Hawthorne Effect and its impact in the workplace

A surveillance camera at the workplace. [Istockphoto]

The Hawthorne effect, also referred to as the observer effect, refers to a phenomenon whereby individuals improve or modify an aspect of their behaviour in response to their awareness of being observed.

Hawthorne effect is still very much existent in workplaces. For example, when employees are being observed they usually tend to work better and harder. This leads to an increase in productivity in most cases.

The Hawthorne effect is significant in that it is proven effective in improving employee conduct and productivity during work.

It can result in many positive outcomes when used in the right way, especially in the current conditions of work.

The Hawthorne effect can help improve employee motivation since according to this effect employees perform better when they feel special by all the attention or feel that the management is concerned about their development.

Managers can try to put themselves in the shoe of their employees and observe the business operation from their perspective. Managers can benefit from the fact that employees tend to be more productive when they feel that their efforts are being watched and that their performance is being noticed.

The studies from the Hawthorne effect conclude that:

The aptitudes of individuals are imperfect predictors of job performance

Although they give some indication of the physical and mental potential of the individual, the amount produced is strongly influenced by social factors.

Informal organization affects productivity

The researchers discovered a group life among the workers. The studies also showed that the relations that supervisors develop with workers tend to influence the manner in which the workers carry out directives.

Work-group norms affect productivity

The Hawthorne researchers were not the first to recognize that work groups tend to arrive at norms of what is a fair day’s work; however, they provided the best systematic description and interpretation of this phenomenon.

The workplace is a social system

The researchers came to view the workplace as a social system made up of interdependent parts.

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