Reassessing Elton Mayo: clarifying contradictions and context

Jeff Muldoon (School of Business, Emporia State University, Emporia, Kansas, USA)
Joshua Bendickson (Department of Management, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Lafayette, Louisiana, USA)
Antonina Bauman (School of Business, Emporia State University, Emporia, Kansas, USA)
Eric W. Liguori (Department of Management and Entrepreneurship, Rowan University, Glassboro, New Jersey, USA)

Journal of Management History

ISSN: 1751-1348

Publication date: 14 April 2020



Elton Mayo was a professor at a prestigious university, but not a researcher; a scholar, but more concerned with executives; a capitalist, but someone who downplayed monetary incentives; an insider, but someone whose own background was more of an outsider. These contradictions have resulted in scholars questioning Mayo’s impact on the field of management. Thus, this paper aims to critically review Mayo and his contributions to management through a lens calibrated to the context of his time, providing a more contextually accurate view of Mayo and his work and offering a clearer view of his meaningful impact on the field.


Using a combination of primary and secondary sources, the authors connect otherwise disparate information to critically review Mayo’s work within the context of its era.


The authors’ critical review of Mayo identified nine topical areas where Mayo and/or his work have been misunderstood or misinterpreted. For each area, the authors offer a more contextualized and appropriate interpretation of Mayo and his viewpoints, and thus more accurately informing the management literature.


This paper is the first to thoroughly revisit Mayo and his work through a contextualized lens, offering a more informed view of why Mayo’s seemingly controversial behaviors were actually quite standard behaviors given his context.



Muldoon, J., Bendickson, J., Bauman, A. and Liguori, E.W. (2020), "Reassessing Elton Mayo: clarifying contradictions and context", Journal of Management History, Vol. 26 No. 2, pp. 165-185.

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