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Withdrawal, Reinforcement and Job Characteristics

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By jeneire
Words 2283
Pages 10


Psychology 484
April 22, 2012

Abstract Throughout my employment history, I have always tried to find the best in the job in order to get the best out of the experience. But as I began entering the more professional work arena, this became increasingly difficult. Initially, I thought it would be easier to be involved with a large scale organization. I imagined that everything would be better: time off, benefits and job design. However, I soon realized that this would not be the case. Working in the medical field can be very lucrative, but also very exhausting, stressful and filled with anxiety. And despite the hospital’s efforts to improve workplace efficiency, they overlooked job satisfaction. Furthermore, the job itself was mundane in nature, and this was never addressed as a concern for management. Eventually, the need for happiness overtook the need for financial security, and I began to fall into patterns of abusing leave time, chronic lateness and habitual absenteeism. This particular place had no interest in retaining employees; the turnover rate was quite high. So rather than recognize these behaviors and attempt to thwart them, they contribute to the negative feelings by implementing punishment. Naturally, this continuous friction ultimately led to my finding work elsewhere.
Job Characteristics Working in Central Lab Service at the hospital laboratory was similar to working on a chain gang and a factory line, combined. We would receive bags of specimens which needed to be accessioned into our computer systems. This was tedious, as everything had to be accurate, as patient’s lives were at stake. It was redundant work that I found hard to become interested in. The laboratory technicians that actually later tested the samples would even comment that ‘a monkey could do the job.’ According to Hackman & Oldman’s Core Job Dimensions, my position was lacking in many areas, which most likely accounted for my initial lack of interest in the job (PSU WC, L. 10, p. 7, 2012). These included skill variety, task identity and autonomy. In terms of skill variety, the job required little more than reading and basic counting to do properly. Even the computer skills involved were minimal, as the hospital upgraded to a scan based system where the pertinent information was already accessible to the user. According to a study done by Gordon O’Brien (1982), skill variety and use is the strongest predictor of job satisfaction. In regards to task identity, the part I played in the process was minimal. The blood was collected before and tested and reported after, and I was only able to see a snapshot of the work in progress. This led to my feeling that my role was inadequate or unimportant because I did not see the big picture. Additionally, the repetitive and mundane nature of the work left me bored, to say the least. I often pondered on how my intelligence would be put to better use elsewhere. Similarly, in a study performed by Samuel Todd at Florida State University (2003), he posited that the amount of autonomy in job task was directly proportionate to job satisfaction. At one point, my employer brought in a company to improve workplace efficiency using the Six Sigma strategy. The Six Sigma model attempts to improve procedures by streamlining efforts and correcting faulty processes, while focusing on cost reduction (Six Sigma, 2012). This strategy also involved creating team leader positions, in an effort to carry out the plan long after the experts left. It was at this time I applied for and was promoted to the leadership position within my department. The transition was initially difficult; however, the position included a small pay raise (about one dollar) and more importantly a more challenging set as duties. I thought that this promotion would satisfy the bulk of my needs at the organization, yet I still remained largely unfulfilled. When management initially announced the lead position, this served as motivation for me to excel within the department. This is consistent with Herzberg’s Two-Factor theory in the sense that the nature of the new job requirements would serve as a motivating factor (PSU WC, L. 10, p. 3, 2012). The hygiene factors involved included the pay raise, respect from my co-workers and the opportunity to be treated as more of an equal by management. While the motivators stressed diverse job duties, a sense of responsibility and feelings of being needed, at least temporarily. As a result I experienced job enrichment for some time. I was extremely productive, took little time off and even started liking my job. I began to enroll in some educational classes offered within the company to develop my leadership skills which in turn strengthened my growth need (PSU WC, L. 10, p. 9, 2012). It seemed to be the beginning of a long and fruitful career.
In the beginning, I was commended by management for my promotion, while my peers were not as pleased. Several of them were unhappy because they felt they deserved the position since they had been with the company longer than me. But as time went on, I was able to develop strategies to deal with my peers. When I was recognized by staff and management for my promotion, it served as an effective stimulus to work even harder (PSU WC, L. 3, p. 2, 2012). My responses were to perform a larger amount of the work, take initiative to be more helpful within the scope of the job duties and even offer to take on additional work (PSU WC, L. 3, p. 2, 2012). And the consequences were that I became the type of employee that the Six Sigma method wanted. The positive outcomes for both sides in all this were in line with the Law of Effect (PSU WC, L. 3, p. 3, 2012). Within a few short months my manager’s communication with me about my performance faded away quickly. It was hard for me to read at all how she felt, let alone receive any type of praise for my efforts. Consequently, my attitude began to change along with my performance. I was no longer motivated to perform well since the positive consequences of good performance were depleted (Katzell & Thompson, 1990). While I understand that managers are unable to give constant praise, it would have sufficed to have regular intervals where my performance was discussed. Six months after my promotion I met with my manager to do my semi-annual performance review. This is about the only platform I gained any insight into her opinion of my work. This was far too long in my opinion. A scheduled monthly interval or even a variable interval would have proven more appropriate to motivate the continued and desired behavior from me (PSU WC, L. 3, p. 6, 2012). Needless to say, the extra duties began to feel overwhelming and stressful and I was grossly underappreciated. Simultaneously, I was also experiencing personal problems. My husband and I lost our family home and consequently were burdened by financial strain. My husband also had some legal problems and our son was diagnosed with autism. My manager was well aware of my outside issues. I also had a personal battle with bipolar disorder and depression that until this point I was managing well. The combination of my outside environment, my mental health concerns and the lack of positive reinforcement created a complex situation. It was obvious that my basic level needs were being affected, and I made the management team aware of my concerns (PSU WC, L. 2, p. 3, 2012).
