George Elton Mayo (December 26, 1880 – September 7, 1949) was an Australian psychologist, sociologist and organization theorist.
He lectured at the University of Queensland from 1919 to 1923 before moving to the University of Pennsylvania, but spent most of his career at Harvard Business School (1926 – 1947), where he was professor of industrial research.
Elton Mayo is known as the founder of the Human Relations Movement, and is known for his research including the Hawthorne Studies, and his book The Social Problems of an Industrialised Civilization (1933). The research he conducted under the Hawthorne Studies of the 1930s showed the importance of groups in affecting the behaviour of individuals at work. However it was not Mayo who conducted the practical experiments but his employees Roethlisberger and Dickinson. This enabled him to make certain deductions about how managers should behave. He carried out a number of investigations to look at ways of improving productivity, for example changing lighting conditions in the workplace. What he found however was that work satisfaction depended to a large extent on the informal social pattern of the workgroup. Where norms of cooperation and higher output were established because of a feeling of importance. Physical conditions or financial incentives had little motivational value. People will form workgroups and this can be used by management to benefit the organisation. He concluded that people's work performance is dependent on both social issues and job content. He suggested a tension between workers' 'logic of sentiment' and managers' 'logic of cost and efficiency' which could lead to conflict within organisations.
Criticism regarding his employees' procedure while conducting the studies:
1. The members of the groups whose behaviour has been studied were allowed to choose themselves.
2. Two women have been replaced since they were chatting during their work. They were later identified as members of a leftist movement.
3. One Italian member was working above average since she had to care for her family alone. Thus she affected the group's performance in an above average way.
Summary of Elton Mayo's Beliefs
1. Individual workers cannot be treated in isolation, but must be seen as members of a group.
2. Monetary incentives and good working condition are less important to the individual than the need to belong to a group.
3. Informal or unofficial groups formed at work have a strong influence on the behaviour of those workers in a group.
4. Managers must be aware of these 'social needs' and cater for them to ensure that employees collaborate with the official organisation rather than work against it.
Criticisms about Elton Mayo
Mayo's contributions to management thought have come increasingly underfire. Especially in matters of government. James Hoopes in 2003 wrote "Mayo wrote up his idea of substituting therapy for democracy in a paper, 'A New Way of Statecraft."