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Analysis of the Case Study "Not as Easy as 1, 2, 3"

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The case “Not As Easy As 1, 2, 3” depicts George, a recent MBA graduate, realize the harsh realities of “stepping into the real world”. George, a graduate consultant at ABC consulting, accepted the role over a ‘Big 4 Organization’ offer, as he wished to avoid “extremely long hours, in conflict-ridden environments, and under the kiss up, kick down management style”. After disappointing in his first project review meeting, George aimed to rectify his poor performance with an “excellent report.” However, George’s area manager, Janet, heavily criticized his sedulous work, with unconstructive and patronizing feedback, ultimately leaving George dejected. Neither his nor the firm needs and wants were being satisfied. As a result, the quality and quantity of output by George fell. Moreover, George’s enthusiasm fell, became lazy and had an overall feeling of ‘what’s the point’. George’s increasingly poor attitude and performance had not gone unnoticed by the Firm, subsequently the ‘probationary period’ of three months before the 10% bonus, was reinstated. George stated it was the ‘last straw’ before resigning. Within this case analysis, the problems/issues for George at the firm will be analyzed, through the relevant concepts and theories of motivation and job satisfaction that can rationalize his attitudes and behaviors. Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene theory, Equity Theory, McClelland’s Theory of Needs and Vroom’s Expectancy Theory, all apply to this scenario to provide an understanding as to the breakdown of the relationship between George and ABC Consulting. Furthermore, strategies that the firm can implement to prevent turnover among new consultants will also be investigated.

Critical analysis

Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory

Psychologist Frederick Herzberg proposed the Motivation-Hygiene Theory or the Two-Factor Theory in 1959, which associated intrinsic factors to job satisfaction and extrinsic factors to job dissatisfaction. Intrinsic/ ‘Motivating factors’ include Promotion opportunities, Opportunities for personal growth, Recognition, Responsibility and Achievement, whilst Extrinsic/ ‘Hygiene factors’ include Company policies, supervision, salary and working conditions. Throughout George’s employment, a combination of factors decreased his satisfaction and increased dissatisfaction, overall reducing his workplace motivation. George’s motivation and behavior became ‘not satisfied’. Fundamentally, due to his intrinsic factors not being met, through the lack of recognition received for his work on the client report. The case alludes to George putting in extensive hours, evident when it reads, “He, George, would be in the office by 7am, and not leave before 7pm, and often continued working at home.” Clearly, George expected sufficient recognition and reward in return, ultimately fulfilling his intrinsic need. However, Janet (area manager) criticized George’s work, causing him to feel of little value. Consequently, George is ‘not satisfied’, due to the lessened motivator factors, resulting in a downward trend in terms of his job satisfaction. Further, the inability of the Firm to meet George’s hygiene factors lead to a curtailment effort, and drop in attitude. George is highly dissatisfied with his job (dissonance with his choice of job). The most significant hygiene factor that was not met was Salary (compensation). Although, the case specified that financial compensation was not the primary incentive for George, “money was important, but more important was a work-life balance, the freedom to be creative and having supportive and collaborative colleagues”. However, the 10% annual bonus post three-month probationary period was a necessary factor for George. However, on the day of the review, Janet stated a “re-evaluation” of his performance in three months is required, thus his extrinsic factor did not converge with his expectations. George who initially avoided the “Kiss up, kick down” management, was dissatisfied with the supervision, coupled with poor co-worker relations and a delayed salary review. This culmination impacted George’s thoughts of resignation, as he was now both experiencing ‘Low Satisfaction’ as a result of his intrinsic factors not being met, as well as ‘High Dissatisfaction’ due to his extrinsic factors being disregarded. Adam’s Equity Theory John Stacey Adams, a workplace and behavior psychologist, published his Equity Theory (1963), which explores the principle that “Where perceived inputs and outputs of the person and their referent differ, feelings of inequality arise”.

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Another fundamental aspect of the theory is that employees are motivated only if their individual input-to-output ratio is ‘fair’ in relation to their co-workers, people with same job at a different organization and/or their own past experience at the same or different job. Adam’s Equity Theory is applicable to George’s case. George spent “the entire weekend revising the report, following precisely Janet’s comments”, evidently spending a considerable time and effort, whilst only negative outcomes ensued. This inequity resulted in George’s demotivation, exhibited where the case study reads, “Why should I work this hard when they treat me like this?”. When George is informed that “you haven’t performed as well as we expected”, and that his three month ‘probationary’ period will restart, he felt as if he hadn’t been treated equitably, with relation to his co-workers, under the presence “everyone gets onto the bonus system after three months”. This fuelled a sense of entitlement, and subsequent feeling of injustice. This feeling stems from a belief that he has worked hard and deserved the bonus “He figured it (bonus system) would make up for all his work that had not been recognized”. However, rather than seeking to adjust his input/output ratio to a point George considered ‘fair’, he treats the development as the ‘last straw’ before his resignation. It is worthy to note that Adam’s equity theory is based purely upon one’s subjective perception, rather than of objective means. Regardless of the validity of perceived inequality, the feeling of inequality results in significantly lowered motivation in the workplace. Vroom’s Expectancy Theory Victor Vroom outlined that an employee’s performance is based on individual factors such as personality, knowledge, experience and abilities. The theory suggests that although individuals have different sets of goals, they can be motivated if:

  1. There is a positive correlation between efforts and performance,
  2. Favorable performance will result in a desirable reward,
  3. The reward will satisfy an important need.

