Cases for Motivation

Case  #1   Resistance to Change

 Employees face the threat of the unknown when consultants arrive to study their performance. The incident involves the process of successful change: gaining acceptance, coordination, use of consultants, attitudes, and morale.


As office manager of the Worthless Paper Products Corporation (WPP), Minnie Reems was responsible for the work of approximately forty employees, of whom 26 were classified as either data processors or clerks. Acting under instructions from Kenny Count, the company CEO, she agreed to allow F. Taylor Group, Ltd., (FTG),a team of outside consultants,to enter his realm of responsibility and conduct time and motion,and systems-analysis studies in an effort to improve the efficiency and output of her staff.

The consultants began by studying job descriptions, making observations, and recording each minute detail of the work of the data processors and file clerks. After two weeks,they indicated to Reems and her employees that they were prepared to begin even more detailed studies, observations, and interviews on the following day.

The nest morning, five employees participating in the study were absent.  On the following day, ten employees were absent.  Concerned, Reems investigated the cause of the absenteeism by telephoning several absentees.  Each employee related approximately the same story.  Each was nervous, tense, and tired after being viewed as a "guinea pig" for several days. One data processor told Reems that her physician suggested she could ask for a leave of absence based on her complaints of carpel tunnel syndrome if she needed to. Another told Reems, "We ain't no ‘Hawthorne' happy hoppers here in this shop! And, we ain't fixin' to please management just because this Taylor guy thinks we can do more with less."

Shortly after the telephone calls, the chief of FTG's systems-analysis team explained to Reems that if there were as many absences on the next day, his team would have to drop the study and proceed to another department. He said that a valid analysis would be impossible to conduct with only ten employees absent. Realizing that she would held responsible for the failure of the systems-analysis, Reems began to create and evaluate alternative strategies to rectify the problem so the study could continue. She could fire all those who were absent without legitimate causes and send a clear signal that non-cooperation would not be tolerated. Or she could simply get some temps in to replace them.

But even if the studies were completed successfully, she was concerned about implementing the procedural changes that she knew would be mandated after the study was completed. Thinking back on her prior experience as a drill sergeant in the Marines, Reems was astute enough to realize that policies declared and orders issued are not always followed by instant compliance, even in the military, and that this wasn't a military operation. She was also concerned that without an increase in productivity, the operation could not remain cost effective. As a result, the operation would probably be outsourced and everyone would be fired.


Analyze the incident from a motivational theory standpoint. As a personnel specialist, develop a strategy BASED ON SOUND PSYCHOLOGICAL THEORY to get the workers motivated to come to work and buy into the systems-analysis study so that the consultants can finish their job. The consultants from FTG, not being I/O psychologists, could not have anticipated the motivational problem they created. However, with your training in I/O psychology, you can help salvage the project by using your knowledge of motivational theories. You should consider the various theories such as: need, equity, expectancy, goal setting, and intrinsic motivation (and perhaps others). Which one(s) should be incorporated in your plan? Be specific as to how the theories could be implemented to save the day.

Minnie Reems has asked you to:

 1. Develop a strategy to solve the motivational problem

 2. Present it to the management team and the consultants

 3. Be sure you utilize a(n) motivational theories

 4. Suggest how it can be implemented

 5. Provide evidence (i.e empirical studies) it will work

Case #2   Motivation:   Production Slowdown at Bendum Metal Fab, Inc. 


When the new supervisor improves production dramatically at the expense of employee relations, the plant must face rumblings of rebellion. The incident calls for considering grievances, using authority, gaining acceptance of change, generating motivation, obtaining commitment, and linking output with job satisfaction.


May B. Wright had been made supervisor of a production line at Bendum Metal Fabrication, Inc.(BMF). The plant manager, Sommer Flimsay, made her responsible for operating the entire production line efficiently and effectively. Wright supervised 6 forepersons and 48 assembly line workers.  Her job was to keep the assembly line going at the scheduled 150 units per hour.

