4Hawthorne Studies, Theory of Human Needs, and Theory X and Y

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4Hawthorne Studies, Theory of Human Needs, and Theory X and Y

Hawthorne Studies – Elton Mayo

Professor Mayo represents one of the most important figures in social research, most specifically with the social research he conducted at the Hawthorne plant in Western Electric Company in Chicago, between 1927 and 1932 commonly referred to as the Hawthorne Studies (Cole, 2004). Much of this research study highly emphasized on the worker rather than on the work one does. Most of this research was primarily focused on studying people, especially concerning their social relationships while at their working places. These researchers concluded that human beings are social animals whether they are at work or outside further emphasizing on the importance of this group membership – to an individual’s wellbeing. Through group membership, people are able to establish informal groups, within the official, formal, groupings as the organization structure lays it down.

The conclusions of the Hawthorne Studies led to the development of the idea of social man, currently referred to as the social model. It also gave emphasis to the importance of human relations. Mayo became the founder of the human relations movement and he had and still has many advocates whose focus is in stressing the importance of managerial strategies – strategies that must accord the highest priority to people at work. Previously (between 1920s and mid-1950s), the movement mostly relied on the social model as their guiding principle. However, after mid-1950, the movement trend away from the social model and started adopting a more complex model that could help in focusing on people operating in highly variable organizational movements.

Mayo, who was then a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration, popularized the conclusions of the Hawthorne Studies such that these conclusions made an enormous impact at that time (Mayo, 1933). Mayo’s adherents considered the social model as a refutation of scientific management ideas which mainly emphasized on the task and control of work. Mayo influence has continued to influence the management of organizations and the management studies. What Mayo concluded is widely being used today, as this paper will discuss.

Hawthorne studies hypothesize that workers will increase their contribution towards their jobs leading to increased production and this increased effort is as a result of changed social situations of the workers. That is when they receive sustained positive attention when their satisfaction and motivation is modified, and the patterns of supervision are altered. The Hawthorne studies established that psychological and social factors play a key role in determining worker’s productivity and satisfaction (Sims, 2002). The important contribution of Hawthorne studies is its demonstration that, in addition to work/job, employees’ behaviors get influenced by certain social factors. Some of the most influential factors of employees’ behaviors include informal social groups, the relationship between the management and employees, and a host of other interrelated facts of work setting. According to Sims (2002), these factors highly influence the behaviors and attitudes of workers.

There is a common belief among scholars that the Hawthorne Studies displays the importance of the nature of social employees. There is also a common suggestion that for one to understand the behavior of employees, one has to appreciate the attitudes of employees and their communication with each other. This way of thinking is very important to the modern field of organizational behavior, and this can be linked back to pioneering work of Mayo. The impact of Hawthorne Studies extends even to the current organizational behavior studies and practice. Hawthorne Studies make an indirect revelation of the importance of human attitudes, human needs, motives, and relationships in the workplace. In consideration of this, it is clear that there exists a close link between the behavioral sciences of sociology and psychology and the newly emerged field of management and organizational behavior. This connection still persists today.

In spite of the setbacks the Hawthorne studies theory; it remains the most crucial in organizational management because it acts as the foundation of human relations theories including Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs and McGregor’s theory X and theory Y. The latter two theories are some of the most relevant theories in the field of management due to their tendency to major on the employees, employee motivation, and employee’s needs. Abraham Maslow and McGregor may be considered to be the most dedicated adherents of Mayo. They are the most important advocates of Mayo proposition which emphasizes the need for organization’s strategies to ensure that it focuses on people in the workplace and gives them the highest priority (Cote & Kelly, 2011). Despite criticisms and setbacks, Hawthorne studies act as a catalyst that triggered a major breakthrough in relinquishing the relevance of social setting and human relationship in an organization. Mayo’s work showed that there is a host of other factors other than financial incentives that can determine the productivity of an employee.

The fact that management shows a concern with the employees has been found to be very motivational to employees. According to Mayo’s study, the communication between the management and employees gives employees an opportunity to contribute through their feedback. The study also laid emphasis on work teams and groups within an organization. The two factors were found to be highly motivational to the employees. In psychology, motivation is a very important concept and is used as an explanatory concept used to provide description as to why people behave in certain ways (Henry, 2015). Motivation is intrinsic to a human being and it is not possible for the managers to bestow it on their employees or subordinates. However, it is possible for motivation to be affected by extrinsic rewards, including fringe benefits, pay, and pensions, and social reward that come by being in company of other people. In today’s organizations, the managers have devised ways of satisfying safety and physical needs. For example, in many organizations, safety of employees has been ensured through adopting safety measures. There are other organizations that have gone to the extent of providing their employees with facilities such as gyms with an aim of improving their physical health. Organizations have largely established social networks to give their employees a sense of belonging.

