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Problem Management Accross Qualification Levels - Mimts.org

PROBLEM MANAGEMENT ACROSS QUALIFICATION

LEVELS - AN EMPIRICAL STUDY

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Avinash Kumar Srivastav

Problems are potential stressors which need to be properly handled

for containing stress. Level of education influences individual

perception. Management of problems is based on the individual

perception of the problem and about his/her problem-solving skills

and resources. Problem management is thus influenced by the level

of education of the individual concerned. This paper reports a case of

problem management in a large public sector industry in India, using

coping strategy framework. Projective instrument for coping with

stress in organizational roles - ‘Role-PICS (O)’ was used to measure

eight problem management strategies on 155 randomly selected

executives. The sample was divided in three groups depending on

respondent’s qualification level. For each qualification group, means

for problem management strategies were rank ordered to identify

dominant and back-up problem management strategies. T-test on

means was performed for each problem management strategy to detect

significant differences across the qualification groups. ‘Defending

the Self’ was found to be the dominant problem management strategy

across the qualification groups. The back-up problem management

strategy for the lower qualification group was ‘Fatalistic Thinking’

but it was making self effort for the medium and higher qualification

groups. ‘Defending the Self’ was stronger in lower qualification group

as compared to medium and higher qualification groups. ‘Making

Self Effort’, ‘Seeking External Effort’, and ‘Making Team Effort’

were weaker in lower qualification groups as compared to medium

qualification groups. Study finding showed that executives with lower

qualifications were relatively more dysfunctional in managing

problems than their counterparts with medium or higher

qualifications. Executives with medium or higher qualifications tended

to become functional under pressure. Executives with lower

qualifications, however, continued to remain dysfunctional under

pressure.

Key words: Problem management, coping with stress,

coping strategy.

Management & Change, Volume 11, Number 2 (2007)

© 2007 IILM Institute for Higher Education. All Rights Reserved.

Management & Change, Volume 11, Number 2 (2007)


110 Avinash Kumar Srivastav

INTRODUCTION

Problems arise when one does not get what one expects; when people do

not behave as expected; or when unexpected changes are thrust upon (Nezu,

et al., 2001). Problems are there everywhere and they cannot be avoided.

Even when one solves all the problems, new ones soon crop up. Problems

are inevitable for individuals, groups and organizations. It is not relevant

who caused the problem but it is very important to know what could have

been done to prevent the problem or to reduce its frequency, intensity and

negative consequences. One needs to confront the problems and alleviate

them, attempting their solution as far as possible. If one runs away from

problems, leaving them unattended, problems will compound and knock him

down. It is essential to have a positive approach towards problems alleviation.

Problems should be seen as opportunities for improvement and as stepping

stones for bigger successes in future.

Problems need to be managed in order to minimize their negative

consequences. Good problem management results in preventing the problems

occurrence or reducing their frequency, intensity and negative impact. It

enhances individual and organizational effectiveness and promotes human

well-being in the organization. It strengthens functional, organizational climate

and enables the individuals, groups and organizations to focus on development,

growth and matters of strategic importance. On the contrary, poor problem

management results in repetition and multiplication of problems which

overwhelm the concerned individuals, groups and organizations, leaving no

time for anything else other than crisis management. Understanding problem

management and how to make it most effective are therefore extremely

important (Srivastav, 2007a).

Problem management is dependent upon the cognitive appraisal of

problems encountered. Individual perception therefore influences problem

management in a significant measure. Perception is dependent on individual’s

personality, motivation and his/her experiential learning. Education provides

suitable learning environment and promotes experiential learning. It is

therefore expected that personal factors such as individual’s educational

qualification would significantly influence his/her strategy for managing the

problems encountered. The present study examines how problem

Management & Change, Volume 11, Number 2 (2007)


management strategies could be adopted in an organization across different

qualification levels/groups. Problem is a potential source of stress and

managing the problem is the same as coping with stress. Coping Strategy

Framework (Pareek, 1987) for dealing with role stress is therefore relevant

for the study of problem management in organizations.

UNDERSTANDING COPING STRATEGY

Avinash Kumar Srivastav 111

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Stress is the result of a mismatch between a person and his/her environment, if

the individual cannot cope with the constraints or demands encountered (Harrison,

1976). Stress is the outcome of imbalance that internal or external demands

create for an individual, affecting his/her physical and/or psychological wellbeing

(Lazarus and Cohen, 1977). Coping means ways of dealing with a stressor or a

potential stressor. Effective coping dissipates a potential stressor (Igodan and

Newcomb, 1986). It eliminates, reduces or minimizes the harmful consequences

of the stressor for the individual (Srivastav, 2006b). Strategy adopted for coping

with stress is known as ‘Coping Strategy’ (Taylor, et al., 1998).

