Did you ever notice that golfers don’t speak while their partners are putting on the green or that employees don’t criticize their bosses in public? Why? The answer is: Norms!

All groups have established norms, that is, acceptable standards of behavior that are shared by the group’s members. Norms tell members what they ought and ought not to do under certain circumstances. For an individual’s standpoint, they tell what is expected of you in certain situations. When agreed to and accepted by the group, norms act as a means of influencing the behavior of group members with a minimum of external controls. Norms differ among groups, communities, and societies, but they all have them.

It is generally agreed among behavior; scientists that full scale appreciation of the importance norms play in influencing worker behavior did not occur until 1930s. This enlightenment grew out of a series of studies undertaken at Western Electric Company between 1924 and 1932. Originally initiated by Western Electric officials and later overseen by Harvard professor studies concluded that a worker’s behavior and sentiments were closely related. Group influences were significant in affecting individual behavior, that group standards were highly effective in establishing individual worker output and that money was less a factor in determining worker output than were group standards, sentiments, and security. Demonstrating the importance of these findings in explaining group behavior we explain,

The relation between the physical environment and productivity:
Illumination and other working conditions were selected to represent the physical environment. The researchers’ initial findings contradicted their anticipated results.

They began with illumination experiments with various groups of workers. The researchers manipulated the intensity of illumination upwards and downwards, while at the same time noting changes in group output. Results varied, but one thing was clear: In no case the increase or decrease in output in proportion to the increase or decrease in illumination. So the researchers introduced a control group. An experimental group was presented with varying intensity of illumination, while the controlled unit worked under constant illumination intensity. Again, the results were bewildering to the researchers. As the light level was increased in the experimental unit, output rise for both the control and the experimental group, productivity continued to increase in both groups. In fact a productivity increase was observed in the experimental group only when the light intensity had been reduced to that of moonlight. The researchers concluded that illumination intensity was only a minor influence among the many influences that affected an employee’s productivity, but they could not explain the behavior they had witnessed.

As a follow up to the illumination experiments, the researchers began a second set of experiments in the relay assembly test room. A small group of women was isolated from the main work so their behavior could be more carefully observed. They went about their job of assembling small telephone relays in a room laid out similarly to their normal department. The only significant difference was the placement in the room of a research assistant who acted as an observer – keeping records of output, rejects working conditions and a daily log sheet describing everything that happened. Observation covering a multiyear period found that this small group’s output increased steadily. The number of personal absences and those due to sickness was approximately one third of those recorded by women in the regular production department. What became evident was that that this group’s performance was significantly influenced by its status of being a special group. The women in the test room through that being in the experimental group was fun, that they were in sort of an elite group, and that management was concerned with their interest by engaging in such experimentation. In essence, workers in both the illumination and assembly test room experiments were reacting to the increased attention they were receiving.

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