SOS in DHSA Problem of Motivation: A Case Study
About 18 months ago, Jess Johnson was appointed to direct a newly authorized and funded unit in the states Department of Human Services (DHS). Shortly thereafter, she interviewed and hired six new employees to staff the unit. The name of the unit is Service Outreach for Seniors (SOS). Its purpose is to coordinate services for the vulnerable elderly. This is Jesss first supervisory position.
Susan Jones and Bob Martin were two of the new employees Jess hired. Initially, both were very productive, enthusiastic, and industrious. Bob had taken the initiative to work closely with several prominent private service providers to ensure their cooperation and involvement in the new program. Susan had done a terrific job of producing publications and other materials describing the goals of the unit and explaining SOS services to the elderly. But since this initial spurt of activity and enthusiasm, both Susan and Bob have become less-than-ideal employees in Jesss estimation.
Within 6 months of his hiring, Bob developed what Jess considers to be poor work habits (e.g., very long lunches and coffee breaks, tardiness, absenteeism). Bob demonstrates little interest in or enthusiasm for his work. Although he generally accomplishes those tasks that are directly assigned to him (at least in a minimal manner), he rarely volunteers ideas or takes the initiative. From Jesss perspective, employees who take initiative and demonstrate creativity are critical to helping the unit establish itself politically and creating a service where none had existed before.
Susan, on the other hand, has become quite creative in the sense that she has ceased to check with Jess (or anyone) on important policy matters before speaking to external groups and individuals. On several occasions, she has promised things to representatives of organizations and to elected officials that the SOS program simply could not deliver. On other occasions, she has misrepresented her role as a staff member, instead leaving the impression that she was directing the unit. This has embarrassed Jess and her supervisors more than once. Despite Susans apparent desire to be in the limelight in the political and community arena, she has developed an open disdain for the regular workload in her area. She routinely misses deadlines and fails to complete important paperwork.
Jess has met with Bob and Susan separately to discuss her dissatisfaction with their performance. Being a matter- of-fact person, Jess simply told them that their work was not up to par and that she expected them to improve. For a week or so, things seemed to get better. But the same problems quickly resurfaced.
The other four employees Jess hired are doing well. They have what she considers good work habits: They usually are on time and are willing to work hard to help the new unit succeed. They seem to be eager to do well. She can count on them to complete assigned tasks and meet deadlines. Each of them, in his or her own way, also has demonstrated a willingness to go above and beyond and to make positive suggestions for improving the operations and services of the unit.
But the problems with Susan and Bob are beginning to drag down the morale of the other employees and certainly are causing Jesss attitude toward work to suffer. Jess has not talked to either of them about these problems for several weeks because she has not been able to figure out what to do or say. But at different times this morning, both Susan and Bob came to Jesss office asking her to recommend them for promotion to a position that opened up recently in the Child Welfare Unit similar to SOS. Jess does not know how to handle these requests. More troubling, she does not know how to address the long-term problems of motivating all of her employees to do well.
1. Definetheproblem(s)inthiscase,usingasmanytheoriesofmotivationfromthischapterasyouthink might apply.
2. Discussthepracticalimplicationsforeachofthemodelsyouuse.Inotherwords,whatdothesemodels suggest the supervisor should do or say as a consequence of defining the problem from that perspective?
levels of motivation among the four employees? What models might explain Jesss motivation?