Motivation pertains to the forces that determine or influence the level, persistence, and direction of effort that a person exerts at work (Schermerhorn, Osborn, Uhl-Bien & Hunt, 2012) where direction is the person’s choice from a given set of alternatives; level refers to the amount of effort exerted; and persistence refers to the duration by which a person sticks to a particular action (Schermerhorn et al., 2012). There are many theories that suggest the factors that motivate people. While none of them on their own offer a complete understanding of what motivates people, they all offer some insight on the various things that motivate people, which can be used for increasing the level of job performance.
The Hawthorne studies, which were conducted by Mayo and his colleagues (Latham, 2006), showed that worker motivation, satisfaction, and productivity were interrelated. Similarly, Viteles (Latham, 2006) suggested that motivation and employee performance were related in that high levels of productivity resulted from positive attitudes. Furthermore, in a study conducted by Campbell (2007), it was found that goal setting, extrinsic motivations, organizational commitment, and job satisfaction increased job performance.
Expanded Introduction to the Organization
The Social Security Administration is the main income security agency of the United Sates (Social Security, 2012). It aims “to promote the economic security of the nation’s people through compassionate and vigilant leadership in shaping and managing America’s Social Security programs” (Osterweil et al., 2007, p. 14). It has the mission of alleviating poverty and economic insecurity (Osterweil et al., 2007). In particular, the SSAadministers the Federal retirement, survivors, and disability insurance programs, as well as the program of supplemental security income (SSI) for the aged, blind and disabled, and performs certain functions with respect to the black lung benefits program. (Social Security, 2012)
The Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR), on the other hand, is one of the key SSA offices that is responsible for processing disability claims (Bertoni, 2010). It is specifically in charge of overseeing the hearing offices and the Appeals Council. It “serves as the final level of administrative review under the Administrative Procedure Act for disability claims” (Bertoni, 2010, p. 7).
Expanded Description of the Problem
A growing problem within the agency concerns the employees’ job performance and productivity levels, which I believe negatively affect not only the agency and the employees, but mainly the claimants. In my opinion, about 35% of the employees are performing at a minimum or even less than the minimum level required. Employees often spend too much time chit-chatting with each other and also take longer breaks than the allotted time. In addition, they spend too much time surfing the Internet and shopping in the nearby mall even during office hours.
The claimants are the ones who suffer the most from this poor performance. Since our office is responsible for reviewing the cases of claimants who have been initially denied their claims and have decided to appeal, it is the job of the ODAR employees to prepare these claimants’ cases so that the judges can make a decision and so that the attorneys can review their claimants’ cases online.
The ODAR employees are required to complete and prepare at least 30 cases per month in addition to other responsibilities. Unfortunately, many of these cases are incorrectly prepared, which causes a problem for the Senior Case Technician who is assigned to the judge, as he or she is responsible for correcting those cases and for obtaining the medical evidence, school records, and, in some instances, the records from correctional institutions for the non-represented claimants.
In addition, the employees who are responsible for preparing those cases do not review their work as they are often busy doing things unrelated to work. They also often neglect to review and exhibit the additional documents that are related to a case, which in turn prevents attorneys from accessing the said documents online.
The employees’ inefficient use of their time and their lack of diligence with their work often cause the incorrect preparation of the cases, which in turn results in claimants having to wait longer for the judge’s final decision. Missing evidences or records and other information for particular cases need to be obtained by the Senior Case Technician who may not be aware of such facts until approximately a month prior to the hearing. This causes delays.
The same problem occurs with some attorneys. If an attorney is unaware of the fact that a case is ready for review, he or she will usually not request for evidence until he or she receives notice of the hearing, which is about 20 days prior to the hearing. However, by this time, the negligent attorneys would be unable to submit all of the necessary evidence because it would take 30 to 60 days for the medical facilities, schools, or correctional institutions to provide the requested evidence. Some attorneys supply the evidence themselves prior to the hearing but some are just as irresponsible as some of the ODAR employees. In addition, an attorney’s compensation is paid upon a granted favorable decision. As such, certain attorneys refuse to pay for a claimant’s records when there’s a possibility for their services to not be compensated due to an unfavorable decision. In these cases, the same attorneys usually claim that they’re unable to retrieve the evidence themselves despite “their efforts”; therefore, they request ODAR to obtain and pay for the records if the claimant cannot pay for such themselves.
