Observational Behavior Case Study: Millicent Mcmahon

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At the completion of his MBA, George received two job offers which consisted of one from ABC consulting and one from a ‘Big 4 Organization’. The ‘Big 4’ Organization offered a better salary and greater exposure to big-name clients. However, George suspected he’d have to work extremely long hours in a less bolstering workplace, when what he truly wanted was a work-life balance, in a job where his creativity was supported. After much consideration, he chose ABC consulting. With the condition of a three-month probationary period, George entered into his new job with excitement and a positive drive, only to become overwhelmed by the fast-paced reality of the role. Before long, George develops a sense of irritation and umbrage at his struggles of trying to adjust to the fast-paced working environment. He resorts to carrying out his role as a project team member with the absolute minimum level of effort. As a result, George has recently been informed he will not be receiving a bonus after his three-month probationary period.

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Critical analysis

Motivation is defined as “the processes that account for an individual’s intensity, direction and persistence of effort towards attaining a goal.” It is the foundation for any positive work ethic and productivity. George can be seen to experience a rollercoaster of emotions in the way he perceives the challenges of his job. He has problems managing the work load and its difficulty as well as his struggle to work with someone who is very vocal in her own perceptions and opinions. Throughout George’s time at ABC consulting his optimistic perspective and level of motivation can be seen to change drastically. As soon as George’s excitement about his new position is replaced by nerves and stress, his performance is impacted. This can be described by Herzberg’s ‘Two-factor theory’. This theory states that an individual’s relationship with their work is very basic and that one’s attitude towards their work can determine their outcome of success or failure. Herzberg stated that intrinsic factors such as recognition, advancement and responsibility were related to job satisfaction. Hence, when George doesn’t receive the praise he originally expected to receive, his impression of the job and his overall job satisfaction begins to decline. George demonstrates how a lack of intrinsic motivation impacts the perspective an employee may have on employment expectations. Upon failing to receive the praise and recognition he thought would be “easily achievable,” he develops “a feeling of anger and resentment” in which his work ethic is truly impacted. Here, he begins to exercise less effort, by arriving late to work, leaving early and taking long breaks.

Herzberg’s two-factor theory can be seen by George putting in the bare minimum, he will receive the bare minimum in return, as he is refused the bonus for his lack of effort in the office. Herzberg found that factors associated with satisfaction included recognition and responsibility, whilst factors for dissatisfaction included salary and relationships with supervisors and peers. The simple act of a bonus later on in time was not enough to keep George satisfied in his role at ABC Consulting. He was instead after the advancement in recognition and responsibility. Intrinsic motivators are the true foundation of job satisfaction. The Equity theory proposes a balance between a worker’s input and output within a workplace. If an employee is successful in finding the right balance, it can lead to a more productive workplace. Upon receiving feedback and criticism for his work, George feels as though he has been treated unfairly. He believed he was a hardworking employee, so was taken aback when his efforts seemed unappreciated. George had an expectation of receiving the 10% bonus at the end of his probationary three months. However, at the review meeting it was made apparent to him that he was no longer going to receive the bonus as he didn’t “perform as well as expected.” When an employee perceives themselves to be under-rewarded, also known as an unequal ratio, then the tension creates anger. Equity can be subjective, residing in our perception.

Employees perceive an organization as equitable and just, when they believe that the outcomes in which they have received are fair. George feels as though he was treated unjustly by not receiving the bonus. Employees distinguish between what they get from an employment situation with what they put into it. An ‘Input’ is anything someone contributes to a job, whilst an ‘output’ refers to the benefits a person is rewarded from a job. In George’s case, he believed his invested work would result in a high level or job satisfaction and a pay bonus. However, the inputs George incorporated into his role were surprisingly “ripped to shreds” from Janet’s criticism. This “came as a complete shock,” as our perceptions of ourselves are highly bias, in that people tend to view themselves significantly different to the way others view us. Hence, when George’s efforts were critiqued, he lost the motivation to try and exert his knowledge into his job, therefore not receiving any additional benefits. Little work is met with little reward.

