Elton Mayo

Elton Mayo

Australian psychologist, sociologist and organization theorist
Date of Birth: 26.12.1880
Country: Great Britain

  1. Biography of Elton Mayo
  2. Early Life and Education
  3. Academic Career
  4. Hawthorne Studies
  5. Later Life and Legacy

Biography of Elton Mayo

Elton Mayo was an Australian psychologist, sociologist, and specialist in organizational theory. He is best known as the founder of the Human Relations Movement and for his Hawthorne Studies and book "The Human Problems of an Industrialized Civilization." Mayo's experiments conducted in the 1930s demonstrated the importance of group influence on individual behavior in work settings.

Early Life and Education

George Elton Mayo was born in Adelaide, South Australia, as the second child in a colonial family. He initially pursued a career in medicine, following in the footsteps of his grandfather. However, Mayo did not excel academically at university. He was sent to Scotland, where he continued his study of psychopathology. Upon returning to Australia, Mayo was greatly influenced by popular psychological concepts, particularly the ideas of Sigmund Freud and David Émile Durkheim. On April 18, 1913, Mayo married Dorothea McConnel in Brisbane, Australia. They had two daughters, Patricia and Gael.

Academic Career

Mayo worked in Adelaide for some time but had limited success in gaining recognition for his views on management and production organization. He then returned to university and specialized in ethics and logic, achieving considerable success. From 1911 to 1923, Mayo lectured at the University of Queensland before moving to the University of Pennsylvania in the United States. Mayo found himself without means of support in the US but received financial assistance for his projects from John Rockefeller. However, Mayo spent the majority of his teaching and research career at the Harvard Business School, where he held the position of professor of industrial research.

Hawthorne Studies

Mayo conducted his renowned experiments at the Western Electric Company near Chicago from 1927 to 1932. These experiments revealed that social-psychological factors significantly influence work productivity, assuming the technological aspects of the production process are satisfactory. Mayo's experiments demonstrated the importance of seemingly insignificant factors such as lighting conditions in the workplace. Additionally, the behavior of coworkers had a substantial impact on workers – many "subjects" subconsciously reduced their effort if their colleagues demonstrated low productivity. By proving the significance of group factors and generalizing the findings, Mayo developed a fundamentally new social philosophy of management.

Later Life and Legacy

In 1947, Mayo returned to Britain but continued his research until his death. Elton Mayo passed away on September 1, 1949, in Guildford, Great Britain, at the age of 68. Despite facing criticism during his lifetime, Mayo's theories on the importance of group affiliation for workers were widely accepted. However, not everyone agreed that monetary incentives and favorable working conditions were less important. Renowned sociologist Daniel Bell accused Mayo and his followers of "fitting people to machines." Nonetheless, Mayo's contributions to the field of organizational theory and his groundbreaking experiments remain influential to this day.