Elton Mayo was born on December 26, 1880 in Adelaide (South Australia) and was the second child in a family of respected colonists. He was expected to follow the footsteps of his grandfather and choose a career of a doctor. But he did not show great results at the University, and he was sent to the UK. There, in Scotland, he went on to study medicine and psychopathology. At the University he got acquainted with works of Durkheim and Freud, and they had a huge impact on Mayo’s ideas. After a couple of years spent in the UK, he returned to Australia to work in Adelaide. Even then, he had published materials on management, but there his views were rather unpopular. Mayo resumed his studies at the university and specialized in ethics and logic. In addition, he was considered to be the most brilliant student of the philosopher Sir William Mitchell. Elton Mayo's academic career in Australia has been successful. In 1911-1921 Mayo was a professor of logic, psychology, ethics, and then professor of philosophy and psychology at the University of Queensland (Brisbane, Australia). Soon, he went on a business trip to the UK, but the oral agreement was in the U.S., where he worked on several projects. When his university refused to renew a business trip, he remained in the U.S. without funds. During six months he received financial support from John D. Rockefeller, and in 1923 was enrolled in the School of Finance and Commerce at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1926, Mayo was promoted to associate professor and the head of department of industrial research at Harvard University.
Elton Mayo is a behavioral theorist, as he focused on people, to determine the best way to manage in all organizations. He also stressed that human skills are more important than technical skills.
He also believed, as all the classics of the behavioral theory, that happy worker is also a productive worker, however, as it was later proved, not necessarily.
Elton Mayo can be considered as a behavioral theorist, as he came up with behavoiral management techniques, which are designed to improve self-control and responsibility through providing preventive strategies other than punishment. (Taylor 2004)
The most significant contribution to the sociology of management and industrial sociology was made by the famous Hawthorne experiments, held by Elton Mayo in " Western Electric" in (1927-1932).
- He studied the influence of various factors (conditions and organization of work, salary, interpersonal relationships, leadership style, etc.), which could improve the productivity in an industrial plant.
- Mayo proved that the human factor and the group factor play a special role. Generalization of empirical data had led him to creating the social philosophy of management.
After the experiment, Elton Mayo came to the conclusion that workers are not only motivated by money, but also by such factors as:
- Communication among employees of all ranges;
- Involvement of all the employees in decision-making;
- Interesting, and non-repetitive work;
- Showing interest in every employee.
Elton Mayo’s research and motivation theories are very significant in today’s management, as they have led to the emergence of human relations movement. It is the name of the popular concept, which emphasizes on the importance of social factors, when one talks about impacts on productivity. Social aspects—job satisfaction, group norms, and quality of management—have a larger influence on productivity than non-social factors, such as remuneration.
Scores of companies use Mayo’s motivational theories nowadays, although, they are a little modified. For example, at Tesco communication is a very important factor in the motivation process. This communication occurs through 1-to-1 discussions with managers through the company intranet, newsletters etc.
Managers also hold daily team meetings, discussing everything that is going on in the company. Also, on such meetings value awards are given from any member of the team to another as a way of appraising someone’s work and celebrating achievements.
It is also important to mention that Tesco motivates the employees by involving them in trainings, and providing them with other development opportunities. Besides, Tesco offers strategic career planning.
Same concepts are applied in Starbucks. Workers (or better to say partners, as that is how all the Starbucks’ employees are called) are involved in plan developing; everyone is treated equally. All the employees’ wants and needs are being considered. Also, there are provided different benefits, such as dental health care coverage, discounts on merchandise etc. Also, as well as Tesco, Starbucks organizes trainings and different courses for the employees, to make them more competent and well rounded.
These factors prove that Mayo’s motivation theories are being used these days; they have only been modified according to the modern conditions.
- People are mainly motivated by social needs and feel their individuality through relationship with other people;
- as a result of the industrial revolution and the rationalization of the labor process, work itself has lost attractiveness, and people look for satisfaction in social relationship;
- People are more responsive to the social impact of their peer group of people, rather than to the promptings and control measures emanating from the management;
- Productivity will be more effective, when economic incentives are supported by socio-physical.
This doctrine emphasizes that the main task of management is to solve social problems of labor, its humanization. As a result of the Hawthorne experiment, researchers discovered and substantiated the phenomenon of informal organization of labor collectives. The essence of which is the presence in each of its formal group of opinion leaders, outsiders that govern the relations within the group, as well as relations with the management.
Cole, G. A. (2004). Management theory and practice (6th ed.). London: Thomson Learning.
Taylor, G. R., & Nixon, L. (2004). Practical application of classroom management theories into strategies. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America.
Trahair, R. (2009). Elton Mayo: The Humanist Temper. : Transaction Publishers. (Original work published 1984)