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The Human Relations Movement:

Harvard Business School and
the Hawthorne Experiments (1924-1933)

In the 1920s Elton Mayo, a professor of Industrial Management at Harvard Business School, and his protégé Fritz J. Roethlisberger led a landmark study of worker behavior at Western Electric, the manufacturing arm of AT&T. Unprecedented in scale and scope, the nine-year study took place at the massive Hawthorne Works plant outside of Chicago and generated a mountain of documents, from hourly performance charts to interviews with thousands of employees. Harvard Business School’s role in the experiments represented a milestone in the dawn of the human relations movement and a shift in the study of management from a scientific to a multi-disciplinary approach. Baker Library’s exhaustive archival record of the experiments reveals the art and science of this seminal behavioral study—and the questions and theories it generated about the relationship of productivity to the needs and motivations of the industrial worker.

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