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Hawthorne Studies

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Hawthorne Studies

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Hawthorne Studies


Hawthorne studies were a series of experimental research that were first conducted in the early 1920s (Jex & Britt, 2008). The experiments are among the most famous studies to have been done in the industrial history. The set up for the tests was Western Electric’s factory which was based at Hawthorne in Chicago. This paper aims to discuss some of the significant aspects of Hawthorne studies.

Original Research Question of Hawthorne Studies and Other Foundation Aspects

The original research question of the Hawthorne studies was “what is the effect of the surroundings on the employees’ performance output?” (Macefield, 2007). The initial notion of the researchers was that enhancing the work environment would increase the employees’ productivity and vice versa. However, in all set of experiments, there was no established correlation between productivity and the workforce surroundings. The results of all set of experiments showed that productivity was increased with or without enhancement of working environment as long as someone portrayed some concerns about the workplace. To improve the results, variations regarding psychological and sociological issues that the researchers failed to control should have been conducted.

Constructs Used in the Study

In scientific research, constructs vary based on the ease of assessment. Some constructs can be measured directly such as age and weight while others are measured indirectly. In the Hawthorne studies, both direct and indirect constructs were involved. For instance, in The Relay Assembly Test Room studies, direct constructs included resting pauses, working hours among others. Such direct constructs were obtained from supervisors who made routine visits to the subjects. The studies also had notable indirect constructs. For instance, depression was used where it was observed to increase job productivity by instilling a sense of job importance and fear to lose it among employees (Macefield, 2007). Other indirect constructs included happiness of workers and motivation.

Individual Variables in the Study

In the Hawthorne studies, the dependent variable was employees’ productivity. This was influenced by some dependent variables (constructs) that were measured using established sub-variables. For instance, the resting pauses by employees were measured in unit form (Jex & Britt, 2008). Motivation as an indirect construct was measured based on the nature of supervision (better, harsh, regular) and level of motivation. Another indirect construct that was used in the study is depression. The scale of depression included sub-variables such as managerial discipline and replacement of ordinary workers.

Management-Research Questions

Hawthorne studies tried to relate employees’ productivity and their working environment (Jex & Britt, 2008). The central dilemma in the study involved determining physical factors that were causing reduced productivity via issues such as monotony and fatigue. The management research question can be “what can be done so that to resolve the issue of reduced employees’ productivity?”. In this context, the research question can be “should the employees be grouped into smaller teams?”. The investigative question can be framed as “what are the criteria used while forming the dynamic groups?”. Comparing the management-research question hierarchy established with Hawthorne studies’ research question, the former will yield a more informed management decision.

Examining Study’s Research Design

Based on the research design of the Hawthorne studies, the primary purpose of the study was to determine the effects of physical conditions on the employees’ level of performance (Macefield, 2007). In this regard, Hawthorne studies can be classified as a causal study as it was trying to investigate a cause-and-effect relationship between employees’ productivity and the surroundings.


In a summation, the above discussion clearly shows Hawthorne study is one the most significant experiments in industrial history. The studies involved both direct and indirect constructs where the dependent variable was employees’ productivity. However, the results of the studies did not align with the initial notions of the researchers as a sense of concern enhanced productivity rather than improving the working environment. Adopting a management-research question hierarchy appears to deliver more informed management decisions compared to research question used in the study.




Jex, S., & Britt, T. (2008). Organizational Psychology: A Scientist-Practitioner Approach. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Macefield, R. (2007). Usability studies and the Hawthorne Effect. Journal of Usability Studies, 2(3), 145-154.




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