When Wright took the supervisor's job two months previously, the production line was losing 90 minutes of production a day.  Line stoppages, maintenance problems, absenteeism, and workers stopping the line for repair were some causes of lost production.  The 90-minute loss was approximately 20 percent of the daily operating schedule.

Wright reduced absenteeism and took other steps to prevent the loss of scheduled production time. She kept the main line going even when some feeder lines stopped. "The workers don't like it," said Wright. "They resent working the required 7 hours and 45 minutes a day instead of only 6 hours and 30 minutes."

The disgruntlement of the production line workers toward Wright seemed to be centered in Izzy Short and Monica-Lou Inski. The complaints against Wright were varied and included the following. Both Short and Monica-Lou said that Wright laid off workers for being two minutes late.  They also said that Wright had forepersons picking up trash. Short said that Wright had threatened him with an iron bar about eight inches long and claimed that Wright was guilty of using "speed-up" tactics. Insky said she had friends in high places and would do whatever it took to get some action.  As a result of these events, the two filed a formal grievance targeting Wright.

The plant manager knew that Wright was the target of increasingly vitriolic verbal protests by Short and Inski. Both were openly defiant and implied that they were ready to take matters into their own hands, especially Monica-Lou.

Confronted with this high and rising level of employee unrest, the plant manager reflected upon Wright's inability to achieve simultaneously adequate production and adequate behavioral relations with her workers. He wondered "Are these two goals necessarily incompatible? Does the problem lie with Wright, the assembly line workers, or the situation?" More importantly, Flimsay knew that prompt decisions an actions were essential to defuse the explosive situation. He particularly didn't want the press to get hold of all this and blow it all out of proportion.

While action was immediately needed to extinguish the agitation among the assembly line workers, the plant manager wished to use Wright in a positive role, and he desired to maintain the improved production rates achieved under Wright's leadership. For the longer run, he reasoned that developing specific operational policies would be essential in areas such as  supervisory training, introduction of change, team building, and other areas relevant to balancing supervisory concern for task performance with concern for behavioral relationships. Implementation of these policies would be difficult, and he knew it. As the plant manager pondered his plight, his stress increased. He was uncertain where to begin. Should he call his lawyer first, or later?


Analyze the scenario from a motivational theory standpoint. As a personnel specialist, develop a strategy BASED ON SOUND PSYCHOLOGICAL THEORY to motivate the workers to buy into the systems. Wright, not being a good manager, has contributed to her line workers' disenchantment. She did not anticipate the motivational problem she helped create. However, you, as a clever personnel specialist, can help salvage the manager and improve the line workers' morale by using your knowledge of motivational theories. You should consider the various theories such as: need, equity, expectancy, goal setting and intrinsic motivation. Which one(s) should be incorporated in your plan to help motivate (train) Wright and which one(s) should be employed to motivate the line workers?

The personnel manager, Kit Gloves, has asked you to:

 1. Develop a strategy to solve this motivational problem

 2. Present it to her and Sommer, the plant manager

 3. Be sure you utilize a(n) motivational theories

 4. Suggest how it (they) can be implemented to address both
         problems: Wright and the workers

 5. Provide evidence to support why your proposal will work

Case #3 :   MOTIVATION   Robot Repercussion


Industrial robots offer the potential to improve manufacturing performance and to decrease manufacturing employment. Accordingly, labor unions desire to bargain decisions on the use of robotic technology, on advance notice, on retraining for displaced workers, and for spread-the-work programs which are all related to traditional management rights.


Manley Principal, Vice President of industrial relations for Manley Manufacturing, Inc., sat in his office reviewing the list of benefits the company expected to realize from increasing its use of industrial robots. In a few minutes he would walk down to the labor-management conference room for a meeting with Kenny stoppum, president of the labor union local representing most of the company's industrial employees. The purpose of this meeting would be to informally exchange views and positions preliminary to the opening of formal contract negotiations later in the month which would focus on the use of computer-integrated robotic systems and the resulting impact on employment, workers, and jobs.

