As organizational leaders we should not overlook the unique phenomenon of the Hawthorne Effect, it certainly changes the way we should view and interpret the concepts about work and productivity. It clearly depicts that work and productivity are not only defined by the working conditions or skills of the employee, but that additional factors such as those of social interactions have a great impact. Moreover, it creates a difficult margin that hinders us from properly attaining authentic data on factors that may or may not increase work and productivity. People change their behaviors when being put on the spot light, and as a result it may skew the results that one would hope to attain.
A prime example as stated by Evans (as cited in Leonard and Masatu, 2006) there was a study in Tanzania in which the quality of service between clinical workers with patients were being evaluated. Apparently there was a high sense of quality increase when the research team arrived after having a normal level of activity before. Causes and effects like this clearly depict the results of the Hawthorne Effect which skews the results that one would hope to achieve during the research. In the broader spectrum this shows that observation techniques may not be the best way to attain authentic data to evaluate performance. Employees might be doing one thing when not being observed, and then change when they take note of their surroundings and observers.
On the other hand, Vrabie (2014) does make some clear positive remarks about the Hawthorne Effect and how to use the phenomenon to one’s advantage. She concisely puts it into two points, the first is that physical change is at the core of giving our human resources a nudge. Be it the observer making the experiment or research, or any element as simple as wall decors will have a positive effect on the team’s productivity because they know they are being taken into consideration. Bottom line the change itself is a reflection of uniquely being distinguished among others, and fundamentally it does not refer to the change itself which is sort of contradictory. Secondly, taking the time to calmly observe the one’s human resources and letting them know that administration is there when they need them will enable them to understand that they have the support that they might need. These two points enable our human resources with the sense of appreciation and positive emotional effect that can boost productivity.
Ultimately, the Hawthorne Effect will definitely be a factor that can and will skew results on data trying to be gathered. However, it can also be used to boost morale that can bring much better productivity. Vrabie (2014) quotes Dr. Richard Nisbett, a professor of psychology in regards to this “once you’ve got the anecdote, you can throw away the data”. Of course this is just one view, but one that takes all the positive of the Hawthorne Effect into it’s simplest forms when it comes to data.
Evans, D. (2014). The Hawthorne Effect: What do we Really Learn from Watching Teachers ( and Others)?. Retrieved from http://blogs.worldbank.org/impactevaluations/hawthorne-effect-what-do-we-really-learn-watching-teachers-and-others
Vrabie, A. (2014). The Hawthorne Effect and its Impact on Team Productivity. Retrieved from http://blog.sandglaz.com/hawthorne-effect/