The Hawthorne Effect

The Hawthorne experiments were performed at the Western Electric Hawthorne Works factory near Chicago between 1924 and 1932 by Elton Mayo.  Sociologist Henry A. Landsberger studied and analyzed data collected by Elton Mayo and named the resulting phenomenon the Hawthorne effect (Shuttleworth, 2009).  The Hawthorne effect is that people in studies change how they act because they know they are being watched (Glen, n.d.).  Similar to the placebo effect, this can make it seem like there is a positive change being made when people are changing because they are being monitored.  For managers, this can be useful to understand, as it means that monitoring employees will result in change. 

During the Hawthorne studies by Elton Mayo, there was short term improvements in output by factory workers when lighting was increased or when lighting was decreased.  The second phase of the experiment involved giving breaks to laborers in the Mica Splitting Test.  The experiment found that output increased when workers received breaks.  Regardless of the change, output increased (Glen, n.d.).  Productivity rose because the factory workers knew that they were being monitored.   The experiment could have changed almost any variable and the researchers would have seen improvements because the factory workers worked harder simply because they knew they were being observed.  It is thought that the Hawthorne Effect is an example of a self-fulfilling prophesy.  The hope-for change will be observed because it is being measured (Glen, n.d.). 

The core lesson from the Hawthorne experiments is that paying more attention to employees encourages them to improve their performance (QuickBooks Canada Team, n.d.).  Mayo’s experiment demonstrated that employees want to perform when they are monitored (Saha, 2018).  Therefore, it behooves managers to observe and measure the performance of employees, because their productivity will increase when they are monitored.  According to Prajjal Saha, the Hawthorne experiments laid the foundation for the concept of employee engagement, illustrating that engaged employees are productive ones (Saha, 2018). 


Glen, S. (n.d.) Hawthorne Effect (Observer Effect): Definition & History. Retrieved September 6, 2021 from 

Saha, P. (2018). The ‘Hawthorne Effect’ in the modern workplace. Retrieved September 6, 2021 from 

Shuttleworth, M. (2009). Hawthorne Effect. Retrieved September 5, 2021 from 

QuickBooks Canada Team. (n.d.). Using the Hawthorne Effect to Better Manage Your Employees. Retrieved September 6, 2021 from 

Published by Art Ocain

I am a DevOps advocate, not because I am a developer (I’m not), but because of the cultural shift it represents and the agility it gains. I am also a fan of the theory of constraints and applying constraint management to all areas of business: sales, finance, planning, billing, and all areas of operations. My speaking: I have done a lot of public speaking in my various roles over the years, including presentations at SBDC (Small Business Development Center) and Central PA Chamber of Commerce events as well as events that I have organized at MePush. My writing: I write a lot. Blog articles on the MePush site, press-releases for upcoming events to media contracts, posts on LinkedIn (, presentations on Slideshare (, posts on the Microsoft Tech Community, articles on Medium (, and posts on Quora ( I am always looking for new places to write, as well. My certifications: ISACA Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), Certified Web Application Security Professional (CWASP), Certified Data Privacy Practitioner (CDPP), Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), VMware Certified Professional (VCP-DCV), Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE), Veeam Certified Engineer (VMCE), Microsoft 365 Security Administrator, Microsoft 365 Enterprise Administrator, Azure Administrator, Azure Security Administrator, Azure Architect, CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+, ITIL v4 Foundations, Certified ScrumMaster, Certified Scrum Product Owner, AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner See certification badges on Acclaim here: My experience: I have a lot of experience from developing a great company with great people and culture to spinning up an impressive DevOps practice and designing impressive solutions. I have been a project manager, a President, a COO, a CTO, and an incident response coordinator. From architecting cloud solutions down to the nitty-gritty of replacing hardware, I have done it all. When it comes to technical leadership, I am the go-to for many companies. I have grown businesses and built brands. I have been a coach and a mentor, developing the skills and careers of those in my company. I have formed and managed teams, and developed strong leaders and replaced myself within the company time and again as I evolved. See my experience on LinkedIn here:

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