Elton Mayo

Elton Mayo biography
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Elton Mayo biography

Elton Mayo (December 26, 1880 – September 7, 1949) psychologist, professor, and researcher. He was born in Adelaide, Australia. Upon finishing high school, with excellent grades, he decided to study philosophy at the University of Adelaide. Upon completion, he got a position as a professor at the University of Queensland. But after a few years, he resigned to go to a better job proposal at the University of Pennsylvania where he continued to develop his research in various textile companies.

His studies focused on the importance of organizational sociology and psychology in work environments. After a time he moved to the United States, specifically to the business school of Harvard in 1926. It was there where he carried out his most important study: the Hawthorne research he developed for 5 years. At the end of World War II, he moved to England to meet his wife and daughters. There he began to collaborate with the British industry in the recovery after the war.

In 1927, May undertook a pioneering socioeconomic experiment in the field of industrial research. This study was named the Hawthorne Investigation, the name is due to the Hawthorne electric company, where it was executed. During the investigation, several temporary reforms were made in the schedules, salaries, breaks, lighting conditions and degrees of supervision. All levels of the company were affected. The intention was to determine, through observation, what would be the most favorable conditions to boost and increase productivity.

At first, Mayo thought that economic stimuli would serve as a strategy to increase employee efficiency. However, the results were surprising and contradicted the postulate. In that sense, what caused the increase in productivity was the greater attention that was being paid to employees. The results of that project published in 1939 by the associated researchers F.J. Roethlisberger and William J. Dickson, in the book Management and the Worker caused great surprise and astonishment. Actually, it was a discovery that revolutionized the thinking of the presidents of companies and industry at all levels.

As of that moment, many companies changed their methods. Mayo was concerned to capture their knowledge and research results. For this reason, he published in 1933 the human problems of industrial civilization, for that moment it was a very important job, even today they are still a text of forced reading. In this book, it is exposed that human relationships in the workplace were generating a problem of social level in modern civilization. Although it is true that industrialization accelerated production and promoted economic growth, that does not mean, for May, that the living conditions of people have improved, even at a lower level.

It is clear to observe that Mayo had a clear political stance stating that the tension between employers and workers would not be solved by socialism. For him, psychology was the only tool that could contribute to the understanding and resolution of this problem. One of the reasons why this Australian psychologist became so popular is because he demonstrated the importance of social relationships within work environments. Although their theories have been subject to re-evaluation and reformulation, they remain an important basis for studies of labor relations.

The contributions of this Australian have sought the advance of industrial sociology in the United States in the first half of the twentieth century. Throughout his life, Mayo continued to undertake research and tests in various factories, especially North American industries, with the intention of understanding the way in which social relations determine the productivity of companies.

Thanks to these studies he managed to elaborate theories about labor interactions, these theories are currently in force. Much of the admiration for this social scientist is to deepen the emotional needs of employees to increase productivity. We understand that for May the human factor is of great importance for the economic and productive progress of a company and in general of society. In short, and according to the results, good labor relations are more motivating than economic incentives.

Returning to the theme of the Hawthorne Effect; it refers to the increase in the productivity of workers when they feel that they are being studied. Now, a fundamental contribution at the beginning of the 20th century was to give the same importance to the understanding of social problems in relation to material problems. This was a turn because for At that time, the efforts of science were focused on the development of the industry. In short, he said that workers cannot be treated in isolation, but must be analyzed as members of a group.

Through observation, this psychologist wanted to understand how the members of a company related to propose really effective motivation strategies. Understanding that there are feelings of envy or superiority among peers. In this sense, it is of great importance that the company knows not only the skills of the worker but their aptitudes with the idea you have an idea of ​​the physical and mental potential of the employee. The previous approaches inspired numerous investigations and laid the foundations in the development of fields such as industrial sociology and organizational psychology.

Regardless of criticism and questioning, Elton Mayo’s legacy remains in force to this day. We must mention that his main contribution was to replace the mechanical model of organizational behavior with one that took into account feelings, attitudes, motivational complexity and other aspects of the human subject. This is known as the theory of human relations. The name with which the discovery of the importance of the motivation to the workers was baptized was “pendulum effect”. The last years of his life he lived in Guildford, United Kingdom, where he died on September 7, 1949.

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