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Elton Mayo's Theory of Motivations & Contributions to Management Theory

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  • 0:01 Who Was Elton Mayo?
  • 0:27 The Prevailing Theory…
  • 0:52 What Were the…
  • 1:55 What Was the Outcome…
  • 2:25 What Is the Human…
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Carol Woods

Carol has taught college Finance, Accounting, Management and Business courses and has a MBA in Finance.

Elton Mayo was a philosopher, author, Harvard professor, and designer of the 'Hawthorne Experiments,' which significantly changed management science thinking. Read on to learn what he discovered and how it still impacts management practices today.

Who Was Elton Mayo?

Elton Mayo was born in Australia in 1880. He became a lecturer at the University of Queensland (1911-1923) and the University of Pennsylvania and then became a professor of Industrial Research at Harvard University from 1926-1949. He is best known for his work on the Hawthorne Studies and is considered one of the fathers of the human relations movement.

The Prevailing Theory of Management Prior to Mayo's Work

Elton Mayo started his work at Hawthorne in 1924. The prevailing management theory at that time was scientific management and was defined by Frederick Winslow Taylor, an industrial engineer who felt that standardization and enforced cooperation was the way to guarantee the highest work output from a team after conducting numerous time and motion studies to determine the best way to do specific jobs.

What Were the Hawthorne Studies?

Hawthorne refers to a Chicago-based Western Electric plant. It had agreed to a study by the National Research Council at its plant to determine the impact on productivity of lighting changes on its 29,000 employees.

Initially, two groups were selected, and the impact of lighting changes on their productivity was measured. It was found that any change in lighting - even making it worse - improved productivity, so the initial conclusion was that change in working conditions led to the improvements.

Additional changes were then made to working conditions to see what other types of modifications could improve output. In all cases productivity went up.

Mayo was invited to participate in this study and visited the project in 1929 and 1930 to conduct interviews with workers.

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