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The Fairness Principle in Organizational Behavior

Essay by   •  February 6, 2014  •  Essay  •  1,382 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,174 Views

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"Daddy! I'm singing at the choir performance on Saturday! You're coming to see me, right?" My young daughter's exhilarated face beams with joy, but I feel a sinking lead weight in my stomach. "I don't think I can, sweetheart," I tell her, reluctantly. "I have survey duty this weekend."

"But, you've worked every day this week. Why do you have to work on the weekend, too?"

My daughter's question is a good one. Weekend survey duty! My work group inspects international shipping vessels. We ensure that the oceangoing cargo ships and their machinery systems meet the safe-operating requirements set by DNV GL, the global classification society. DNV GL (the world's largest vessel classification society) expects its surveyors to work a traditional 8 am-5 pm, Monday through Friday workweek. However, the shipping industry operates 24/7; therefore, the survey group also must cover weekend duties on a rotational basis. My coworkers and I are frustrated by the extra burden of our additional weekend duties.

Our survey group observes that DNV GL rewards other employees for their weekday efforts with carefree weekends devoted to personal time. Not the survey group - we are expected to devote our weekends to company goals on a rotating basis. "This is not fair," is the common survey grumble. This situation is really a version of the underpayment inequity: the survey group's ratio of "free time" is lower than the other groups (referent's ratio). Like the monkey rewarded with a cucumber slice, while observing its companion receiving a grape for the same task, the survey group doubts that our payment fits the social fairness comparison of Equity Theory. [CITE] Our referent - the other groups at DNV GL - tells us that hard work during the week results in weekend off for everyone except us: our company rewards our hard weekday work with more work on the weekend.

This extra responsibility might be better-tolerated if the survey crews were highly compensated, with an analogous higher status at the office. Instead, the survey employees work in cubicles, not offices, and they are not compensated as highly as other groups, despite their weekend sacrifices and the vital nature of their services. With the company's status-conscious German management, these sorts of prestige signifiers convey a powerful message.

According to Grant, "the perception of impact serves as a buffer against stress, enabling employees to avoid burnout and maintain their motivation and performance." (Grant, "The Art of Motivation Maintenance," p. 166) In the DNV-GL situation, the survey group cannot appreciate the "pay-off" - the impact of their extra work. This disconnect is creating an ever-larger gap between the company and the personal identification of the survey group.

This perceived unfairness is creating a significant morale problem in the survey group. Overall productivity output is ten percent lower, and unscheduled "Personal Time Off" (PTO) is fifty percent higher. This shortage causes labor gaps that create increased coverage costs, inspection delays and unhappy shipping customers. Moreover, the employee turnover rates in the survey group are higher by a magnitude of four than those in the rest of the society. Due to the high level of training and onboarding costs for survey members, this turnover level causes significant labor and development costs to the company.

The Proposed Solution

Why not split each survey group into two teams? The current DNV-GL managerial wisdom dictates that a group of ten survey employees work Monday through Friday, with four employees staying "on call" (and on overtime) each weekend. This situation amounts to a total of 464 man-hours per survey crew, per week. However, by splitting the ten-member survey group into two groups of five surveyors, the seven-day shift can be split Monday-Friday and Thursday-Monday, giving the same number of off days to each group. Since Thursdays and Mondays are traditionally the heaviest inspection days for the survey groups, these "overlap" days will provide faster survey turnarounds. The proposed solution offers a total of 400 man-hours per week: a savings of almost 13.8%.

The groups will rotate every three months, so that no single group will give up "standard" weekends on a permanent basis. This schedule change delivers a "Win-Win-Win" for survey

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