“Horseplay” at the Textbook Processing Center


This case is about problems among the summer staff at a U.S. city’s textbook processing center, comprised of high school and college students. The staff members were responsible for sorting and delivering textbooks to the various schools in the city. Initially, they worked very hard, accomplishing so much that management had no more work for them to do; management laid them off for a week. After that, many workers substantially reduced their performance. Many also often engaged in horseplay, practical jokes, and other counterproductive work behaviors. Consequently, some members were productive and others were not. Performance declined even further when a substitute manager arrived. The case is told from the perspective of a new employee. It offers students an excellent opportunity to apply theories and concepts pertaining to motivation, group norms, socialization (lack of fit with the job culture), and poor management, when grappling with the problems presented in this case.

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