Workplaces can offer an amazing amount of resources and examples of human behavior, on an individual level and as a group. Workplaces are unique in the fact that they bring a multitude of people together, who all have a wide range of interests and beliefs, and requires them to interact together. This also makes for plenty of examples for looking at how organizations act.
Currently I work as a helicopter mechanic, and with me particular, I have been there the longest and seen a lot of changes in the organizational environment. Throughout the decade plus that I have been working at this facility I have easily seen or experienced most aspects, both good and bad, that could be experienced in an organization. In particular, the last two years, to say the least, has been a rollercoaster of an experience.
Up until two years ago everyone on the crew that I work on got along great. Job satisfaction, the attitude that person has towards their job and other aspects of it (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012) was very high. Why? Because we all loved our job. For almost a decade our crew was the only one at the facility that worked on the AH-64 Apache airframe, a matter of pride for our crew. Everyone worked together well and got along great, interpersonal relationships were smooth, and people’s job performance was excellent. It wasn’t to last, however, as we received notice that the Active Duty was taking all the Apache airframes from National Guard assets. As a result, our future at the facility was unknown.
As it turns out, we weren’t the only ones who were uncertain of our future. After the last Apache left two years ago the leadership was faced with a whole crew of people with nothing to do. Little guidance was given as to what would become of us, would we stay together as a crew? Strong friendships had developed over the years and we worked well together. Would we be forced to take a demotion? Would we have a choice on where we went, if split up? These and many more questions went unanswered. For almost two years our crew “floated” around, showing up to work just to be assigned random jobs that no one else wanted. Conflicts developed, sick and vacation time was abused, showing up on time became almost an option.
The behavior throughout this time has been interesting to observe, with a wide range of behaviors occurring that affected the organization of our crew. Disengagement, or withdrawal, was common. As mentioned, people often showed up late, left early, or took whole days off when they normally wouldn’t. Others would show up but not engage in the work that was assigned and going above and beyond, something common before, was nonexistent. When faced with a task that they may not like or appreciated, withdrawal behavior is common and is something that must be countered (Schneider, et. al, 2012). Job satisfaction and moral was at an all-time low, but there would be a light at the end of the tunnel.
Did we receive the Apaches back? Nope. We were, eventually, given a set of shiny new UH-60 Blackhawks to take care of, however, while the other crews kept their older models. That improved moral a bit. In the coming weeks and months conflict among our crew has almost disappeared. We have been working together as we used to, having a common goal and sense of pride, with an increase in moral.
Since the acquisition of our own aircraft, however, the main characteristics of job satisfaction are being displayed, skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and job feedback (Schneider, et. al, 2012). We all feel that what we are being engaged in the variety of tasks that we are best suited for, not just doing the scut work of others, but actually taking care of our own equipment. Our performance directly impacts the flight schedule, influencing task identity and significance. Being assigned our own aircraft has improved autonomy and the better we work the more positive feedback we have received.
There was more that the leadership could’ve done throughout this transition period. Kept us more informed, provided better engagement through the assigning of aircraft to our crew to instill responsibility, or even just took the time to sit down with us. Only once, in the beginning, were we ever brought together and our future was discussed, and even then, answers weren’t forthcoming. The lack of leadership provided little motivation or opportunity to achieve the characteristics of job satisfaction. In the end, however, things seemed to have worked out, and I look forward to what the future holds.
Schneider, F.W, Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Psychology (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.