Note from the Editor: This is the second of series of 6 articles written by the author, Vardar Çobanoğlu. The full series is a compelling piece on Organizational Behavior, Human Resources, and Corporate Management. You can read part 1 here. You can find the author’s other articles here.
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“So much for the case. Let me start with the simplest but the toughest question first: ‘What is going on here?’ had said F. J. Roethlisberger in his article. Now I will try to answer it with a different approach than his.
- Quality Control Checker: Mr. Hart’s superior,
- Mr. Hart: ex co-worker, group supervisor,
- Bing: group member,
- Labor Union Representative,
- Remaining Employees: three men and three women.
Nature of the Work:
- Quality testing and inspection of panels for electronic equipment => It seems that this is an intermediary department in the production process where any slow down or bottleneck would surely result first in temporary idleness, but then in hustles and hurry-scurries at the final assembly and in delays at the packaging and delivery departments.
- Consequently, employees are paid on a piecework incentive basis, probably with assigned quotas => The very nature of the work induces them to maximize their earnings by speeding up the work process, as contractually agreed on by the Management and the Labor Union, such that an employee can use any time-saving method or device to this end, as long as the quality standards of the job are met.
- It is understood from the practice that the set-up time allowed to employees in performing their job is more than sufficient to quality test and inspect a single panel => This is either due to Management’s sloppiness in forgetting about or its conscious decision in delaying the review and resetting of the procedural standards through time and motion analyses, probably because of the pressing market demand for various reasons (e.g. war; major competitor’s production or delivery problems).
- Thus, clever employees have taken the initiative of using the going set-up time for doubling and even tripling the panels in quality testing and inspection as a common practice since a long time ago (“We’ve always been doing it” says Bing ) => This might point out to another Managerial mistake, now related to the Control Function, that I tend to call Omission-induced Legitimization or Legitimization by Toleration, as exceptional earnings of such employees are either unnoticed, or silently approved at the Payroll Department because of the related benefits at all levels as the work process is sped up.
- Apparently, there has been no problem with the quality standards despite the unconventional undertaking, as no corrective general or specific action to curb or stop it was taken => This is another very dangerous situation in Management Practice which I am tempted to call Precedence-driven Legitimization or Legitimization by Exception, as the actual absence of aberrations tend to disregard and exclude their occurrence potential!..
Key Events and Interpretations:
- The Quality Control Checker notices Bing’s practice and draws Mr. Hart’s attention = Too late of an observation that should have been made long ago; superficial and reactive intervention without investigating, nor analyzing the nature of the work, except for the eventuality that he is new with the company or the department => This is a classical Managerial Attitude lacking depth by isolating an individual case from a general practice = Bad Professionalism.
- Mr. Hart assumes a mute or passive affiliation with his superior instead of giving him a fair explanation of “What is going on here?” first, as it would have been expected from a team supervisor => This evidences his Lack of Leadership and Human Skills justifying Bing’s saying, “…seems to be having some difficulty in knowing how to manage us employees.” Moreover, he tries to profit from the occasion for exercising a long sought punitive action on Bing = Wicked Professionalism.
- Bing keeps his cool at his superior’s provocative approach with his first warning, but calls in the Union Representative after the second attempt => The Preplanned Disobedience Process he had started long ago with the promotion of his fellow employee he probably disapproved of, is gradually elevated from interpersonal and intradepartmental levels higher up to corporate levels and Mr. Hart’s helplessness in solving the problem aggravates as his counteractive menace in “taking the matter up the line“ is viewed as an idle threat, for this would be serving Bing’s ultimate objective of being transferred to another department = Conscious Professionalism.
- The Union Representative behaves reactively along with his responsibilities, but unexpectedly poised without exaggerating and taking advantage from the case => This is perhaps because his Union is content with the premiums they are getting from this piecework incentive basis further favored by the sped-up inspection which is contractally recognized = Cool Professionalism.
- Some of the remaining employees, probably the men, as Mr. Hart seems to treat the women more decently, align themselves with Bing’s undertakings => This expanding confrontation, probably originating from similar feelings, motives and interests as Bing’s, results in their exposed standing as Active Followers or Conspirators instead of the safer role of Passive Spectators or Mr. Hart’s Partisans = Risky Professionalism.