MEASUREMENT OF COPING STRATEGY

Personality test was used for the assessment of coping strategy until

Folkman and Lazarus (1980) started observing individual behaviour in stressful

situations for the assessment of ‘coping strategy’. They developed ‘Ways of

Coping (WOC)’, an instrument comprising 68 items for the measurement of

‘coping strategy’ based on observing individual behaviour. Extensive testing of

WOC followed by factor analysis resulted in the development of an improved

version of WOC. The new instrument called ‘Ways of Coping Checklist

(WCCL)’ (Folkman and Lazarus, 1985) had 50 items. Eight types of ‘coping

strategy’, viz., Constructive Coping, Distancing, Self-Control, Seeking Social

Support, Accepting Responsibility, Escape - Avoidance, Planful Problem -

Solving, and Positive Reappraisal are measured by WCCL.

Rosenzweig (1978) used cartoon like pictures for the study of frustration.

Pareek (1987; 2002, p.487-491) also used a similar approach for measuring

coping strategy in roles. His instrument was called ‘Projective Instrument for

Coping Strategy (PICS)’ in Roles or Role-PICS. Three versions of the

instruments, namely, Role-PICS (G), Role-PICS (E) and Role–PICS (O)

Management & Change, Volume 11, Number 2 (2007)


112 Avinash Kumar Srivastav

(Pareek, 2002, p.620-625) were developed to cater respectively for general,

entrepreneurial and organizational roles. Role-PICS (O) comprises 24 cartoonlike

pictures. Each picture projects a stressful situation in an organizational role

through a question asked by a boss, subordinate, colleague or wife. A simplified

form of Role-PICS (O) instrument, generated by omitting the pictures, has

been furnished in the Annexure. The respondent is required to record his/her

response based on his/her immediate reaction in the situation projected. Response

for each picture recorded by the respondent is categorized with the help of an

interpretation guide to identify the type(s) of coping strategy adopted by the

respondent in the situation depicted.

ROLE-PICS: DIMENSIONS AND STRATEGIES

As explained below, Role-PICS have three binary dimensions (which have

only two predefined levels).

(i)

(ii)

(iii)

Mode. Represents leaning towards avoiding the problems or

towards approaching them to find their solutions. These are

referred to as avoidance or approach.

Internality. Refers to the extent of engagement of the self with

the problems causing stress, either for avoidance or approach. It

can be low or high.

Externality. Refers to the extent of engaging others with the

problems causing stress either for avoidance or approach. It can

be low or high.

It is important to note that internality and externality are not mutually exclusive;

they coexist. Combinations of the above-mentioned binary dimensions lead to 8

coping strategies. Table 1 depicts coping strategies represented by different

combinations of Role-PICS dimensions and their linkage with Problem

Management Strategies (Srivastav, 2007a, 2007b) which are explained below.

Four of these strategies are dysfunctional, comprising avoidance mode and the

other four comprising approach mode are functional. Avoidance jeopardizes

effectiveness at the individual, role and organizational level. Approach enhances

effectiveness at the individual, role and organizational level. Avoidance can

Management & Change, Volume 11, Number 2 (2007)


Avinash Kumar Srivastav 113

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Table 1 Problem Management Strategies

(Relating with Role-PICS Framework)

S.No

Problem Management

Strategy

Coping Strategy

Role-PICS Framework

Dimensions

Externality Internality Mode

1 Fatalistic Thinking (FT) Impunitive (M) Low Low

2 Blaming the Self (BS) Intropunitive (I) Low High

3 Blaming the External Agency Extrapunitive (E) High Low Avoidance

(BEA)

4 Defending the Self (DS) Defensive (D) High High

5 Wishful Thinking (WT) Impersistive (m) Low Low

6 Making Self Effort (MSE) Intropersistive(i) Low High

Approach

7 Seeking External Effort (SEE) Extrapersistive(e) High Low

8 Making Team Effort (MTE) Interpersistive(n) High Low

Source: Srivastav, 2007a

ARROGANT

God never answers the prayers of the arrogant

- Mohandas K. Gandhi

Management & Change, Volume 11, Number 2 (2007)


114 Avinash Kumar Srivastav

give only a temporary relief under extremely difficult circumstances when nothing

else is possible. Dysfunctional and functional problem management strategies

have been illustrated with the help of a sample problem as below.

