The Hawthorne Effect

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My post yesterday on succeeding at work referenced three essays on other blogs. The third of these, "Under Promise, Over Deliver" at Slacker Manager mentions the Hawthorne Effect in a parenthetical side-note.

The Hawthorne Effect is the term for the results discovered during an organizational behavioral research study conducted between 1927 and 1932 by researchers at Harvard.

To me one of the most interesting findings, involved in studying a group or department of nine employees:

They found, that the small group had informally established an acceptable level of output for its members. Employees who overproduced were branded rate busters, and under-producers were labeled chislers. To be accepted by the group workers would have to produce an acceptable level. They also found, as workers approached their acceptable level of output, they began to slack off to avoid over producing.

Source: Wikipedia entry on the Hawthorne Studies

Exceed the productivity norms of the group you work in and you'll rock the boat; don't carry your own weight and you'll definitely make waves.

There are two approaches one could take.

  1. Find a group "beneath" your natural abilities and then do just enough to coast along...
  2. Find the smartest/most productive group of like-minded people you can [fit into], and then put your shoulder to the wheel and get going!

I'll choose the second route, thank you very much.

—Michael A. Cleverly


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