Both Principal and Stoppum had access to similar information flows relevant to industrial robots, including the following. Unlike single-task machines, installed in earlier stages of automation, robots can be programmed (re-tooled)to do one job and then reprogrammed to do another one in record time. The pioneering generation of robots is mainly programmed to load machines, weld, forge, spray paint, handle materials, and inspect auto bodies. The latest generation of robots includes vision-controlled robots which enable the machines to approximate the human ability to recognize and size up objects , using laser-beam patterns recorded by television cameras and manipulates the images relayed by the camera in a "smart" or artificially intelligent way.

Experts concluded that the impact of robot installation on employment would be profound, although the extent of the worker replacement was not clear. The conclusion was inescapable that robot usage had the capacity to increase manufacturing performance and to decrease manufacturing employment.

Principal walked down to the conference room. Finding Stoppum already there, and after exchanging appropriate greetings, Principal stated the company's position regarding installations of industrial robots. "The company needs the cooperation of the union and our workers. We don't wish to be perceived as callously exchanging human workers for robots." Principal then listed the major advantages associated with robots: (1) improved quality of product due to the accuracy of robots; (2) reduced operating costs, as the per-hour operational cost of robots was about one third of the per-hour cost of wages and benefits paid to an average employee; (3) reliability improvements, as robots work tirelessly and don't require behavioral support; (4) greater manufacturing flexibility since robots are readily reprogrammable for different jobs. Principal concluded that these robot advantages would make the company more competitive, which would allow the company to grow and increase its work force.

Stoppum's response was direct and strong. "We aren't' Luddites racing around ruining machines. We know it's necessary to increase productivity and that robotic technology is here. But we can't give the company a blank check. We need safeguards and protection." Stoppum continued, "we intend to bargain for the following contract provisions: (1) establishment of labor-management committees to negotiate in advance about the labor impact of robotic technology and , of equal importance, to have a voice in deciding how and whether it should be used; (2) retraining rights for workers displaced, to include retraining for new positions in the plant, the community, or other company plants; (4) work to be spread among workers by use of a four-day work week aor other acceptable plan as an alternative to reducing the work force." Stoppum's final sentence summed up the union's position "We in the union believe that the company is giving our jobs to robots in order to reduce the labor force."

Their meeting ended amiably, but Principal and Stoppum each knew that much hard bargaining lay ahead. As Principal returned to his office, the two opposing positions were obvious. On his yellow tablet, Principal listed the requirements as he saw them; (1) a clearly stated overall policy was needed to guide negotiation decisions and actions; (2) it was critical to decide on a company position regarding each of the union's announced demands and concern; (3) an implementation plan must be developed.

As Principal considered these challenges, he idly contemplated a robot possessing artificial intelligence and vision capability that could help him in this work. Immediately a danger alarm sounded in his mind. A robot so constructed might be more than helpful and might take over this and other important aspects of his job. Slightly chagrined, Principal returned to his task, needing help- but not from any "smart" robot.


Analyze the incident from a motivational theory standpoint. As personnel specialists, develop a strategy to motivate the workers to buy into the robot implementation plan. Principal, not being wise to I/O principles of motivation, did not anticipate the problem he helped create. However you, as a clever personnel specialist, can help get Stoppum to convince his members to accept the plan. You are asked by Principal to use your knowledge of motivational theory to solve this difficult problem. You should consider the various theories such as: need, equity, expectancy, goal setting and intrinsic motivation. Which one(s) should be incorporated in your plan to help get agreement between management and labor? What concessions would labor and management each have to make to accommodate your plan?

Principal, the VP, has asked you to:

 1. Develop a strategy to solve the problem

 2. Present it to him and the CEO, Howard D. Doit

 3. Be sure you utilize a(n) motivational theories

 4. Suggest how the theory(s) can be implemented to convince
         labor to cooperate

 5. Provide evidence to support why your proposal will work