Suffering from ... The Hawthorne Effect?

In a bid to improve productivity, a Chicago firm called Hawthorne Works once asked for volunteers to try different shift hours.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

After a few weeks the volunteers reported much higher levels of job satisfaction and corporate loyalty. The researchers asked them what it was exactly that worked: they had no idea. What seems to have made them so happy was the attention from colleagues and bosses for being picked for the experiment. Since the findings, countless bosses have discovered that giving employers praise and attention works better than, say, ignoring or maltreating them. Of course, this is all easy-peasy when things are running well and the company is posting profits. It all goes to hell in a handbasket at times like now. Someone suffering from (rather than basking in) the Hawthorne Effect might need to call attention to themselves when really they should keep their heads down. Typically, they crack inappropriate jokes in meetings and wear bright ties. This does get attention, but the wrong kind. It's much easier to sack someone who irritates you than someone you like who bites his or her lip. Still, the Hawthorne Effect is a valuable tool for bosses: if you can't offer someone a bonus, consider giving a nice bit of personal attention instead.

Helen Kirwan-Taylor -

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