Sample Problem. After working as a software engineer for five years, you

are promoted as a project manager. You start feeling uncomfortable after

promotion, because you do not have the competence for project management.

DYSFUNCTIONAL PROBLEM MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES

(i)

(ii)

(iii)

Fatalistic Thinking (FT). You believe that everybody experiences

such difficulties on promotion and nothing can be done about it.

Under this strategy (called Impunitive in Role-PICS framework),

problems are accepted, believing that they are inevitable and

cannot be solved.

Blaming the Self (BS). You believe that the problem has arisen

because of your own incompetence; you do nothing to improve the

situation. Under this strategy (called Intropunitive in Role-PICS

framework), problems are believed to be caused due to one’s own

shortcomings.

Blaming the External Agency (BEA). You believe that the

problem has arisen because of lack of training and development in

the organization; you do nothing about it.

Under this strategy (called Extrapunitive in Role-PICS framework),

problems are believed to be caused by an external agency.

(iv)

Defending the Self (DS). You show off that you have no problem

in managing projects. Under this strategy (called Defensive in Role-

PICS framework), problems are denied or rationalized by pointing

out benefits therefrom to coverup one’s own perceived deficiencies.

FUNCTIONAL PROBLEM MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES

(i)

Wishful Thinking (WT). You believe that time will solve your

problem. Under this strategy (called Impersistive in Role-PICS

Management & Change, Volume 11, Number 2 (2007)


Avinash Kumar Srivastav 115

framework), problems are believed to take care of themselves

eventually.

(ii)

(iii)

Making Self Effort (MSE). You start learning about project

management. Under this strategy (called Intropersistive in Role-

PICS framework), problems are solved by making self efforts.

Seeking External Effort (SEE). You take up the matter with

your organization to equip yourself with project management skills.

Under this strategy (called Extrapersistive in Role-PICS

framework), problems are solved by seeking external efforts.

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(iv)

Making Team Effort (MTE). You share your problem with an

experienced project manager and convince him to team up with

yourself to overcome your problem. Under this strategy (called

Interpersistive in Role-PICS framework), problems are solved with

the joint efforts of the self and others.

OBJECTIVES

To enhance the understanding about problem management in organizations by -

(i)

Measuring problem management strategies adopted by lower,

medium and higher qualification groups within the selected

organization.

(ii)

(iii)

Identifying the dominant and backup problem management

strategies for each qualification group.

Finding out the significant differences in the adoption of problem

management strategy across the qualification groups.

HYPOTHESIS

Perception is a cognitive process. It is dependent on personality, motivation

and experiential learning of the individual concerned. As one receives higher

education, he/she has better avenues for experiential learning. It is logical

Management & Change, Volume 11, Number 2 (2007)


116 Avinash Kumar Srivastav

to expect that educational qualification will influence individual perception.

Quazi (2003) has reported significant relationship between the education

level and perception of corporate social responsibility.

As problem management depends on individual perception, it can be

hypothesized that problem management strategy adopted by an individual

is influenced by his/her educational qualification.

METHODOLOGY

Workshops on problem management were conducted for the executives of

a large public sector manufacturing industry, having a number of units in

multiple locations across the country. Participants were selected to represent

the diversity of different kinds obtained in the industry. Advantage of knowing

one’s own problem management profile was explained to the participants.

Role-PICS (O) was administered to the workshop participants for measuring

eight types of problem management strategy. Responses that were complete

constituted 155 Role-PICS (O) samples. Educational qualification of each

respondent’s was also recorded. Educational qualifications were numerically

coded as shown in Table 2.

Role-PICS (O) sample collected in the manner described above

reduced data collection errors due to possible manipulation of natural

response by the respondents. Role-PICS (O) sample was divided in three

parts (as lower, medium and higher qualification groups) according to the

educational qualification of the respondent. The educational qualification

profile of respondents is given in Table 3.

CONFESSION

Confession of errors is like a broom which sweeps away the dirt.

Confession of one’s guilt purifies and uplifts.

Hearty repentance breaks the edge of guilt.

