Hawthorne Studies


From 1927 to 1932 an "experiment" was conducted in the Relay Assembly Test Room at the Hawthorne Works (Chicago) of Western Electric Company, the manufacturing division of American Telephone and Telegraph. See Management and the Worker: an account of a research program conducted by the Western Electric Company, Hawthorne Works, Chicago by Fritz J. Roethlisberger and William J. Dickson. SUNY Geneseo Fraser Library lib HF5548.8 .R648. 1964

Hawthorne Works, Western Electric Company, 1929.



The main assembly plant is at the bottom center of the picture with its landmark tower at the corner of Cicero Avenue and Cermak Road. Railroad tracks intersect the site of more than two hundred acres, which extends from the cable plant on the far left to a lumber yard on the center right. Rows of workers' houses extend along two sides of the factory. (Source: Richard Gillespie. 1991. Manufacturing Knowledge: A history of the Hawthorne experiments. Cambridge University Press. p. 15)



Hawthorne Club track and field meet, 1927.


Welfare capitalism at its peak. The center included the imposing Albright Gymnasium, baseball field, and basketball and tennis courts. The Telephone Apparatus building can be seen in the background. (Source: Richard Gillespie. 1991. Manufacturing Knowledge: A history of the Hawthorne experiments. Cambridge University Press. p. 20)


The experiment in the Relay Assembly Test Room was most completely reported in Management and the Worker by Rothlisberger and Dickson.

Relay Assembly Department, c. 1925.



The rows of benches and regimented atmosphere were characteristics of many of the assembly operations at Hawthorne. (Source: Richard Gillespie. 1991. Manufacturing Knowledge: A history of the Hawthorne experiments. Cambridge University Press. p. 50)


The Relay Assembly Test

The researchers were interested in discovering the factors which affected worker morale and output. Five young women in the relay assembly room were removed from the main factory floor and placed in a smaller "test" room where their work and interaction could be observed continuously.

The researchers expected to find that physical and technical independent variables would be most important. Sociological variables played no part in the original design of the research. Primarily, they were interested in the effects of

The standard work week for the department was 48 hours per week with no rest periods except a lunch break and work on Saturday morning. Quitting time was 5:00 pm.



Relay assemblers, relay assembly test room, 1927.



In the foreground are the chutes through which the completed relays pass into the boxes below. The measuring equipment is on the bench in the rear. The workers are, from the left, Anna Haug, Wanda Blazejak, Theresa Layman, Irene Rybacki, and Adeline Bogatowicz. (Source: Richard Gillespie. 1991. Manufacturing Knowledge: A history of the Hawthorne experiments. Cambridge University Press. p. 52)


Relay assembly room test workers


No. Name Age Ethnicity Date began at Western Electric

1A Adeline Bogatowicz 18 Polish Sept. 1925
2A Irene Rybacki 19 Polish July 1923
3 Theresa Layman 15 Polish June 1925
4 Wanda Blazejak 19 Polish Oct. 1923
5 Anna Haug 28 Norwegian Mar. 1926
Layout Beatrice Stedry 24 Bohemian Dec. 1920

From January 1928
1 Mary Volango 18 Polish July 1926
2 Jennie Sirchio 20 Italian Feb. 1924



Relay assembly test room.


The worker's view of the test room, showing the layout of the relay parts. The boxes at the front of each position contain coils. The supervisor/researcher's desk is visible in the background. The layout operator, Beatrice Stedry, is at the far right of the picture. (Source: Richard Gillespie. 1991. Manufacturing Knowledge: A history of the Hawthorne experiments. Cambridge University Press. p. 53)


Experimental periods
  1. 2 weeks Standard (main department on factory floor)
  2. 5 weeks Standard (moved to test room)
  3. 8 weeks Standard (piece rate changed to test room average)
  4. 5 weeks Two 5 - minute rests
  5. 4 weeks Two 10 - minute rests
  6. 4 weeks Six 5 - minute rests
  7. 11 weeks 15 minute a.m. rest and lunch; 10 -minute p.m. rest
  8. 7 weeks Same as 7 but quit work at 4:30pm
  9. 4 weeks Same as 7 but quit work at 4:00pm
  10. 12 weeks Same as 7
  11. 9 weeks Same as 7 but Saturday morning off
  12. 12 weeks Standard (same as 3)
  13. 31 weeks Same as 7
  14. 9 weeks Same as 7 but Saturday morning off
  15. 31 weeks Same as 7 (beginning of the Depression)
  16. 4 weeks Same as 7 (? conditions altered?)
  17. 25 weeks Same as 7 but quit work at 4:15pm with Saturday morning off
  18. 15 weeks Same as 17 but only 4.5 days per week
  19. 15 weeks Same as 18 (?conditions altered?)
  20. 25 weeks Same as 17
  21. 3 weeks Same as 17 but only 4 days per week
  22. 9 weeks Same as 17
  23. 3 weeks Same as 17 but only 4 days per week

Workers laid off and experiment ended on February 27, 1932 near the bottom of the Depression



Recording Equipment, relay assembly test room.


On the right is the tape that recorded each worker's output; on the left is the equipment for recording temperature and humidity. (Source: Richard Gillespie. 1991. Manufacturing Knowledge: A history of the Hawthorne experiments. Cambridge University Press. p. 54)


Hypotheses


1. Changes in work task and physical context

2. Reduced fatigue due to rest pauses and shorter hours

3. New incentive system

4. New kind of supervision and related social factors

Following Mayo and Rothlisberger & Dickson most authors who have written on the Hawthorne Studies have emphasized the importance of

a. an informal network of interpersonal relations within the framework of the formal organization which may either assist the formal organization in fulfilling its goals or may subvert these goals. The cohesive primary group which the workers formed is credited with improved output.

b. Hawthorne effect - the workers' enhanced status as a result of being selected for the experiment and accorded special treatment and privileges by the company account for the increase

Blumberg argues that "morale improved enormously in the test room."

a. attendance irregularities (sick, excuse, late) decreased 15.2 to 3.5 per year

b. sharp increase in socializing among workers after work

c. increase in conservation in test room and spirit of cooperation

"I believe that a major, although of course not the exclusive explanation for the remarkable increases in productivity and morale lay in the crucial role which the test room workers played in determining the conditions under which they worked."


Hourly Output Rates




Weekly Output Rates





The larger study was under the direction of Elton Mayo of Harvard University. This study and Mayo's other work helped found what is know as the Human Relations in Industry Approach.

Elton Mayo



The symbolism of the photo is revealing: Mayo is holding in his fingers some data from an industrial experiment; once it has passed through his head it becomes the "objective" knowledge in the books on the shelves behind. This photo was taken in 1946, just before Mayo's retirement. (Source: Richard Gillespie. 1991. Manufacturing Knowledge: A history of the Hawthorne experiments. Cambridge University Press. p. 125)


Manually wiring and soldering step-by-step banks.