The Human Need

The theory of human need represents a theory in psychology as was anticipated by psychologist, Abraham Maslow in 1943 (Jerome, 2013). His observation was on human being’s curiosity. Although this theory has over the years been subject to wide criticism as being irrelevant and western in nature, it remains very relevant in today’s organizations and organizational studies. The needs at lower levels, that is, safety and psychological needs are highly linked to organizational culture. Every organization today passes through this lower level and it represents the level at which a new organization must struggle with basic survival needs (Jerome, 2013). At a much advanced level (level three), social needs usually correspond to the formation of organized roles within an organization – roles which must be organized into distinct units in order for an organization to leap the benefits. The human need theory has been accepted and become one of the widely used models in informing the management and management studies.

Abraham Maslow’s theory of human need is considered to be one of the theories that have had a major influence on the behavioral approaches to overall management (Schermerhorn, 2014). The theory of human need postulates a need to be a psychological or physiological deficiency a human being feels the urge to satisfy. This suggests that a need creates a tension within a human being such that it influences his/her work behavior and attitude towards work. Maslow proceeded to place these needs in five important levels starting with the lowest level of needs to the highest level. The lowest level of needs is composed of physiological needs, followed by safety needs, social needs, esteem, and self-actualization occupies the highest level (Schermerhorn, 2014).

There are two principles underlying the theory of human needs. The first principle is the deficit principle which considers a satisfied need as a non-motivator of behavior. That is, human beings will act to satisfy deprived needs – need for which satisfaction deficit exists (Maslow, 1954). The second principle is the progression principle which considers the five levels of needs to exist in a hierarchy of prepotency. That is, a need of a higher level will only be activated when the lower level need has been satisfied.

Theory X and Theory Y

MacGregor’s theory X and theory Y were heavily influenced by both the Maslow’s theory of human need and the Hawthorne studies. According to theory X, managers conduct their management jobs with a common believe that those working under them dislike work, lack ambitions, are inclined towards resisting change, are irresponsible, and prefer being led rather that leading others. On the contrary, theory Y states that managers approach their job with a believe that those under them are people with a strong will to work, are capable of controlling themselves, are willing to accept responsibility, are capable of directing themselves without supervision, and are creative and imaginative.

McGregor called on managers to depart from theory X’s assumption towards theory Y’s assumption. Managers acting within theory X’s assumption are likely to be commanding and controlling thus giving their followers little personal say while managers acting within theory Y’s assumption tend to act in participative ways thus allowing their followers more job involvement and responsibility. McGregor’s observation may seem simple; however, they are very powerful indicating that managerial practice often expresses some deep assumptions dominating the managerial thoughts (Edemivwage, 2015). However, the theory has also attracted criticism with critics arguing that the theory is flawed

Hawthorne Studies and Human Need Theory

Today, most studies and practices of organizational behavior and organizational communication relate both the Hawthorne Studies to the Maslow’s human needs levels. Mayo made an indirect revelation of the importance of human attitudes, human needs, motives, and relationships in the workplace. Hawthorne Studies provide direction towards the importance of human needs and the consideration of management practice and job design to meet those needs. On the other hand, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory provides an illustration to human relations approach. Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs theory stands alongside Mayo’s Hawthorne Studies and McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y. Maslow is considered to have borrowed from the Hawthorne Studies. While Hawthorne Studies provided a suggestion that psychological and social forces have an influence on employees’ work behaviors, and good workers relations may lead to improved job performance, Maslow’s theory of human needs categorized needs according to their importance so that an organization may know which needs to satisfy first. The later theory suggests the need and importance of self-actualization and people are potential to satisfy important needs through their work.

The human resource department in an organization resonates according to the tone the organizational culture sets. Therefore there is relationship between organizational culture and human resource management which deals with people within the organization. If this relationship is positive, the resulting effect will lead to employee’s self-actualization and self-esteem. At this point it is clear that, similar to Hawthorne studies which focused on people in an organization, the theory of human need emphasizes on the relationships and communications that can help improve people. Self-actualization and self-esteem are manifested through employees’ performances and in turn makes the organization strong and competitive. These also give an implication that the organization has succeeded as a result of satisfied employees, also implying that an organization has achieved its objectives, mission and vision statement (Jerome, 2013). This stage may be considered parallel to self-actualization.

Both Hawthorne studies and Maslow’s theory of human needs have been very crucial in the field of organizational management, especially in organizational culture. Culture refers to those rituals, norms, experiences, philosophies, and values holding an organization together. For decades, employee’s performance has been subject to extensive research due to the importance it has on organizations. Today, for an organization to achieve high productivity and remain competitive, it has to rely on the performance of its employees. In his theory, Maslow outlined five levels of human needs which are also applicable to an organization and the performance of its employees (Maslow, 1954).

