Elton Mayo – Human Relations Theory

1880 – 1949

Elton Mayo was an Australian interested in employee motivation and commitment and the relationship between workers and management. Mayo’s best known work was the Hawthorne Study in the Western Electrical Company in the USA, and the development of the “human relations” approach to management.

The Western Electrical Company Study

In the Western Electrical Company study, Elton Mayo observed that worker productivity depended less on lighting conditions in the work area than on the workers perception that management were interested in them. Mayo proposed that higher productivity could be gained by good communication and emotional connection between workers and management.

This was a change from Frederick W Taylor’s theory of scientific management, where management’s role was to meet organisational goals. Time and motion studies and piecework pay would increase productivity to a point, however further increases could only be gained by meeting the individual worker’s needs.

Satisfaction comes from recognition and security

Elton Mayo believed that work satisfaction was based on recognition, security, and being part of a team, over and above monetary rewards.

He raised awareness of the need for management to be more involved with workers at an individual emotional level. This change in thinking gave birth to the “human relations” approach to management.

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