Roethlisberger, Fritz J. A Curious Scholar Who Discovered Human Relations

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This chapter chronicles the life and career of Fritz J. Roethlisberger, one of the leading researchers of the Hawthorne studies and author of the first major work reporting the full extent of the groundbreaking studies. It is the story of a curious scientist who started out studying engineering at MIT, but who changed direction and spent most of his career studying organizational behavior, wanting to improve human relations in organizations. His major contribution is his scientific curiosity and the discoveries that ensued for him and his colleagues. This chapter traces this curiosity through his work and thoughts, starting with a brief introduction to his early years and the choices that lead him to research organizational behavior at Harvard Business School alongside Elton Mayo. The bulk of the chapter is related to the Hawthorne studies – the knowledge created, the critique it spurred over the years, and the direction it gave Roethlisberger’s work for the rest of his career. The last sections of the chapter address the work he carried out after the Hawthorne studies, still driven by scientific curiosity, and sums up the insights we can gain from his work. Finally, there is a brief discussion of some of the issues and themes brought up by Roethlisberger that remain unresolved – unfinished business of relevant questions that were raised but have not yet been answered. Also, the chapter offers suggestions for further reading for those who want to know more about the curious scholar.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of Organizational Change Thinkers
EditorsDavid B. Szabla, William A. Pasmore, Mary A. Barnes, Asha N. Gipson
Number of pages15
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Publication date4 Mar 2021
ISBN (Electronic)9783319498201
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Epub ahead of print. Published online: 04 March 2021.


  • Hawthorne studies
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Human resource management
  • Change
  • Organizing
  • Curiosity
  • Knowledge

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