Elton Mayo: Biography, Key Works And Theories

1547 words - 6 pages

IntroductionElton George Mayo stands out as one of the prominent personalities in the management discourse. He was born on the 26th day of December 1880 in Adelaide, Australia to the family of George Gibbes Mayo and Henrietta Mary Donaldson. He joined collegiate School of St. Peter in Adelaide, and attempted to enroll as a medical student. When his efforts to secure this chance failed, he went to England and indulged in writing. Upon his return to Australia, Mayo joined the University of Adelaide where he pursued philosophy. Graduating in 1912, he was given an appointment at the University of Queensland where he was a pioneer lecturer of philosophy and education. Mayo also taught economics, psychology, metaphysics, and ethics in addition to practicing management consulting (Lucas). After he resigned in 1923, Mayo transferred to the University of Pennsylvania where he studied the value of work breaks on worker productivity in a number of textile firms (Dingley, 1997, p. 31). It is here that he delved into organizational sociology and psychology, a combination which baffled many.Major worksIt was not until 1926 that Mayo was introduced to sociological studies. Since then, he embarked on applying sociological to other management studies of the time. Thus, he became a pioneering researcher in the sociology of management in the infamous Hawthorne studies conducted between 1927 and 1932 which applied statistical methods in an effort to demonstrate the relevance of considering human factors in the workplace alongside physical factors, for instance, the environment and ergonomics (Gillespie, 2003, p. 45). Basically, these studies were aimed at examining strategies of improving productivity by initiating various changes, for instance lighting conditions. When these studies were completed, Mayo derived a number of hypotheses. These included the articulation that individual workers must be seen as members of a group but not treated in isolation; that group affiliation supersedes monetary incentives and favorable working conditions; that informal groups formed at the workplace strongly influence the behavior of those workers in a group; and that the management must understand and tend to the social needs of employees, rather than working against them (Mayo, 1930, p. 326). Through these studies, Mayo demonstrated that productivity is dependent on motivation and morale. Another insight provided by these studies is the Hawthorne effect, which highlighted that the productivity of workers would tend to increase on discovering that they are being observed or studied (Gillespie, 2003, p. 72). This revelation was a major breakthrough in management.His publication, “The social problems of an industrialized civilization” appeared in 1933, and espoused on the importance of using psychological insights in solving human-related conflicts at the workplace (Dingley, 1997, p. 93). Notably, the Hawthorne studies were instrumental in building his reputation as an...

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