Saturday, July 18, 2009

Hawthorne Effect

As a coach, I am continually asked to either "fix" a leader's interpersonal skills or find ways to make his or her team more productive. On the subject of productivity, I'd like to mention the famous Hawthorne Experiment. In the 1920s, Elton Mayo conducted experiemts at the Hawthorne Electrical Works in Chicago. He was trying to prove his theory that better lighting led to greater productivity. First, he had the lights turned up on the factory floor.

As he expected, production levels went up, too. He had proved his theory. Or had he? He decided to turn the lights down to see what would happen. To his surprise, production went up again. He discovered that no matter what he did with the lighting, production went up. He discussed this with the workers involved and learned that the interest shown in them by Mayo and his team of researchers had made them feel more valued. They were accustomed to being ignored by management. The increase in morale led to an improvement in productivity. Forever more, this experiment has become known as the Hawthorne Effect.

Want to be more effective as a leader or manager? Find ways to let your employees know they are valued.