Despite management asking the ODAR employees to keep track of such instances in order to enable an investigation of the said anomalies, some of the ODAR employees fail to do so as they often slack around. In addition, certain employees are allowed to slack around because of their connections. Similarly, the influence that some of the employees have enables them to get promoted to higher positions even when they perform poorly and inefficiently. With that said, employee morale decreases, which also leads to decreased productivity and an unpleasant atmosphere among the employees and the members of the management team.
Although the agency has a collaborative and friendly culture where employees can easily approach their managers and leaders at any time, the employees seem to be unmotivated to perform well at their jobs. The SSA provides its employees with great benefits such as multiple health insurance programs; flexible time; and sick, annual, and family leaves, which are immediately available upon unscheduled time off. In addition, SSA provides its employees with subsidized public transportation; student loans; forgiveness programs; continuous training courses; job security; and many others. However, despite all these benefits, the employees are still not motivated to perform. Rather, these benefits and privileges are often abused.
This indifference on the part of management can be attributed to the strong employee union. However, this lack of authority and control over the employees’ performance not only leads to delays in the processing of the claimants’ benefits, but they also lead to financial losses on the part of the SSA, which are essentially the tax payer’s money. In addition, the unfair treatment and unequal opportunities provided by management to the employees lead to their disgruntlement.
Preliminary Solution Options
Implement a pay-for-performance rewards system to encourage good behavior and good performance.
Include 360-degree-evaluations as part of the performance appraisal process in order to ensure that employees are given unbiased performance evaluations.
Grant the management team more control over the employees’ behavior by including penalties for undesired behaviors in the agency’s employee handbook or code of conduct.
Preliminary Analysis of Leadership and Organizational Behavior Concepts
The problem presented in this paper shows how the Equity theory (Schermerhorn et al., 2012) applies in getting employees to be motivated or unmotivated. In particular, the Equity theory states that people are motivated to perform well in order to reduce the inequity in the rewards they receive compared to the rewards received by others where the type or amount of work done is perceived to be the same. This theory states that employees who perceive that they are rewarded less than their coworkers for doing a similar type of work tend to have a decreased level of performance whereas those who perceive that they are getting rewarded more than others for doing the same type of work tend to have an increased level of performance.
In the case of the SSA employees, morality and productivity levels decrease because of the employees’ perception that those who perform poorly are the ones getting promoted while those who perform well are being overlooked when it comes to promotion.
The Expectancy theory can also be applied in that the employees believe that they won’t be rewarded for good performance anyway, so they no longer bother doing more than what is required. Moreover, they believe that they would receive the same benefits as the others regardless of their performance so they only give the minimum effort needed. Similarly, the Two-factor theory can be applied in that hygienic factors such as organizational policy and the quality of supervision cause dissatisfaction, which in turn cause decreased performance.
As such, the employees’ perceptions about inequity, expectorations, and the organizational policies can be addressed through the implementation of a performance-based management system, which is a tool used for measuring and rewarding performance (Campbell, 2012). Performance management in turn refers to “a process that involves an organization using its employees as part of the team to improve organizational effectiveness in establishing and comparing the vision, goals, mission, and strategy” (Campbell, 2012, p. 4).
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Latham, G. P. (2006). Work motivation: History, theory, research, and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
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(2007). Social Security Administration electronic service provision: A strategic assessment. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Social Security. (2012). SSA organizational manual: Subchapter S: Social Security Administration. Retrieved from http://www.ssa.gov/org/orgoc.htm.
Schermerhorn, J. R., Osborn, R. N., Uhl-Bien, M. & Hunt., J. G. Organizational behavior (12th ed.). Danvers, MA: John Wiley & Sons.