Much of Hawthorne studies highly emphasized on the worker rather than on the work one does. Most of Mayo’s research was primarily focused on studying people, especially concerning their social relationships while at their working places. Improvements of social relationships go hand in hand with the fulfillment of human needs. As observed earlier, many organizations have provided their employees with facilities such as gyms with an aim of improving their physical health. Organizations have largely established social networks to give their employees a sense of belonging. Fulfillment of these needs represents what Hawthorne studies emphasized – focus on the employee. Other organizations have different motivational methods because different people have different needs hence different ways in which they get motivated. Also, whatever motivates an employee may change over time. Therefore, an organization should consider offering a wide range of benefits and incentives in order to address the needs of every employee and their changing needs.

An employee joins an organization while most of his/her needs in the first level of needs have been satisfied except for some. After the satisfaction of the needs in the first level in Maslow’s, people join organization with need for belongingness. People will seek to establish relationships and communications that will increase their sense of belongingness in the working place. Theory X organizations lack factors that can help improve this sense of belongingness because organization people are not given enough opportunity to build this belongingness. Lack of sense of belongingness will lower the motivation level of employees such that they will not be able to give their complete commitment to their jobs. Most of the organizations that experience this are those that have formal structures.

On the other hand, in McGregor’s theory Y organizations, the sense of belongingness is always high leading to high productivity of these organizations. This sense of belongingness is important in fulfilling Mayo’s wish that an employee should always feel as part of an organization rather than otherwise. Such employees will feel accepted by their organizations thus readily giving their full commitment. Mayo’s human relations movement which has always had many advocates than there are critics focused on stressing the importance of managerial strategies – strategies that must accord the highest priority to people at work. These managerial strategies should always be focused on increasing a sense of belongingness in all employees regardless of the level one occupies in the organization. After the sense of belongingness of an employee has been satisfied in the workplace, an employee moves to the next level of needs (needs for esteem). The needs for self-esteem include the need for stable, firmly-based, high level of self-respect, and respect for others (Jerome, 2013). The fulfillment of these needs make an employee feel self-confident and valuable in the workplace. Such a possibility is rare in theory X organizations.

The highest level of needs in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is self-actualization needs. To reach this level, all the other needs have to have been satisfied. The organizations that manage to satisfy these needs among their employees reach high productivity levels. According to Maslow, self-actualization refers to the human need to achieve what one was born to achieve. Employees whose other needs have been satisfied by their organizations will always strive to achieve their work-goals and until they achieve these goals, they will have self-actualization need. Organizations often support their employees to fulfill this need. According to Greenberg & Baron (2003), Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory finds application in organizational orientation and employee motivation. These researchers further argued that this theory provides managers with a method they can use to lead their employees to self-actualization.

The theory, therefore, accomplishes dual role. First, the theory makes a contribution to the benefit of the organization. Second, it makes a contribution to the benefit of the employees. They have also proposed that, if employees are putting their efforts towards the success of the organization, the organization and its culture must ensure that employees’ level of needs are reflected in the values held by the organization in high esteem. Hawthorne’s emphasis on the worker was furthered by Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs theory. Hawthorne studies emphasized on the worker and not on work they conduct. On its part, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory emphasized that the organization’s cultural framework should reflect the fact that the security and psychological needs of an employee are paramount (Maslow, 1954). Therefore, when an organization focuses on fulfilling the needs of its employees and makes this clear in its organizational culture, its performance will tremendously improve.

On the contrary, if the fulfillment of employees’ needs is not ingrained in the culture of an organization, the results will be opposite and detrimental to the well-being of an organization. Hawthorne studies emphasized that some of the most influential factors of employees’ behaviors include informal social groups, the relationship between the management and employees, and a host of other interrelated facts of work setting. As indicated earlier these factors highly influence the behaviors and attitudes of workers (Sims, 2002). Therefore, there is a host of needs that an organization has to satisfy in order to realize full contribution of employees. These needs include safe work environment, financial security, and job security. Others include social needs – an environment which teamwork is encouraged so as to generate a sense of belongingness and acceptance. Esteem needs include recognition of employees’ achievement, either by giving them incentives or awards. In such a case, an organization should have awards when an employee achieves a certain target or goal.

As indicated earlier, motivation is intrinsic to a human being and it is not possible for the managers to bestow it on their employees or subordinates. However, it is possible for motivation to be affected by extrinsic rewards, including fringe benefits, pay, and pensions, and social reward that come by being in company of other people. The most effective organizations are those that are able to satisfy self-actualization needs because these organizations are able to fully utilize employees’ potentials and abilities thus enhancing the overall productivity and effectiveness of the organization.

