Case Study on Motivational Theory

Critical Incident 2-4What Motivates Callie?

What’s it like to be a 23-year-old single parent, working at a minimum-level wage to support yourself and your child? Meet Callie Michaels.

In high school, Callie learned that she was pregnant. The father did not want to take any responsibility for the child, and for a time Callie considered giving up her baby, Olivia, for adoption. But instead Callie decided to drop out of school, get a reliable job, and raise the baby herself.

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For almost seven years, Callie has worked the front desk at The Highland Golf, Tennis and Ski Resort. Her major duties include welcoming and registering guests. When Callie started, there was always at least one other person on duty with her. At peak periods, at least four employees provided front-desk service. The employees worked well together, and they had become good friends. In fact, several of the employees spent some of their personal time together. The front desk was operational 24/7.

Over the last two years, however, The Highland, like most high-end resorts, started feeling the effects of the depressed economy. Overbuilding in the vacation industry, together with increased competition for tourism dollars, have decreased the resort’s profitability. A drop in corporate-travel business has added to the resort’s woes.

A year ago, the resort changed ownership. First, the new management felt it could improve occupancy by increasing promotion and advertising expenditures. The expected increase in business did not materialize, however. So more recently, the resort started offering substantial discount packages for groups. While this strategy did increase the occupancy rate slightly, the company still experienced a 9.8 percent decline in revenue per room. In the first six months of this year, the resort’s occupancy rate was running at about 55 percent. This paled in comparison with the average rate of 92 percent occupancy that the resort used to see a decade ago. The continued decline in revenue per available room and in profit margins caused the new management to institute a cost-cutting drive.

Included in the attempt to restore profitability were such measures as eliminating and consolidating various management and supervisory positions and curtailing merit increases. Two years ago, there were 12 full-time and six part-time people in front-end guest services. Currently, only nine people are involved directly in front-end guest services, and two of them are part-time. Callie has been fortunate enough to retain her job at The Highland, but several of Callie’s good friends have been let go and have not been successful in finding other employment in the area.

When Callie first started, The Highland was considered an excellent employer. At that time, the resort was owned by one of the country’s larger hotel real-estate corporations. Thomas, the previous general manager, had instituted a number of family-friendly measures for employees. Among those measures were a full range of alternative work schedules, including flextime (a system whereby employees chose their own work schedules within certain limits). For employees with children, like Callie, the HR department would find quality child care and discount the cost by 10 percent. Employees such as Callie who worked more than 30 hours a week received healthcare benefits. Staying home with a sick child was no problem, given the company’s flexible work policies.

As part of an overall reward system, the company also instituted an employee of the week, month, and year program. Employees received “positive stroke” points based on customer evaluations and feedback. Callie and others referred to these as their “report cards,” and employees willingly treated customers as “very special people” hoping they would receive good reports from customers. Each week, the top three-point recipients in each work area received $25, $15, or $10 in resort credit, which could be used in any of the resort’s facilities, such as the coffee shop, swimming pool snack bar, gift shop, or dining room. The monthly award winner in each area received $50, and his or her photo was prominently displayed on the lobby wall.

Things were very different under the new owners. In addition to eliminating some positions, they initiated a hiring freeze, meaning that the remaining employees had to work much harder. They also discontinued the employee recognition program, but the last round of winners’ photos were still prominently displayed for all to see.

Some guests, who were particularly impressed with Callie’s customer service, noticed the employee recognition board. Upon leaving the resort, the guests asked Callie, “How come your picture’s not on the board? You’ve been most helpful during our stay!”

“It should have been, but the new management doesn’t believe in those things,” Callie said. As their discussion continued, it became clear that Callie had lost her enthusiasm for her job. “They’re not as flexible as the previous management, so I’ve had to put work ahead of my child, Olivia. They’ve cut the childcare supplement, and several of my good friends have left. If business doesn’t pick up, I’ll probably lose my job! I love most of the people who stay with us. But I’m beginning to wonder if I should do something else.”

Questions for Discussion

  1. What do employees such as Callie Michaels want from work?
  2. Evaluate Highland Golf, Tennis and Ski Resort’s employee recognition program under the previous ownership.
  3. What are some actions that the current management of Highland Golf, Tennis and Ski Resort can take to improve employee morale?
  4. Discuss the various models of motivation theory that could be relevant to this incident.
  5. Explain why Callie is no longer excited about her job and future.

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