect can be widely used to improve productivity in the workplace.