«To make the best use of people as a valuable resource of the organisation attention must be given to the relationships between staff, and the nature ...»
‘I’m with George on the stuff about the training – I’ve not been here long and I’m bored of the same round of places. There’s something else too,’ said Sarah Jones. ‘It’s true about the money being all right but if you look at other departments, they’re getting more money than we are, even if you take the car into account. Look at pre-sales – they’re all on at least five grand more than we are. The only way to get a rise around here is to threaten to leave, like Carl did that time.’ ‘Now that’s not fair,’ Eric burst out. ‘What about appraisals? You get an automatic increment after your appraisal, if it’s been OK.’ ‘I can’t remember the last appraisal I had – and anyway, when I did have it you’d forgotten to fill out the form, so it wasn’t much of a discussion. You just sat there and told me I was doing OK and not to worry, you’d do the form soon. Anyway, those increments are only in line with inflation, so we’d kind of expect them anyway – they’re not really because you’re working hard or whatever. We haven’t had a proper performance-related rise in three years,’ Sarah replied.
‘I never even got my increment after my last appraisal – you sent me a letter saying I hadn’t been awarded one, but you never said why! You said at my appraisal that my work was good and you were pleased with me, so I was expecting one,’ chipped in Colin Sanderson, who hadn’t spoken up until then.
‘And you said that I had to improve, and then I got an increment anyway – which I thought was kind of daft. Then you sent me to America to do that really big job, booked me away for a week and totally ignored me when I said I’d never get it done in that time. You had to send John Carter out to help me,’ Carl commented.
There was a brief silence as Eric took all this information in, and the group wondered if they’d gone too far. When he didn’t say anything for some minutes, George leapt in to fill the gap: ‘Can I just say something else? It’s too bloody hot in here most days in the summer ’cos of the great big glass windows – they let all the heat in and then when you open them, papers go everywhere. For an air-conditioning company, we’ve got rubbish ventilation up here. I had to go home early last week because it was so warm – you just can’t concentrate.’ Finally Eric spoke: ‘OK, OK, I get the gist. There’s quite a lot here needs dealing with, it seems. Can we just summarise what the grievances are and I’ll make a point of trying to deal with them as soon as I can.’ Eric was starting to feel somewhat beleaguered. He had had no idea that things had got this bad. He made a resolve to act as fast as he could – it seemed that he would have no staff left at all if he did not.
Activity brief 1 There are some obvious indicators of lack of job satisfaction in the text. What are they? What other factors should managers look for which may demonstrate that morale is low?
2 At the meeting the staff are encouraged to air their grievances. Summarise the points they raise.
3 Looking at the summary from the previous question, how do Mumford’s five contractual areas help to explain current problems?
4 How could ABC use job design to help them reduce the causes and effects of stress?
5 What actions would you recommend Eric to take to improve employee commitment at ABC?
Case study provided by Joanna Brewis.
Question 1 There are some obvious indicators of lack of job satisfaction in the text. What are they? What other factors should managers look for which may demonstrate that morale is low?
The indicators in the text are, first, the high labour turnover (some 25 per cent over the last two years) and, secondly, service maintenance’s inability to recruit and retain staff for any length of time. Since this is not a job in which turnover should be an issue (as compared to low-skilled, low-waged occupations such as bar-tending or shop work), this serves as evidence that all is not well. The other important indicator is the absence level – four of the seventeen staff are absent at the current time. Excessive use of sick leave can be a way for workers to escape a disliked job.
Other indicators management can look for include higher than average levels of error, indicating a lack of concentration on, and commitment to, the task at hand. In a service industry this would perhaps manifest itself in numbers of complaints. Another useful indicator of discontent is a failure to meet targets set, e.g. production levels. There is also the issue of interpersonal difficulties – if there is a high level of conflict in the organisation/department this can often imply that dissatisfied employees are taking their frustrations out on each other. Managers should also be alert for disciplinary or grievance levels – if either is high then this again may point to lack of satisfaction. More dramatic evidence of workplace resistance comes in the form of either industrial action (unlikely in a non-union environment such as ABC), which is a collective form of protest, or more individual action: sabotage of equipment or buildings.
Question 2 Summarise the points of grievance.
In the order that they are raised, these are:
the unpredictability of the job itself, never knowing what will be expected of you;
G failure by clients to abide by the terms of the guarantee, which relates to the above issue;
G another connected issue is that of the sales force making rash promises to customers so Service G Maintenance are faced with unrealistic time frames which they cannot plan in advance;
the job itself becoming boring as there is too much specialisation;
G a feeling that there may not be very much equivalence across the company in terms of remuG nerations, the director’s car and the wages elsewhere in ABC being two sources of this;
the lack of communication between management and employees, manifest here in the rather G disorganised appraisal system, and in Carl’s later point about his trip to the US;
the lack of any connection between performance and pay;
G the sometimes oppressive physical conditions.
G Question 3 Looking at the summary from the previous question, how do Mumford’s five contractual areas help to explain current problems?
Mumford has identified five contractual areas relating to job satisfaction: the knowledge contract;
the psychological contract; the efficiency/reward contract; the ethical contract; and the task structure contract. Students should look at the information given in Table 18.1 on p. 648 of the main book to see how it relates to the points of grievance summarised in the answer to Question 2.
Question 4 How could ABC use job design to help them reduce the causes and effects of stress?
The students should draw on information in the text and practical experiences to examine the situation at ABC.
