When we treat employees well it results in improved employee performance. Why? Because when we treat employees well it improves their attitude. The more positive the attitude, the better the work productivity. We first learned about the relationship between attitude and productivity in the early 20th century through a series of studies called the Hawthorne Studies.

The Hawthorne Studies

During early studies on organizational change, a series of experiments were performed from 1924-1933. They  were conducted by researchers from the Harvard Business School.  The experiments were sponsored by the Western Electric Company and conducted at their Hawthorne Works in Chicago.  The studies were to become known as the Hawthorne Studies. They began with a primary focus, to see if environment working conditions had an effect on productivity.

Not much of a cause and effect relationship between the working conditions and productivity was found,  but they did uncover a relationship between the attitude of the workers and their productivity.

The studies were performed as four different experiments which were the illumination experiments, the relay assembly group experiments, the interviewing program, and the bank-wiring group studies. Below are brief summaries of what took place for each of them:

  • The illumination experiments – In these experiments, lighting was increased or decreased for a test group of women. The end result, no significant evidence proved lighting had an effect on the work productivity.
  • The relay assembly group experiments – This study, which consisted of a group of six women who had to assemble a telephone, further proved that there was no cause and effect dynamic between productivity and working conditions. The study did however show that there was a cause and effect relationship between workers attitudes and productivity. This was a big discovery which prompted further studies to take place.
  • The interviewing program – This study consisted of data collection by interviewing approx 21,000 employees. The main outcome of this research was the discovery that most employees complaints stem from an underlying problem which could exist at home or in the job.
  • The bank-wiring group studies – The last experiment performed in the Hawthorne Studies was the bank wiring group studies. The tests were done against a bank wiring group of 14 men whose responsibility was to wire equipment for central connecting. These tests showed the significance of group norms and standards. Workers were more responsive to their peer groups than to management.


The Hawthorne studies proved that psychological and human factors affect work productivity. These studies laid down the groundwork for Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory, which also showed that physical working conditions had little to do with work productivity. The Hawthorne studies uncovered ground breaking concepts for the 1930s. They proved that teams performed well when they are treated well.

So if you want to increase productivity, focus on personal relationships and culture. Treat people with kindness and respect. Most importantly, recognize and reward people who do a great job.

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