Experiments in Interviewing Workers

In 1928, a number of researchers began to go directly to workers, keep the variables of previous experiments aside, to talk about what was, in their opinion important to them. For this, around 20,000 workers were interviewed over a period of two years. Unlike previous experiments in which interviewer has a set of preconceptions, the interviewers set out to skillfully listen what the worker was saying all about himself/ herself and job. With the progress in interviewing the workers, the researchers discovered that the workers would open up and talk freely about what was the most important and at times problematic, issues in their minds.

Formal and Informal Elements of Organizations.

Fig. 11.1: Formal and Informal Elements of Organizations.

The interviewing experiments enabled the researchers to discover a rich and intriguing world previously remained unfolded and unexamined within the Hawthorne Works undertaken so far. The discovery of the informal organization and its relationship to the formal organization, as shown in Fig. 11.1 was a landmark of experiments in interviewing workers. These experiments led to a richer understanding of the social, interpersonal dynamics of people at work.

The history of O.B. begins with the work of Frederick Winslow Taylor when he developed scientific management in 1890 at Midwale Steel Company.

Bethelhem Steel Company : It progressed with significant events, discoveries and contribution over time. One hundred years of progress of organizational behaviour is summarized in Table 11.1.

Elton Mayo, an Australian national, headed the Hawthorne Studies at Harvard. In his classic writing in 1931, Human Problems of an Industrial Civilization, he advised managers to deal with emotional needs of employees at work.

Elton Mayo - Human Relations Theory - Elton Mayo formed Human Relations theory after the surprising results of the Western Electrical Company Study.

The Hawthorne effect is a form of reactivity whereby subjects improve an aspect of their behavior being experimentally measured simply in response to the fact that they are being studied, not in response to any particular experimental manipulation.

The term was coined in 1955 by Henry A. Landsberger when analyzing older experiments from 1924-1932 at the Hawthorne Works (a Western Electric manufacturing facility outside Chicago). Hawthorne works had commissioned a study to see if its workers would become more productive in higher or lower levels of light. The workers' productivity seemed to improve when changes were made and slumped when the study was concluded. It was suggested that the productivity gain was due to the motivational effect of the interest being shown in them. Although illumination research of workplace lighting formed the basis of the Hawthorne effect, other changes such as maintaining clean work stations, clearing floors of obstacles and even relocating workstations resulted in increased productivity for short periods of time. Thus the term is used to identify any type of short-lived increase in productivity.

Table 11.1: One Hundred Years of Progress in Organizational Behaviour

1890s 1900s 1910s 1920s

Frederick Taylor's development of scientific management

Max Weber's concept of bureaucracy and the Protestant Ethic

Walter Cannon's discovery of the "emergency (stress) response"

Elton Mayo's illumination studies in the textile industry

The Hawthorne Studies at Western Electric Company

1930s 1940s

Kurt Lewin's Ronald Lippitt's and Ralph White's early leadership studies

Abraham Maslow's need hierarchy motivation theory

B.F. Skineer's formulation of the behavioral approach

Charles Walker's and Robert Guest's studies of routine work


Ralph Stogdill's Ohio State leadership studies

Douglas McGregor's examination of the human side of enterprise

Frederick Herzberg's two-factor theory of motivation and job enrichment


Arthur Turner's and Paul Lawrence's studies of diverse industrial jobs

Robert Blake's and Jane Mouton's managerial grid

Patricia Cain Smith's studies of satisfaction in work and retirement

Fred Fiedler's contingency theory of leadership


J. Richard Hackman's and Greg Oldham's job characteristics theory

Robert House's path-goal and charismatic theories of leadership


Peter Block's political skills for empowered managers

Larry Hurschhorn's teamwork approach

Charles Manz's approach to self-managed work teams

Edgar Schein's approach to leadership and organizational culture

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