Physical & Psychological Work Conditions
1. Physical Work Conditions: The Hawthorne Studies
The Hawthorne Effect is the phenomenon in which people change their behaviour because they are being investigated, rather than due to the variables being manipulated.
Wickstrom and Bendix's (2000) article describes the original Hawthorne studies and challenges the study's conclusions.
The Original Hawthorne Studies
It was conducted in 1924 at the Hawthorne Works, an electric plant, at Chicago. Over the course of 5 years, the experimenters introduced various levels of lighting, paid workers based on individual production or group production, and increased or decreased the number and length of rest pauses.
The 2 experimental groups consisted of 6 women each and were separated from the main parts of the factory.
The control group were the people in the main factory, and none of their physical work conditions were changed.
Results found the productivity of the experiment group increased significantly when compared to the output of the control group. Decreasing the light level did not affect the work process as long as it was sufficient to complete the job.
Researchers concluded that productivity increased because substantially more attention was paid to these workers (the experimental group) than those in the main factory (control).
The group was consulted before changing IVs, and this helped build a sense of participation and becomes a social unit.
Wickstrom & Bendix challenges the original study’s conclusion by arguing that they evolved a mere suggestion into a conclusion without having concrete evidence.
In the original Hawthorne Studies, the conclusions showed for the first time that human factors related to work were found to be more important than the physical conditions or design of the workplace.
50 years after the study was conducted, Greenwood (1983) interviewed a few of the original participants and concluded that the women had worked harder in test rooms to avoid being sent back to the ordinary room as they described the supervision as hush.
Evaluations (and other interpretations for the spike in productivity) of the original study:
- The original experiment lacked standardised procedures, had many uncontrolled variables, and changes of participants.
- The study was conducted during the Great Depression, which was a time of economic hardship in the USA hence they maybe worked more to retain their jobs.
- Workers were being paid based on an incentive pay system, according to the outcome produced by the experimental group. This is likely to have increased productivity.
Wickstrom & Bendix’s conclusion:
The Hawthorne Effect should not be referred to when attempting to explain results of intervention studies since it can add more confusion than clarity.
2. Bullying at Work
Einarsen (1999) produced a review article identifying numerous types of bullying.
Bullying = Hostile and aggressive behaviour, either physical or non-physical, directed at one or more colleagues or subordinates.
Effects of Bullying:
- Causes humiliation and distress.
- Affects work performance.
- Creates a negative work environment.
- Work bullying.
- Social isolation.
- Physical violence.
- Verbal threats.
- Personal attacks/remarks.
Bullying by a superior creates more physiological distress than bullying by a co-worker.