Vroom’s Expectancy theory claims that employees will be motivated to exert a higher level of effort when they expect that doing so will lead to performance appraisal, in the form of organizational rewards such as bonuses and other rewards that satisfy the personal goals of individuals. Vroom’s expectancy theory assumes that behavior stems from the conscious choices one makes with the intention of maximizing fulfillment. An employee’s performance is based on their own personality, skills, experience and overall mentality. This theory predicts that an employee will be motivated when the predicted organizational rewards are expected and valued by the employee as a result of putting in more. George initially exerted a high level of effort as he believed he was well suited to the role and that he could obtain good performance appraisal. This can be associated with the performance-reward relationship of the Expectancy theory; in which it refers to the degree to which one believes that performing at a particular level will lead to a particular desired outcome. George is initially very keen to spend extra time working both in the office and at home as a means to get the recognition and praise he received when he first applied. Employees will be more motivated to exert a high level of effort when they believe that doing so will lead to a good performance appraisal; which will lead to organizational rewards such as bonus salary increases; and that rewards will satisfy the personal goals’ of employees.


There are multiple pathways in which George and his team can pursue in order to improve his work ethic and job satisfaction. Firstly, ABC consulting can undertake some training courses for new employees, to reduce the intimidating prospect of such a forward thinking job. Employees who are properly trained have a reinforced sense of value. By training new employees, it creates a more supportive and collaborative workplace in which employees are comfortable in their role and their understanding. Another solution is for the management at ABC consulting to set goals for George to aim to achieve. By breaking down each individual criterion that needs completion, George would be more motivated to succeed as he’ll know exactly what needs doing and how to achieve it. This would additionally, allow him to feel more appreciated. A third solution may be employee growth strategies. Good employees are eager to learn and want to develop new skills and knowledge as a way to improve their workplace performance, individually and in a team. Furthermore, another resolution to this situation is management training for Janet. Whilst this is not directly targeting improving George’s skill set, it is important to note that a manager can greatly affect an employee’s willingness to remain in a job. Research has found that a poor manager is the number one reason why people quit their jobs. Janet is presented to be less of a friendly, supportive face as she has a tendency to be “criticizing everything” as opposed to giving constructive criticism and feedback. Therefore, the training of managers may improve communication between colleagues and the compatibility of team members.


There are many ways to implement the possible solutions, including introductory workshops for new employees, employee growth strategies, regular individual goal setting sessions and management training. By incorporating introductory training workshops, it will enable all new employees to properly adjust into their new roles in a new company. This will include teaching employee’s strategies and giving them the tools and equipment that they need to get the job done. When employees feel that they have what they need to complete a task, then their job satisfaction increases considerably. A workshop will outline how the workplace operates, what differentiates their working methods to other organizations and how to use the accessible resources. To implement employee growth strategies, it is important to not force random skill improvement training at employees, as it needs to be methodical and well-thought-out so that it is a logical progression of new skills for the employees. Techniques for this may include paying for further studies, having employees train other employees in their areas of expertise and hosting outside seminars. Not only is it easy and cost effective to implement, but setting goals could also help boost overall morale. This could be achieved through weekly one-on-one meetings between Janet and George in which they can have an overview of the past week and a rundown in regards to the upcoming week. This would clearly outline what George is expected to do as well as making it clear what he has done well. Commending an employee regularly for a job well done can help them develop a higher level of self-efficacy and self-efficiency. Implementing management training would help boost relationships between employees and managers. Steve Miranda, Managing Director of the Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies at Cornell University stated “employees don’t quit jobs. They quit managers.” Janet’s management should consider incorporating the training of managers to be better communicators, motivators and support for employees as a way to keep staff on board. Training managers to act as a guidance for employees and to build healthy working relationships. Communication is key to any relationship or interaction, which also leads to it preventing conflict and quarrels at work. Regular training for managers will enable them to keep their people skills and leadership skills up-to-date to know how to handle any situation.


George’s decision to choose ABC consulting resulted in his motivation to rising and falling so drastically, particularly in such a short period of time. Using the aforementioned motivation theories, one is able to see that whilst it is primarily George’s fault, some of the blame of failed employee retention can fall onto the managers. This is a result of poor introductory training and high expectations. Communication between employer and employee failed miserably for George and ABC Consulting. George went in with the expectation of it being an easy job that he was going to excel at, only to be taken aback at the workload and the difficulty of the content. He sorely overestimated his capabilities and the work ethic required of a company not part of ‘The Big 4’.

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