Withdrawal Behavior While my manager assured me that I had the full support of the organization in my trying times, her actions did not parallel her statements. Within days, the entire department knew of all my personal problems, though she was the only person I had confided in. This had been commonplace with other employees prior, but I had expected a higher level of confidentiality with her, given the sensitive nature of my issues and my position with the company. I realized rather quickly from that point where I stood in the grand scheme of things. In the meantime I was advised by my physician to take some (job protected) time off from work under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). I should note that in my department FMLA was abused excessively, and I was well aware of how my manger felt about FMLA. So I took off a few weeks, began treatment with my doctor through use of therapy and medication, and started to deal with the issues in my life. Eventually I was ready to return to work, and was excited, yet a little nervous, at the prospect of a clean slate. During my leave of absence, .y position was given to another employee on what was supposed to be a temporary basis. However, that was not the case upon my return. In essence, I was stripped of all my duties as lead technician, and took this came as a major blow to me. All my ties to the organization began to dissolve from that point forward. I felt as if all the hard work I had done was all for naught, and also that I was being treated unfairly and being punished for having had a personal crises. I had witnessed this before: when the management tires of someone, they begin to look for ways to forcibly remove the employee or create such an environment that they desire to quit. Prior to these events I was always on the management side of this behavior, and was largely unaffected. But now, I was consumed with anger, bitterness and fear because I knew that wasn’t far behind for me now. So initially, I came to work each day and did as little as possible, in order to mentally disengage myself from the job and the environment (PSU WC, L. 13, p. 2, 2012). I began to act out in ways I never had before, such as taking supplies home from work, taking longer lunch breaks than allowed and unauthorized breaks from my work station. My job satisfaction had fell to a nonexistent degree, while my organizational commitment became even lower when I started to feel completely disconnected from the company and began putting in resumes with competitors (during work hours) (Falkenburg & Schyns, 2007)! Then I realized that I could use remaining FMLA allowances and stay home, even though I no longer needed to. It was at this point I crossed the threshold into absenteeism (PSU WC, L. 13, p. 3, 2012). I purposely called out on holidays, weekends and days when I knew staff would be short-handed. And when I did come to work, I would arrive late and leave early. I had lost all connection to the job, my co-workers and the organization. I felt my contribution was no longer needed there and that our relationship had deteriorated to the point of petty antics. They would deny an important time-off request (which never used to be a problem) and I would react by using my leave time that day, overriding their authority any chance I got. I felt justified all along as they had embarrassed me while blatantly bearing my problems and medical condition and stripped me of my title, simply because I took some time off to work through my illness. Eventually, I did get an attractive offer from another corporation, completing the withdrawal behavior cycle and creating turnover (PSU WC, L. 13, p. 4, 2012). When I gave my two weeks’ notice, it was as if all parties were relieved. I do not think it was unexpected by the organization, as they wholeheartedly wanted me to leave. They demonstrated this clearly to me as they were in the process of having my FMLA reviewed and by Human Resources in an attempt to negate and rescind it. Additionally, they already had a person performing the essential functions of my job for months in an effort to undermine my position. In this situation, mostly positive outcomes were achieved by my departure, as they saved money paying less to my under qualified colleague and the conflicts were then able to be resolved (PSU WC. L. 13, p. 6, 2012). Ultimately, that tribulation taught me a great deal. I’ve since left the medical field all together and returned to college, graduating this very semester. I now know the value of going to a job you enjoy doing every day, working with people you can trust and the value of conflict resolution. With the help of this course I can clearly see both sides of my situation and am able to learn from the experience.

Falkenburg, K. & Schyns, B. (2007). Work satisfaction, organizational commitment and withdrawal behaviors. Management Research News (30), 10, pp. 708-723.
Katzell, R. A. & Thompson, D. E. (February 1990). Work motivation: theory and practice. American Psychologist (45), 2, pp. 144-153.
O’Brien, G. E. (1982). The relative contribution of perceived skill-utilization and other perceived job attributes to the prediction of job satisfaction: a cross-validation study. Human Relations (35), 3, pp. 219-237.
Pennsylvania State University, World Campus. (Spring 2012). Psychology484: Work Attitudes and Motivation. Retrieved from http://courses.worldcampus.psu .edu/sp12/psych484/001/toc.html#13.
Six Sigma. (2012). In Wikipedia online. Retrieved from /Six_Sigma.
Todd, S. Y. (2003). A causal model depicting the influence on selected task and employee variables on organizational citizenship behavior. Retreived from ProQuest Digital Dissertations. (UMI 3109315).…...

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