Elton Mayo’s Theory of Management Explained


What motivates employees to work? In Elton Mayo’s theory of management, it is proposed that employees are less motivated by money, benefits, or environmental factors. To create a successful workplace, an employer needs to create positive relational factors instead. According to Mayo, employees are motivated more by camaraderie or positive attention than a nice place to work with a good paycheck.

In order to demonstrate this idea, Mayo created a matrix which could be used to demonstrate how groups of workers react in varying situations. Cohesiveness, group norms, and other factors are included in the matrix so that team effectiveness can be measured.

In total, there are 4 combinations that are described within Elton Mayo’s theory of management and each has a direct effect on team dynamics.

1. Groups with low cohesiveness and low norms are ineffective.
Groups like this have no impact because they have no motivation to succeed. A group in this category would not likely coexist for very long because no one in the group would be motivated to be productive in any way. They would be more likely to quit and stay at home than come together as a team at work.

2. Groups with low norms and high cohesiveness have a negative impact.
This is because it is negative behaviors that are encouraged instead of positive behaviors. Gangs are often used as an example of this type of group, but it could also include behaviors such as gossip, coming to work late, or doing a poor job on purpose.

3. Groups with high norms and low cohesiveness can have a limited positive impact.
A group like this might operate as a team, but the focus is on the individual. Each employee will be working toward their own success instead of focusing on the overall success of the team. If one worker is able to accomplish something on their own, then there will be a limited positive impact for the rest of the team.

4. Groups with high norms and high cohesiveness make the greatest positive impact.
This is because under Mayo’s theory, the group members would encourage each other to succeed. There would be a focus on individual responsibility to the job and to the team. A supportive network would form so that everyone could excel equally.

What Does This Mean for the Modern Workplace?

Managers need to be aware of how their teams are operating in order for them to be productive. In 3 out of 4 instances of an employee quitting, it is because the relationship with the boss does not equate to the needs of the individual within the group. This is a reflection of a group that fits into either Category #1 or Category #2 above.

Managers need to recognize what the current cohesiveness of their team happens to be. They must encourage high norms so that the standards of accomplishment have some level of meaning to each employee. They must also encourage team cohesiveness so that a supportive matrix can form, allowing everyone to succeed.

Unfortunately, the opposite points of emphasis tend to be present in most modern teams and workplaces. The focus on benefits for the employee often involve monetary rewards, job promotions, specific benefits, or specific work locations. If you work hard enough and long enough, you can earn that corner office with a view, a nice paycheck, and an extra week of vacation every year.

According to Elton Mayo’s theory of management, those tangible rewards are not significant enough to most employees today. It would be beneficial to look at how cohesiveness is formed within a team and then build rewards for productivity around that. If you work hard enough and long enough, you will create lifelong friendships with your coworkers and I’ll take you out to dinner on my dime to show you and everyone else how much you are appreciated.

The workplace is always evolving. The needs that people have are changing. In the past, a paycheck and some extra vacation time, along with the corner office with a view, was enough to keep people satisfied. In today’s workplace, employees want to merge their personal and professional lives together so that each fits in nicely with the other. Money is important, but not as important as recognition, appreciation, and the presence of a support matrix.

By following the theory of management, it becomes possible for employers to gain a greater insight into their employees, teams, and working environments. This allows the relationship between managers and workers to develop authentically, creating cohesiveness and standards that will lead to mutual success.