Question 5 What actions would you recommend Eric to take to improve employee commitment at ABC?
Students should look at the discussion of employee involvement and empowerment. This gives examples of the different forms successful employee involvement can take, including effective communication, the sharing of information and consultation, involving staff in problem solving, and training and developing the individual, all of which are relevant to the situation at ABC. The discussion also considers the benefits (or otherwise) of empowerment.
Exercise 1 1 Most of us belong to a number of organisations (college, firm, church, etc.) and a number of groups (family, hockey team, drama society, etc.). Make a list of yours and alongside it try to sum up in a short phrase or sentence why each one is important to you. Do this part of the exercise before reading on.
2 One of the difficulties in theorising about attitudes is their close connection with values and interests.
Going through your list now, which of the three are you stressing each time?
3 Considering next the factors that affect your level of satisfaction at work in particular, which of the following do you want from it?
Do your answers change if you ask the question of any unpaid or voluntary work you have or intend to do? Do they change again if you think in terms of a temporary post only?
Exercise 2: Motivation and stress exercise Part 1 1 Write down as many things that cause you stress as you can in 10 minutes on the lines below:
2 Put your list in priority order by writing the 1, 2 and 3 against the top three stressors.
Part 2 3 Choose a partner, according to the tutor’s guidelines.
4 Swap your Motivation scores (from Assignment 2 in Chapter 12) with your partner, but not your list of stressors. Keep that for now.
5 Look at your partner’s Motivation scores and note down what you think would be their top three causes of stress. They will do the same for you.
6 Discuss your findings with each other. How close did you get?
This exercise provides a link back to Chapter 12 and provides a basis for a critical discussion on both causes of stress and relationships with motivation. The exercise should also help course members in their understanding that topics studied in organisational behaviour should not be regarded as free-standing.
Assignment The successful executive This is the story of Lynette Thompson, who runs a very successful business. She started out as a selfemployed European Community legislation consultant. For the first three years, Lynette balanced the tasks of designing and running consultancy programmes for a select group of clients.
As time progressed, Lynette’s workload became increasingly difficult to cope with. She travelled extensively in the UK and Europe providing consultancy programmes for her client companies. At the same time, she was her own bookkeeper, administrative assistant and researcher.
Gradually, Lynette’s workload increased to such an extent that she found herself working seven days a week. She felt she could cope as her office was in her home. However, Lynette’s constant fear was that she would become ill, and not be able to work. She also had a home, a husband, a teenager and two dogs to think about and make time for.
Lynette did not feel her earnings justified the hire of a secretarial assistant or a researcher, so she continued to work an increasing number of hours; she also increased her travelling. She felt compelled to take on more challenging consultancy programmes in order to make a name for herself, and to grow and develop professionally.
Lynette believed in networking as a way to increase business. She joined two successful international business organisations. Soon, she found herself on a subcommittee, with more responsibilities. She agreed to run a monthly advisory programme without a fee. This was a good networking strategy, but it increased the pressures on her already overloaded life.
Adding further pressure, in the third year of running her own business Lynette began to publish a monthly newsletter for her clients. This provided a useful complement to her consultancy activities, and kept her clients abreast of new developments in the labyrinth of European legislation.
In year four, Lynette began to feel the physical repercussions of her activities. More fatigued than usual, one day she found herself almost unable to get out of bed. This frightened her, particularly as she prided herself on eating well, staying healthy and keeping fit.
She adhered to a daily routine of fitness. Even so, Lynette often rose at 4.30 a.m. to fly to a European destination, and worked with her clients until late each evening. She did try to make an hour for herself every evening prior to dinner, and kept up a regular routine of personal and professional reading.
What had gone wrong? Lynette began a round of visits to her doctor and to the local hospital for tests. The tests showed that she was extremely fit – great blood pressure, no cholesterol problems, good heart, and so forth. Yet she was beginning to feel more and more ill. She began to have regular headaches, lose her naturally clear complexion, suffer weight loss, and find her energy level severely depleted.
Despite these signals, Lynette felt she had no choice but to persevere with her strenuous programme.
One day, she found she could not go on. Her system collapsed. Out of sheer desperation, Lynette went 253
to an acupuncturist and a naturopathic doctor. This doctor discovered the problem. He diagnosed an infection of the liver and the malfunction of her adrenal glands – the accelerator pedal of the body. This came as a great shock to Lynette, who couldn’t understand how this could have happened to her. She had no choice but to cancel most of her consultancy engagements for the next two-month period, and began a strict dietary regime, taking recommended minerals, vitamins and medicines to eliminate the liver and adrenal problems.
Gradually, over a period of six months, Lynette began to recover her mental and physical well-being.
However, her illness caused her to look seriously at her working life. She realised that some radical changes were necessary. But where to begin?
1 What could Lynette have done differently to deal with her pressures, and cope with the immense stress she was under?
2 What would you recommend she do, once she reached the point of having to submit to her illness and cancel some of her work?
3 What role do you think gender played in the case of Lynette? Could that have been one of the issues which drove her on?
Contributed by Sunny Stout, Sun Training Managing stress is an important factor in a person’s approach to problems at work and at home and, ultimately, their ability to resolve them.
Stress is unavoidable. There will always be demands placed on us. People have existed on earth for nearly 1 000 000 years (or so say the palaeontologists) and we have developed mechanisms that help, or hinder, us in recognising symptoms of pressure and stress.