Elton Mayo, the father of human relations theory, emphasized the significance of human behavior in production and the importance of communication between workers and management. His research on fatigue, accidents, production levels, rest periods, and working conditions of industrial workers in factories contributed significantly to the development of modern management theories.


Mayo conducted many important research studies, but two of his most well-known studies are the following:

  1. Research in a Textile Mill near Philadelphia Mayo’s research in a textile mill near Philadelphia revealed that workers were not just motivated by financial incentives but also by social relationships with their colleagues and superiors. Mayo found that workers were more productive when they felt that their supervisors cared about their well-being.
  2. Research in Western Electric Company, Chicago (Hawthorne Studies) Mayo’s Hawthorne studies, conducted in the Western Electric Company in Chicago, demonstrated the importance of the social and psychological factors in the workplace. The studies showed that workers’ productivity improved not only because of changes in lighting or other physical factors but also because of the social environment created by management.


The Textile mill near Philadelphia was a model organization with all facilities to workers, was well organized. The employers were highly enlightened and humane. However, the labour personnel faced a problem in the mule-spinning department of the mill.

Issues Faced

The issues faced in the mule-spinning department were as follows:

  1. Absenteeism among workers due to the need to hire 250% more workers than the actual requirement.
  2. Lack of efficiency despite several financial incentives and schemes launched by the management.

Mayo’s Observations

Mayo was consulted to study the problem of multi-spinning Department of the mill, and his observations were as follows:

  1. Physical, social, and psychological factors needed to be considered while studying the problem.
  2. Piecers working in the mule-spinning department suffered from foot trouble due to the long distance they had to walk between the spinning frames.
  3. A single worker had to care for 10 to 14 machines, which made the job miserable.
  4. Workers were afraid of the company president, which discouraged them from protesting.

Mayo’s Experiments

Mayo introduced two schemes to improve the workers’ conditions:

  1. Introduction of Rest Periods: Two rest periods of ten minutes each in the morning and again in the afternoon were introduced with every team of piecers. This eliminated physical fatigue, increased production, improved morale, and reduced labour turnover.
  2. Introduction of ‘Earn Bonus Scheme’: If the workers were to produce more than a certain percentage, they would earn a bonus.

Results of Mayo’s Experiments

The rest period and bonus schemes made the workers happy. However, when the supervisors were not under these two schemes, they never liked the workers enjoying the rest period. Therefore, they suggested that workers should ‘earn’ their rest periods, which resulted in a fall in production, unhappiness among workers, and the reoccurrence of old symptoms.


The Hawthorne Studies refer to a series of experiments conducted by Mayo and his associates at the Western Electric Company’s Hawthorne Works in Chicago. The studies were aimed at exploring the relationship between the physical work environment, productivity, and worker well-being, and understanding the social and psychological factors that affect workers’ output.

Phases of the Hawthorne Studies

The Hawthorne Studies were conducted in four phases:

1. Illumination Experiment (1924-27)

The Illumination Experiment was conducted to investigate the impact of illumination on workers’ productivity. Two groups of female workers were observed in separate rooms, and the conditions of work were changed to mark changes in production. After a year and a half, it was concluded that illumination doesn’t affect productivity.

2. Relay Assembly Test Room Experiment (1927)

The Relay Assembly Test Room Experiment was conducted to observe the effects of various changes in working conditions on workers’ output and morale.

3. Mass Interviewing Programme (1928-31)

The Mass Interviewing Programme was launched to explore the employees’ feelings by the worker’s social group. Workers were asked to express freely and frankly their likes and dislikes on the programmes and policies of the management, working conditions, and behavior of their boss with workers, etc. After analyzing the complaints of 21,126 workers, it was found that workers feel elated if they were allowed to express freely. They develop a feeling that the conditions in the environment were changed to the better, although no such change took place.

4. Bank Wiring Experiment (1931-32)

The Bank Wiring Experiment was conducted to observe and analyze the group behavior of workers performing a task in a natural setting. A number of employees consisting of three groups of workmen whose work was inter-related were chosen. Their job was to solder, fix the terminals, and finish the wiring. It was found that workers had a fixed clear-cut standard of output, which was lower than management target, however, they were capable of increasing their output.

Illumination ExperimentTo determine the effect of illumination on workers’ productivity
Relay Assembly Test RoomTo observe the effects of various changes in working conditions
Mass Interviewing ProgramTo explore the employees’ feelings by the worker’s social group
Bank Wiring ExperimentTo observe and analyse the group behaviour of workers

Conclusions of the Hawthorne Studies

The Hawthorne Studies led to the following conclusions:

  1. The behavior of the team had nothing to do with the management of general economic conditions of the plant.
  2. Non-economic rewards and sanctions significantly affect the workers’ behavior, morale, and output.
  3. The workers have a tendency to form small groups (informal organizations). The production norms and behavioral patterns are set by such groups.
  4. Leadership, style of supervision, communication, and participation play a central role in workers’ behavior.
  5. The social and psychological factors at the workplace, not the physical conditions of the workplace, determine the employees’ morale and output.
  6. The organization is a social system.
  7. Division of labor strictly on specialization is not necessarily the most efficient approach.
  8. Workers are not inert or isolated, unrelated individuals; they are social animals.
  9. The logic of efficiency did not go well with the logic of sentiments.
  10. In addition to technical skills, the management should handle human situations, motivate, lead, and communicate with the workers.
  11. The concept of authority should be based on social skills in securing cooperation rather than expertise.


Mayo’s research findings highlighted the importance of understanding the human element in the workplace. His emphasis on the social and psychological factors in the workplace revolutionized the way management approaches employee motivation, job satisfaction, and productivity.

Mayo’s theories on human relations led to the development of modern management theories, such as the Human Resource Management (HRM) approach. Today, organizations emphasize the importance of creating a positive work environment, fostering strong interpersonal relationships, and providing opportunities for personal growth and development.


Lack of Scientific Base

  • Mayo’s Human Relation Theory lacks a scientific base.

Neglect of Nature of Work

  • This theory neglected the nature of work and instead focused on interpersonal relations.

Anti-Union and Pro-Management

  • It is anti-union and pro-management.
  • Mayo underestimated the role of unions in a free society as well as never tried to integrate unions into his thinking.

Neglect of Environmental Factors

  • This theory ignored the environmental factors of workers’ attitudes and behaviour.
  • It does not consider effects of ‘conflicts’ and ‘tension’ on the workers.

Inadequate Evidence

  • Evidence obtained from the experiments does not support any of the conclusions derived by Mayo and the researchers.

Lack of Economic Dimension

  • It lacks an economic dimension.

Informal Relations vs. Formal Relationships

  • This theory gives much attention to informal relations among workers and between workers and supervisors, but little to the formal relationships with informal ones.


Despite the criticisms, Mayo’s Human Relations Theory is still regarded as a major development in administrative theory till date. Many of his techniques, such as rewards and orders, parties and celebrations, group outings and appraisals, are being used in all organisations to boost morale and motivation.

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