The Hawthorne Effect

The idea of communicating a caring interest to those with whom we work—as parents, teachers, administrators, or leaders—was first documented in a classic study on human relations and is known as the “Hawthorne Effect.” It emanated from a study that took place in the late 1920’s at Western Electric’s Hawthorne plant near Chicago.

Researchers went into the factory to see if, by increasing room lighting for a group of employees, the productivity would increase. Improvements did indeed seem to boost worker output. But much to their surprise, when the researchers analyzed a comparable group with no change in the lighting, their productivity also improved.

Further study and analysis of this puzzling result showed that productivity increased because the workers were delighted that management was showing some kind of interest in them. The very fact that workers knew they were receiving attention motivated them to try to improve. The workers felt that management cared about them and that they were valued.

Similarly, any person, regardless of age, who feels valued reaps the benefit of the Hawthorne Effect.