Case Study : Managing Motivation in Economy

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BGB1023/BAGB1023
Organizational Behavior
Group Assignment (25%)

Case 1: Managing Motivation in a Difficult Economy (15%)

Learning Goals

In this case, you’ll have an opportunity to assess a motivational program designed to re-energize a troubled company’s workforce. Acting on behalf of the company’s executive board, you’ll evaluate the board’s current strategy based on survey data. You’ll also advise board members about improving the effectiveness of this program based on what you’ve learned about goal setting and motivation in organizations.

Major Topic Areas
Changing nature of work
Diversity and age
Goal setting
Organizational downsizing
Organizational justice

The Scenario

Morgan-Moe’s drug stores are in trouble. A major regional player in the retail industry, the company has hundreds of stores in the upper Midwest. Unfortunately, a sharp decline in the region’s manufacturing economy has put management in a serious financial bind. Revenues have been consistently dwindling. Customers spend less, and the stores have had to switch their focus to very low-margin commodities, such as milk and generic drugs, rather than the high-margin impulse-buy items that used to be the company’s bread and butter. The firm has had to close quite a few locations, reversing its expansion plans for the first time since it incorporated.

Being that this is uncharted territory for the company, Jim Claussen, vice president for human relations, had been struggling with how to address the issue with employees. As the company’s fortunes worsened, he could see that employees were becoming more and more disaffected. Their insecurity about their jobs was taking a toll on attitudes. The company’s downsizing was big news, and the employees didn’t like what they were hearing.

Media reports of Morgan-Moe’s store closings have focused on the lack of advance notice or communication from the company’s corporate offices, as well as the lack of severance payments for departing employees. In the absence of official information, rumors and gossip have spread like wildfire among remaining employees. A few angry blogs developed by laid-off employees, like IHateMorganMoe.blogspot.com, have made the morale and public relations picture even worse.

Morgan-Moe is changing in other ways as well. The average age of its workforce is increasing rapidly. A couple of factors have contributed to this shift. First, fewer qualified young people are around because many families have moved south to find jobs. Second, stores have been actively encouraged to hire older workers, such as retirees looking for some supplemental income. Managers are very receptive to these older workers because they are more mature, miss fewer days of work, and do not have child-care responsibilities. They are also often more qualified than younger workers because they have more experience, sometimes in the managerial or executive ranks.

These older workers have been a great asset to the company in troubled times, but they are especially likely to leave if things get bad. If these older workers start to leave the company, taking their hard-earned experience with them, it seems likely that Morgan-Moe will sink deeper toward bankruptcy.

The System

Claussen wasn’t quite sure how to respond to employees’ sense of hopelessness and fear until a friend gave him a book entitled Man’s Search for Meaning. The book was written by a psychologist named Victor Frankl who survived the concentration camps at Auschwitz. Frankl found that those who had a clear sense of purpose, a reason to live, were more likely to persevere in the face of nearly unspeakable suffering. Something about this book, and its advocacy of finding meaning and direction as a way to triumph over adversity, really stuck with Claussen. He thought he might be able to apply its lessons to his workforce. He proposed the idea of a new direction for management to the company’s executive...
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