How To Make Working Conditions Worse But Still Increase Worker Productivity

I recently read about a fascinating study in Brian Tracy’s book, Full Engagement!.

An experiment with confusing results

In 1928, a group of researchers conducted an experiment at Hawthorne Works, a manufacturing facility just outside of Chicago.

The researchers wanted to investigate how they could increase the productivity of women whose job was to assemble electric motors.

At the beginning of the experiment, the researchers told the women that they had been specially selected for the experiment because of their excellent work performance.

In the experiment, the researchers changed different factors in the work environment and observed how productivity levels were affected.

Here’s a summary of what happened:

  • Light levels were increased; productivity increased.
  • Light levels were decreased; productivity increased.
  • The temperature was increased; productivity increased.
  • The temperature was decreased; productivity increased.
  • Noise levels were increased; productivity increased.
  • Noise levels were decreased; productivity increased.

You read that correctly. Productivity increased in each different scenario!

The power of feeling special

Completely bewildered, the researchers interviewed the women to try and make sense of the unexpected results.

The women explained: They felt special because they’d been told that they were specifically chosen to be part of the experiment since they were such outstanding workers.

They felt appreciated and valued by the factory’s management. As a result, whenever some factor in their work environment was altered, they were reminded that they were special. Hence, they were motivated to work harder.

Simple things we often forget to say

The takeaway is simple: Appreciate people and they’ll be happier and more productive.

It really doesn’t take much effort to say (or write) these things, whether it’s to your teacher, friend, boss, colleague or someone who reports to you:

  • Thank you (not “tks” or “thks”; those communicate politeness without warmth)
  • Please (not “pls” or “pse”; same thing as above)
  • Good job
  • Well done
  • I appreciate your work
  • I appreciate you
  • Your contributions are valuable
  • Thanks for your effort
  • Thanks for your time

Let’s make this world a happier, and more productive place, to live in—one encouraging phrase and one “special feeling” at a time. :)