Management help needed with the Motivation Theory

You are the director of human resources at a small regional transportation office, overseeing 12 employees.  The office is responsible for assessing the safety of the roads, bridges, sidewalks etc. in the region and proposing transportation projects.  The office has little control in what projects are funded (that’s done in Olympia) but the state won’t fund transportation projects without the office’s seal of approval, meaning all transportation projects in the region have to have the regional office’s support.  You oversee the offices 6 transportation engineers, 2 HR specialists and 4 secretaries.   One secretary is dedicated to the HR staff and the other 3 are shared among the 6 engineers.  As much of their work is conducted in their vehicles out in the field, one secretary for every two engineers should be enough.

The engineers consist of 5 young engineers (all male), the most senior of whom has been out of grad school 4 years.  All are expertly credentialed, are familiar with the most recent developments in transportation technology and rely on advanced statistical and computer modeling that improve efficiency  but they have no experience working with the public and tend to focus on objective factors like structural safety and engineering standards instead of the communities wants and needs.  The oldest engineer in the office, Bob, grew up in the region, started his career doing manual labor for the DOT during the summer and rose up through the ranks, eventually earning an engineering degree.  For many years Bob was the regional office so he’s made a ton of contacts in the community (contractors, the neighborhood associations, etc.) where they know, trust and like him.  The engineers work autonomously from each other, with the exception of sharing secretarial support, so problems between engineers are rare.

You return to work after a month off recuperating from knee surgery where you find a letter from 3 of the 5 engineers complaining that Bob is monopolizing one of the secretaries time.  They complain one secretary works for Bob, while the other 5 engineers have to share two secretaries.  You know that Bob isn’t wasting the secretary’s time as getting community and stakeholder input takes time and meetings (arranged and put together by the secretary) and he’s using secretarial support consistent with the agencies policies and mission.  But you also know the office has grown a lot the in the past few years and while the other engineers may not need their allotted secretary support right now, they may need it in the future and you want to solve this problem before it affects performance (people are complaining but there has been no affect on anyone’s performance yet).

While this is the first you’re hearing of the engineers having a problem with Bob, you already know that Bob is unhappy with the engineers, who he thinks are overly concerned with their own engineering standards and are ignoring, and in some cases, hostile to community involvement.  You learn at an engineers meeting held while you were away things got tense when Bob said “It’s not our job to tell the public what they can build” and someone replied “we are engineers! That is exactly what we do”.  Bob has a lot of support in the community, can communicate complicated engineering information in ways that the public, the city council, etc. can understand, has been with the agency since he was a teenager and has demonstrated a commitment to public service throughout his career.  You know that Bob is one of the most valuable employees in your office but you also know you can’t ignore the other engineers complaints.

1.) Using either Goal Setting Theory or Expectancy Theory to develop a plan for Bob to address the secretarial support problem.  Be thorough and specific.

2.) You’re concerned about the simmering tensions between Bob and the engineers in how they understand their jobs and their differing priorities.  Draw up a plan to address this problem using Theory X.

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