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Robert Owen's Management Theory

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  • 0:01 18th and 19th Century…
  • 0:43 Robert Owen and the…
  • 1:15 Improving Factory Life
  • 3:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

Horrible factory conditions were common during the Industrial Revolution. This lesson describes how Robert Owen worked to change these conditions. A brief quiz follows the lesson.

18th and 19th Century Working Conditions

Think about your life when you were five or six years old. What did an average day look like? You probably spent at least part of your day in school with friends, learning your ABCs, enjoying some time on the playground, or possibly even taking a nap in the afternoon. This was not the reality for many small children 150 to 200 years ago. Instead of going to school, countless kids spent their days toiling in hot, stuffy, and unsafe factories. In some instances, children were forced to work as long as 15 hours in a single day. Most children today aren't even awake for that many hours! Working conditions were the same for adults. You can imagine how miserable life was. Robert Owen saw the inherent problem with this system and worked throughout his life to change it.

Robert Owen and the Textile Industry

Robert Owen was born 1771 as the British Industrial Revolution started to really get going. He began working in the textile industry as a child in Manchester, England. Even a as a kid, Owen realized that there was something wrong with the factories and mills he worked in and ran. The employees were treated horribly, and as a result, were truly miserable. By the age of 19, Owen was already managing and running a textile mill. In his early 20s, Owen became the managing partner for a cotton mill in New Lanark, a town in Scotland. It was here that Owen began implementing his brilliant ideas for change.

Improving Factory Life

Compared to many of the other mills that Owen had experienced, New Lanark had comparably better working conditions, but in his eyes, they were not good enough. Early on, Owen observed that the way mills treated their employees had a significant impact on not only their work ethic, but also on how they behaved outside of the mill.

Have you ever had a family member, teacher, or boss treat you poorly and make crazy demands? If that's happened, how did you feel about it? Odds are good that you were not happy. Owen determined that instead of dictating orders or trying to control his employees, it was much better to manage them and create a happy work environment. Robert Owen had stumbled upon an important truth: Happy employees are more productive.

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