Libby Johnson


Management 305

L.J. Watkins Case Study


The L. J. Watkins Company
manufactured large sliding doors made of many narrow aluminum panels held
together by thick rubber strips, which allowed the door to collapse as it was
opened. When L. J. Watkins began the business, his was the only firm that
manufactured the large sliding doors. But, recently, several other firms had
begun to market similar doors. One firm, in particular, had been bidding to
obtain business from Watkins’ major customer. Fearing that the competitor might
be able to underbid his company, Watkins began urging Pat, the vice president,
to increase efficiency and cut production costs. At that time, we started
running into issues in the warehouse. Paul Watkins, L.G. Watkins son, had just
recently been given the production manager job. Other employees began to
comment that he only got the job because of his father or that he would only do
certain things in hope to impress his dad. These same employees had been known
to take frequent breaks and earn overtime to compensate for their low pay. Once
cost reduction programs were implemented, the employees fought back. The
production employees didn’t change their work habits as a result of the
pressure put on them by the supervisors. Instead, a growing spirit of
antagonism between the production employees and the supervisors had developed. After
several weeks of no improvement in production, Pat called a meeting with all
the production employees to announce that the plant would go on a four-day,
10-hour per day workweek to reduce operating costs. Some employees liked this
idea but most did not. After the meeting, several employees in the door jamb
department made plans to stage a work slowdown so that the department would
fall behind schedule and they would have to work overtime to catch up. The
employees continued to deliberately violate the posted rules. This was noticed
by Paul. Pat needs to know what steps to take to solve these big issues in the
warehouse and get the company back to where it needs to be.

It’s hard being the vice
president of a big company. Especially when you run into such hard issues with
the employees. As vice president, it is important to know what steps to take
when solving issues like these. The best course of action in this situation is implementing
a path goal theory to the business. This theory is key, especially in situations
like these. Because these employees seem fueled on rewards and satisfaction,
the path goal is a great theory. While other contingency theories try to match
leadership behaviors with specific situations, the path goal theory of
leadership takes a different approach. According to House, the most important aspect
in leadership is the followers’ expectations that they can complete a task and
upon competition will gain rewards and satisfaction. If followers believe they
can complete a task, they will participate and therefore gain these rewards. The
path goal theory identifies a situational variable with a sliding scale, a followers’
belief in completing a task, as an explanation to how leaders can invoke the
best performance in the transactional leadership. Transactional leadership most
importantly focuses on supervision, organization, and performance which are the
most important things to have in place at L.J. Watkins at this point. A good alternative
to the path goal theory would be leadership substitutes. Substitutes and neutralizers,
an extension of the path-goal theory, provide more insight into how leaders
should behave to complement characteristics of a situation. Substitutes are
aspects of a situation that allow subordinates to operate at optimal levels
without leaders. An organization that has strict rules of conduct already
provides a clear path to achieving results; thus, a worker can easily figure
out the optimal work level with given constraints. Because Paul implemented
rules so late into an issue, employees basically laughed in his face and felt
as if they weren’t actually expected to follow the rules, which they didn’t. I’m
not saying you can’t change the rules or implement new rules, but, in this
situation, it would’ve been helpful to have the employees 100% knowledgeable of
what’s expected of them earlier on. So, at that point the employees are
basically left with neither a strict set of rules and or a great leader.

Reasons for taking this
course of action include the fact that followers need to feel certain about
completing a task and gain rewards. This comes from three sources; the
characteristics of the task, the characteristics of the followers, and the
behaviors of the leader. While some people aren’t looking up to Paul as a good
manager, we already have issues. It would be better for Paul to address
problems and situations himself instead of putting it on the other supervisors
to make them look the “bad guys.” It would also show more seniority in Paul if
he addressed problems himself and stood a stern ground. Employees would look up
to him more that way. While the nature of the task and characteristics of the
follower can provide some of that certainty, a leader must complement what is
missing with emotional support or guidance. A leaders most important job is to
enhance satisfaction and performance by increasing payoffs for work, removing
obstacles from attaining goals, and making the work more personally satisfying.
Because the employees at L.J. Watkins aren’t happy with their jobs at all, Pat
and Paul need to be doing their best as leaders to keep employees motivated and
satisfied. When the employees aren’t motivated or satisfied, we run into issues
like these. Setting a path goal theory will also set the artifacts of the
company in place. Artifacts are the visible organizational structures,
processes, and languages in a business. Because they were so lenient on
employees before the cost reduction programs, artifacts of the company were
lost. Employees got used to taking advantage of overtime and taking frequent
breaks so that when it was time to start acting serious, the employees fought
back. They got to use to not putting in 100% effort. This is why it’s important
to keep the path goal theory and artifacts of the company in line. Employees
need to know what’s expected of them. Being lenient of these can cause trouble in
your company.  

The first step would be for
Pat and Paul to get together and assess the path-goal theory. Set the theory in
place and then meet with the supervisors about it so that the higher-ups are
all on the same page. While going through the path-goal theory with the supervisors,
go through the artifacts of the company together. Once everyone has agreed on
both the path-goal and artifacts, set a time to meet with all the employees as
a group. Lay down the law and explain to them the new plan. Get the artifacts
hung up around the warehouse and in the break room so that not only the
employees are reminded of them, but when they aren’t following them, they have
no excuse to not know how to behave in the work place. From there, the
employees will grow into the new work environment. In the future, Paul will
work on addressing situations himself and with that he will be able to build
better relationships with the employees. I believe with a strong path-goal theory
and strong artifacts of the company, increasing efficiency and reducing
production costs should be no problem. 

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