of the belt could now be adjusted anywhere between the lower and upper limits that the engineers had set.
The painters were delighted and spent many lunch hours deciding how the speed of the belt should be varied from hour to hour throughout the day. Within a week the pattern had settled down to one in which the first half hour of the shift was run on a medium speed
(a dial setting slightly above the point marked “medium”). The next two and a half hours were run at high speed, and the half hour before lunch and the half hour after lunch were run at low speed. The rest of the afternoon was run at high speed with the exception of the last 45 minutes of the shift, which was run at medium. The constant speed at which the engineers had originally set the belt was actually slightly below the
“medium” mark on the control dial; the average speed at which the painters were running the belt was on the high side of the dial. Few, if any, empty hooks entered the oven, and inspection showed no increase of rejects from the paint room. Production increased, and within three weeks (some two months before the scheduled ending of the learning bonus) the painters were operating at 30 to
50 percent above the level that had been expected under the original arrangement. Naturally, their earnings were correspondingly higher than anticipated. They were collecting their base pay, earning a considerable piece-rate bonus, and still benefiting from the learning bonus.
They were earning more now than many skilled workers in other parts of the plant.
Management was besieged by demands that the inequity between the earnings of the painters and
THE OB SKILLS WORKBOOK
those of other workers in the plant be taken care of. With growing irritation between the superintendent and the supervisor, the engineers and supervisor, and the superintendent and engineers, the situation came to a head when the superintendent revoked the learning bonus and returned the painting operation to its original status: the hooks moved again at their constant, time-studied, designated speed. Production dropped again and within a month all but two of the eight painters had quit. The supervisor stayed on for several months, but, feeling aggrieved, left for another job.
1. How does the painters’ job score on the core job characteristics before and after the changes were made? How can the positive impact of the job redesign be explained? 2. Was the learning bonus handled properly in this case? How can its motivational impact be explained?
What alternative approaches could have been taken with similar motivational results?
3. How do you explain the situation described in the last paragraph of the case? How could this outcome have been avoided by appropriate managerial actions? ■
The Forgotten Group Member
Developed by Franklin Ramsoomair, Wilfred Laurier University
he Organizational Behavior course for the semester appeared to promise the opportunity to learn, enjoy, and practice some of the theories and principles in the textbook and class discussions. Christine Spencer was a devoted, hard-working student who had been maintaining an A–average to date. Although the skills and knowledge she had acquired through her courses were important, she was also very concerned about her grades. She felt that grades were paramount in giving her a competitive edge when looking for a job and, as a third-year student, she realized that she’d soon be doing just that.
Sunday afternoon. Two o’clock.
Christine was working on an accounting assignment but didn’t seem to be able to concentrate. Her courses were working out very well this semester, all but the OB. Much of the mark in that course was to be based on the quality of groupwork, and so she felt somewhat out of control. She…