MG401 Discussion Post 5

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Initech versus the Coffee Bean

Consider Peter Gibbons, an employee of the fictional Initech Corporation from the movie Office Space. Peter has been asked to meet with efficiency experts (Bob and Bob) to discuss his work environment. One of the Bobs is curious about Peter’s tendency toward under performance and confronts him about his lack of attention to office policies and procedures. It seems Peter has been turning in his TPS reports late and without the company- mandated cover sheet:

Peter: You see, Bob, it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care.

Bob: Don’t? Don’t care?

Peter: It’s a problem of motivation, all right? Now if I work my butt off and Initech ships a few extra units, I don’t see another dime, so where’s the motivation? And here’s another thing, I have eight different bosses right now.

Bob: Eight?

Peter: Eight, Bob. So that means when I make a mistake, I have eight different people coming by to tell me about it. That’s my only real motivation, not to be hassled, that and the fear of losing my job. But you know, Bob, that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired.

The environment at Initech is an all too familiar one to many office workers. It is an environment in which success is directly proportional to how busy you look, where questioning authority is taboo, and where meticulous attention to paperwork is the only way to get promoted.

Contrast Initech to The Coffee Bean—a chain of gourmet coffee shops. In an effort to boost employee morale and increase productivity, the management team at The Coffee Bean decided to pursue the FISH philosophy. FISH is a management training program that stresses fun in the work- place. It espouses four principles:

Play—“Work that is made fun gets done.”

Make Their Day—“When you make someone’s day through a small act of kindness or unforgettable engagement, you can turn even routine encounters into special memories.”

Be There—“Being there is a great way to practice wholeheartedness and fight burnout.”

Choose Your Attitude—“When you learn you have the power to choose your response to what life brings, you can look for the best and find opportunities you never imagined possible.”

Stores in The Coffee Bean chain were encouraged to use these principles to make the stores a fun place for employees and customers. The stores have created theme days where employees dress up for themes (NFL day, basketball day, pajama day)—and then give discounts to customers who dress the same. There are also trivia games in which customers who can answer trivia questions get discounts on their coffee purchases. Nancy Feilen, a Coffee Bean store manager, explains, “We tried to come up with something that would help strike up a conversation with guests and engage fun in the stores for team members and guests.” In other stores, customers play Coffee Craps. If a customer rolls a 7 or an 11, he gets a free drink. Some stores have used Fear Factor Fridays: if the store sells a certain number of drinks, one of the baristas will agree to some act—in one case a barista ate a cricket.

The results? One store increased the average check by 12 percent in six months; turnover has decreased significantly—general managers typically left after 22 months with the chain but now stay an average of 31 months; and the turnover rate for hourly employees dropped to 69 per- cent from more than 200 percent over a three-year period.

So where would you rather work?

This Unit's Questions

  1. How would you gauge Peter’s achievement orientation? What are some of the needs not being met for Peter Gibbons at Initech? What changes might improve Peter’s motivation?
  2. Would you judge the leaders at Initech as more likely to invoke the Pygmalion or the Golem effect? What about the environment at The Coffee Bean—Pygmalion or Golem effect?
  3. Why has The Coffee Bean seen such a significant reduction in its turn- over?
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