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Article
Publication date: 7 December 2020

Yaron J. Zoller and Jeff Muldoon

This paper aims to conduct a historical study using both primary (archival data) and secondary sources to evaluate the social conditions of the community of employees at…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to conduct a historical study using both primary (archival data) and secondary sources to evaluate the social conditions of the community of employees at Hawthorne Works between 1907 and 1933.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper evaluates the historical and social context of the 1915 Eastland disaster, specifically, the effects of the Eastland disaster on the community and the company to improve understanding of the contextual background and conditions which influenced the Hawthorne studies. This will also serve as a case study of crisis management.

Findings

The findings of the paper argue that the Eastland disaster likely contributed to the expansion of welfare capitalism practices by Western Electric in the 1920s–1930s and established the social and communal conditions which made the Hawthorne studies (1924–1933) possible.

Originality/value

Rather than evaluating the Hawthorne studies themselves, this paper focuses on social factors which made the Hawthorne Works plant site and the community serving it an ideal locale to host the famous studies as part of Western Electric’s practice of welfare capitalism and a distraction from the traumatic event which scarred the community and urged the Western Electric company to react. This study also provides an early example of crisis management.

Details

Journal of Management History, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1751-1348

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 6 August 2020

Yaron J. Zoller and Jeff Muldoon

Although the topic of span of control (SOC) has been discussed in detail in management literature and education, less focus has been placed on the decline research since…

Abstract

Purpose

Although the topic of span of control (SOC) has been discussed in detail in management literature and education, less focus has been placed on the decline research since the 1970s and, thus, the future relevance of the concept. By providing a historical overview of the literature on SOC through the work of key management scholars, this paper aims to explain why the literatures’ coverage of the topic has been significantly diminished in recent decades and offers suggestions as to why further research on the topic is needed.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors provide a historical literature review and analysis on the decline of SOC as a construct of interest.

Findings

The findings of the paper include a brief analysis of SOC. The concept was a very strong concept that declined as management became more scientific, rejecting classical management theory. This rejection occurred because SOC was impacted by multiple factors making it impossible to effectively study, making it imprecise. Likewise, SOC is too applied and lacked theoretical relevance. However, SOC still has value, especially when paired with a theory such as leader-member-exchange (LMX).

Originality/value

The authors argue that SOC is still relevant today and management scholars should align its study with its practice in modern organizational structures. However, its focus needs to change and be added to other theories such as LMX.

Content available
Article
Publication date: 14 January 2019

Yaron J. Zoller and Jeff Muldoon

The purpose of this paper is to suggest Homans’ social exchange theory (SET), a management theory, as an explanation for some of the findings of some of the Hawthorne…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to suggest Homans’ social exchange theory (SET), a management theory, as an explanation for some of the findings of some of the Hawthorne experiments (1924-1933), which demonstrated how social situations play an important role in task performance and productivity and how social exchanges can facilitate it. The authors also use SET to investigate Elton Mayo’s inquiry as to what caused spontaneous cooperation in Hawthorne.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors used a combination of published work by Homans, Roethlisberger and Dickson, Mayo and others, as well as oral histories conducted by Greenwood and Bolton in 1982-1984, to argue that some of the Hawthorne studies illustrate the principles of SET. Homans’ SET brought together concepts from multiple disciplines and offered a framework to explain social behaviors.

Findings

The relay assembly room and the bank wiring tests of Hawthorne studies can illustrate SET as developed by Homans. With the development of SET, Homans not only provided explanations for the creation of strong feelings of affiliation and trust through interactions and mutual dependence between group members but also provided evidence to Mayo’s concept of spontaneous collaboration.

Research limitations/implications

The limitations of the paper are that the studies themselves can lend themselves to multiple perspectives due to design flaws. Therefore, our argument is only one interpretation – even if it is something that the researchers would have supported.

Originality/value

The paper augments the ongoing discussion about the Hawthorne studies in the literature and in the development of management theories such as SET. The authors provide support that it is through the attempts to explain the Hawthorne studies and the post-Second World War controversies over the studies that Homans developed social exchange. Building on previous work, the methods show perspectives beyond the motivations and sentiments of Homans by demonstrating observable behaviors from the Hawthorne studies.

Details

Journal of Management History, vol. 25 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1751-1348

Keywords

Content available
Article
Publication date: 24 August 2020

Bradley Bowden

Abstract

Details

Journal of Management History, vol. 26 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1751-1348

Content available
Article
Publication date: 14 January 2019

Bradley Bowden

Abstract

Details

Journal of Management History, vol. 25 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1751-1348

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