He uses three variables Expectancy, Instrumentality and Valence to account for this. Expectancy is the perceived relationship between effort and performance, in which an individual’s input of effort will consequently result in a performance enhancement. Instrumentality, the perceived relationship between performance and outcome, where there will be an outcome associated with the performance level. Valence is the degree to which an outcome is desirable to an individual, the recompense for their work.. Expectancy is observed when George presumes his increased effort will result in less scrutiny from his co-workers. Despite increasing his work effort, his work is criticized by his co-workers, resulting in demotivation, as there is no apparent relationship between his level of effort and job performance. Instrumentality is linked with George’s anticipation of the 10% bonus. He described the bonus with entitlement, as it would “make up for all his work that had not been recognized”. When George is told, he is not eligible for the bonus system, his instrumentality is reduced. Although monetary gain is often focused upon, valence may also constitute non-monetary rewards such as commendation or a compliment, something George did not receive. For motivation to be high, expectancy, instrumentality and valence must all be high; however, in George’s case, neither of the three elements are high, and his motivation is greatly reduced and results in his view “Why should I work this hard when they treat me like this?”.

McClelland’s Theory of Needs

David McClelland proposed that an individual’s specific needs are acquired over time and are shaped by one’s life experiences. The theory is a function of the desire for fulfillment, which describes how an individual’s need for achievement, affiliation and power affects behavior in a managerial setting. In particular affiliation and achievement needs affect George. McClelland’s theory states that individuals with high need for achievement are motivated by the need to goals set out and the drive to accomplish such goals, whilst minimize risk of failure by applying themselves to moderate level tasks. Whilst individuals with a high need for affiliation, are motivated by the need to form a bond with other people and the need to fit in within an organization. When a person’s needs are fulfilled they are said to experience higher levels of motivation and hence job performance. George’s need for affiliation is demonstrated by his initial decision to choose ABC Consulting over a higher paying job. Reflecting his value of a strong work-life balance, freedom to create but also a need for supportive colleagues in the work environment. A key issue George faces, is the disappointment of not gaining co-worker approval and the lack of support and/or training from his supervisor. George felt undervalued and ultimately a loss of motivation. Further, George’s demotivation according to McClelland was his lack of achievement driven by Janet’s criticism effort he put into his work. The combination of reduced fulfillment of achievement and affiliation is manifested in the quote “George did not feel like going to work”.

Solutions

Firstly, the Firm offering a 10% annual bonus to all ‘confirmed’ employees post three-month probationary period was a key issue. The criteria was unclear, hence “George sensed the target was easily achievable”, as he was under the impression “it’s just a formality”. A solution could be a more explicit evaluation requirement of the bonus. By underpinning that the bonus is only issued to those who satisfy the necessary requirements, future employees avoid the belief that “everyone gets the bonus system after three-months”. Secondly, organizations are increasingly acknowledging the importance of employee recognition programs. A UK survey of industry professionals ranking ‘recognition of their efforts’ as the most important organizational metric. It is critical that the firm creates recognition programs for employees.

In addition, greater training and development programs for new consultants, to avoid being ‘thrown in the deep end’. Training experienced staff, to mentor new employees is important. Greater communication, such as weekly meetings or employee surveys are helpful. As well as adopting a more situational leadership style. Especially today, when cross-cultural settings have become apparent.

Implementation

To clarify the 10% annual bonus, it would be essential to introduce clearly defined quantifiable measures so employees are aware of work expectations and how their output compares with expectations. For example, clear goals given to individual employees or targets or minimum quotas to reach remove subjectivity in evaluations. Further, any issues with ‘Adam’s Equity Theory’ are reduced through objective measures, as employees may attribute their bonus or lack thereof to their work rather than external factors. Additionally, issues of both instrumentality and valence components associated with ‘Vroom’s Expectancy Theory’ are minimized as a defined relationship between job performance and outcome is transparent. Through the implementation of greater recognition processes that concentrated on both emotional and financial recognition, George’s diminished morale and motivation would have been prevented, as it would’ve avoided his heightened insecurities of his own ideas, as well as receiving his 10% employee bonus which would’ve deterred thoughts of resignation. Thus, recognition systems can prevent turnover amongst new consultants since they ensure employees feel valued at the organization, incentivizing them to stay loyal to the firm. The implementation of situational leadership styles may be difficult since they’re largely influenced by an individual’s attitudes, behaviors and overall personality. Thus, hard to change naturally, however, an autocratic leader such as Janet, can introduce initiatives to be more participative with her subordinates. These initiatives could include employee feedback surveys, sessions where employees can share their input and ideas, or creating a relaxed workplace culture where employees feel comfortable when conversing with management. The cost of a demotivated employee to productivity is significant, as well as the firm faces possible damage to its brand by a disgruntled employee, impacting future hiring. Whilst motivated and engaged employees reduce churn.

Conclusion

It was through a variety of intrinsic and extrinsic factors that triggered the deterioration of George and ABC consulting’s relationship. By considering the four theories/concepts, we concluded that overall George’s reduced motivation as a result of external factors was the key determinant in the resignation. However, these problems within ABC consulting, can be addressed and solved through the implementation of certain incentives, targeted toward a more cohesive work place, with greater quantifiable measurement of performance. Thus, in the long-term resulting in the prevention of new consultant turnover.

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