Hawthorne Studies and Theory X and Y

Hawthorne Studies triggered a long series of other studies and theory development. Although Hawthorne Studies attracted a lot of criticism, there were others who took the inputs of these studies and wove them into a theoretical garment, including McGregor’s theory X and theory Y. By drawing from Hawthorne Studies, McGregor became the initiator of one of the most widely used a highly popular classification schemes today. Theory X and theory Y are reflective of what may be considered to be two of the most distinctive perspective of management action. Theory X and theory Y represent the predisposition or attitudes toward people. Whereas theory X is negative, theory Y is positive. While theory X is autocratic and traditional, theory Y is democratic and participatory. These two models have become phenomenally popular, pushing the managements to be either democratic or autocratic.

Theory X organizations rarely satisfy important needs making their employees have inferior feelings, weak, worthless, and helpless. This may explain the reason there is high turnover in some organizations compared to others. Theory X organizations are likely to record high turnover rates compared to theory Y organizations because of their tendency to fail in fulfilling esteem needs of their employees. However, theory Y organizations provide their employees with a positive work environment which serves to increase their self-esteem.

McGregor’s classification model, though unsophisticated and simple, has already become a normative and moralistic model of action being used today and for succeeding generations of managers. McGregor did not give preference to any of these models; however, it is not difficult to recognize that McGregor considered his theory Y to be more appropriate than his theory X. On their part, Hawthorne Studies’ contribution to the recognition of human element in the workplace cannot be overemphasized. These studies added the human element to management thinking. This element had been missing from previous classical approaches to management thinking (Lewis, Goodman, Fandt & Michlitsch, 2009). This element is the one that McGregor build his theories from.

The success of the managements of organizations is highly dependent of such factors as individuals in the workplace, intergroup relationships, and formal and informal structures. Organizational structures may either follow theory X’s approach or theory Y’s approach. Therefore, McGregor largely build his theories based on these. If the managers perceive that their subordinates enjoy work and that they will be satisfied with their jobs and gain satisfaction, they are highly likely to adopt informal structures and these encompasses theory Y’s managers. On the contrary, if managers perceive that their subordinates do not enjoy their work and will need to be directed, these managers are most probably adopt formal structures.

Today, the organization must either adopt formal or informal structures. The conspicuous differences between formal and informal organizations are on the basis of their origin, structure, control, purpose, size, communication, and influence process. Theory X represents the traditional theory of management philosophy. This paper relates theory X to formal organizational structure making authority and control centralized. In this structure, the chain of command descends from the top to down through various organization layers with some delegation of authority. A formal organization has a structure which is definite which is reflected in the organizational chart which renders a pictorial representation of the authority relationships. This structure is highly defined and rigid. On the other hand, informal organizations are characterized by groups which are largely initiated by employees themselves to serve their own needs. Therefore, theory Y managers allow their followers an opportunity to define organizational structure themselves. As a result, workers feel motivated to participate more in the workplace as postulated in Hawthorne Studies.

As Hawthorne Studies hypothesized employees increase their contribution towards their jobs leading to increased production and this increased effort is as a result of changed social situations of the workers. In theory Y organizations, employees experience increased freedom to define how they want to conduct themselves while in their work environments. In theory Y organizations, employees receive sustained positive attention, their satisfaction and motivation is modified, and the patterns of supervision are altered. The Hawthorne studies established that psychological and social factors play a key role in determining worker’s productivity and satisfaction (Sims, 2002). In these organizations a social element gets introduced and this is highly motivational to employees.

Another element that differentiates formal and informal organizations is purpose. Formal organizations are inclined towards achieving goals that are defined by the management. These organizations are more inclined towards profit maximization and they make this their fundamental objective. Contrary to this, informal organizations make employee satisfaction their basic aim. That is, they make social satisfaction their fundamental objective. Similar to Hawthorne studies, McGregor’s theory Y emphasized the importance of recognizing both the needs of an individual (Armstrong, 2013). However, theory Y had an addition of the needs of an organization. On his side, Mayo emphasized the importance of human relations to the extent that he became the founder of the human relations movement. These human relations, as seen in today’s organizations, cannot be adequately maintained or sustained without a two way communication. Therefore, the management has to allow for communication from employees as well as communicate back to them and this is mainly not possible in a formal organization or in theory X organizations.

Conclusion

It is clear that despite criticisms that have been raised against Hawthorne studies, Maslow’s Hierarchial need’s theory, and the McGregor’s theory X and theory Y, the three theories represent some of the most important theories in the field of organizational management. Maslow’s Hierarchy of human needs theory and McGregor’s theory X and theory Y have largely been influenced by Mayo’s Hawthorne studies. All the three theories share one important thing – they all emphasize on the employee indicating that motivation of employees is the first step towards increased organizational productivity. The influence of these theories is likely to extend for centuries especially in this era of globalization and intense competition among organizations.

References

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