Elton Mayo was a professor at a prestigious university, but not a researcher; a scholar, but more concerned with executives; a capitalist, but someone who downplayed monetary incentives; an insider, but someone whose own background was more of an outsider. These contradictions have resulted in scholars questioning Mayo’s impact on the field of management. Thus, this paper aims to critically review Mayo and his contributions to management through a lens calibrated to the context of his time, providing a more contextually accurate view of Mayo and his work and offering a clearer view of his meaningful impact on the field.Design/methodology/approachUsing a combination of primary and secondary sources, the authors connect otherwise disparate information to critically review Mayo’s work within the context of its era.FindingsThe authors’ critical review of Mayo identified nine topical areas where Mayo and/or his work have been misunderstood or misinterpreted. For each area, the authors offer a more contextualized and appropriate interpretation of Mayo and his viewpoints, and thus more accurately informing the management literature.Originality/valueThis paper is the first to thoroughly revisit Mayo and his work through a contextualized lens, offering a more informed view of why Mayo’s seemingly controversial behaviors were actually quite standard behaviors given his context.
Journal of Management History – Emerald Publishing
Published: Mar 18, 2020
Keywords: Human relations; Elton Mayo; Hawthorne studies
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