HR Terminology Hawthorne Effect

Complygate has put together a complete list of key HR terms, phrases, acronyms and jargon to assist HR professionals in navigating the extensive, ever-growing HR terminology. We would like to encourage you to read, share and make use of this terminology collection. If you have any suggestions of terms or keywords we have missed, please contact us and we will include them in our next update.

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What is the Hawthorne Effect?

Hawthorne Effect refers to an observational phenomenon wherein the behaviour of the subject improves when the subject is made aware that he / she is being observed and studied. In business or organizational settings, this means that employees can be made to perform better by expressing concerns about their welfare; whether actual improvements in the workplace are made or not is of little consequence.

Hawthorne Effect establishes some preconceived notions in workplaces which can ultimately be used to the benefit of the organization. These are:


  • Listening is of critical importance – employees increased their productivity dramatically when they felt that they were being heard by the management, they are paid attention to and can get involved within major managerial aspects.
  • Observation increases employee performance – Observing the employees at work and taking note of their contributions tends to increase their performance and efficiency. However, they don’t want to be under a 24x7 vigilance.
  • High-achieving leadership improves performance – A good leader can draw out extraordinary performance from his / her team, which can be rather unproductive when a mediocre individual is the leader of the team.
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