- Mohandas K. Gandhi

Management & Change, Volume 11, Number 2 (2007)


Avinash Kumar Srivastav 117

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Table 2 Coding of Qualifications

Lower Qualification Group Medium Qualification Group High Qualification Group

NC Qualification NC Qualification NC Qualification

1 Matriculation 6 Non Technical Postgraduate 8 Non Technical

Doctorate Degree

2. Higher Secondary 7 Technical Graduate Degree 9 Technical Post

graduate Degree

3 Technical Certificate 10 Technical Doctoate

Degree

4 Non Technical Graduate

Degree

5 Technical Diploma

Note: Numerical code abbreviated as NC

Source: Srivastav, 2006 b

Management & Change, Volume 11, Number 2 (2007)


118 Avinash Kumar Srivastav

Table 3 Respondents Qualification Profile

Item Low Medium High Total

Qualification Qualification Qualification

Number 49 88 18 155

Percentage 31.6 56.8 11.6 100

Source: Srivastav, 2007b

For each qualification group, means for each problem management

strategy were calculated and rank-ordered to identify the dominant and

backup problem management strategies. For each problem management

strategy, t–test on means was carried out to detect statistically significant

differences in problem management strategy adopted between each pair of

lower, medium and higher qualification groups.

RESULTS

(i) Rank-ordering of the eight problem management strategies for

lower, medium and higher qualification groups is furnished in

Table 4.

Table 4 Problem Management Strategy Across Qualification Groups in

terms of Mean and Rank

Variable

Lower Medium Higher

Mean Rank Mean Rank Mean Rank

FT 4.6327 2 3.6875 3 3.9444 3

BS 1.3571 6 1.1364 6.5 1.3056 6

BEA 1.4796 5 1.8580 5 1.5556 5

DS 8.7143 1 6.8125 1 6.3889 1

WT 0.4898 8 0.7330 8 0.8056 8

MSE 4.2041 3 5.3693 2 5.3611 2

SEE 2.5204 4 3.2670 4 3.5833 4

MTE 0.6020 7 1.1364 6.5 1.0556 7

INJURY VERSUS INSULT

An injury is much sooner forgotten than an insult.

- Lord Chesterfield

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Avinash Kumar Srivastav 119

(ii)

(iii)

(iv)

(v)

Defending the Self with its highest average score is the dominant problem

management strategy across the qualification groups.

Fatalistic Thinking is the backup problem management strategy (with

the second highest average score) for the lower qualification group.

Making Self Effort is the backup problem management strategy for the

medium and higher qualification groups.

Results of t – test on means for each type of problem management

strategy for each pair of qualification groups are furnished in Table 5.

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(vi)

(vii)

Defending the Self is stronger in lower qualification group as compared

to medium and higher qualification groups.

Making Self Effort, Seeking External Effort, and Making Team Effort

is weaker in lower qualification group as compared to medium qualification

group.

(viii) No significant differences are found for Fatalistic Thinking, Blaming

the Self, and Blaming the External Agency across the qualification

groups.

(ix)

No significant differences exist between medium and higher qualification

groups in adoption of problem management strategies.

DISCUSSIONS

(i)

(ii)

Problem management strategies adopted across the qualification groups

are not uniform even though the dominant problem management strategy

across the qualification groups is the same. This is contrary to the

finding by Gupta (1989) who reported that there is no relationship between

education and coping mode of entrepreneurs.

Defending the Self being the dominant problem management strategy

across the qualification groups signifies that under the normal circumstances,

executives in the organization (irrespective of their qualifications

level) do not make efforts to solve the problems encountered. They

deny the problems or rationalize them (by pointing out their benefits) to

Management & Change, Volume 11, Number 2 (2007)


120 Avinash Kumar Srivastav

avoid their solution. Predominance of Defending the Self leads to multiplication

of problems that overwhelm the organization and individuals

therein.

(iii)

(iv)

(v)

Fatalistic Thinking being the backup problem management strategy

for the lower qualification group indicates that while under pressure,

executives with lower qualifications continue to be dysfunctional, believing

that problems can neither be solved nor avoided.

Making Self Effort being the backup problem management strategy

for the medium and higher qualification groups signifies that while

under pressure, executives with medium or higher qualifications become

functional, solving problems encountered by making self efforts.

Respondents confirmed that (a) generally the problems are unattended

in the organization, (b) while under pressure, executives with lower

qualifications adopt fatalistic approach, (c) executives with medium

and higher qualifications become functional under pressure.

Table 5 Problem Management Strategy Across Qualification Levels as

determined by ‘t’ and ‘p’ Values

Variable

Lower Medium Higher

t p t p t p

FT 1.95 0.054 0.99 0.330 -0.40 0.689

BS 0.95 0.343 0.15 0.879 -0.57 0.574

BEA -1.38 0.169 -0.20 0.841 0.84 0.408

DS 2.49 0.015 2.37 0.022 0.52 0.609

WT -1.57 0.118 -1.31 0.201 -0.29 0.772

MSE -2.22 0.028 -1.38 0.178 0.01 0.992

SEE -1.99 0.049 -1.79 0.083 -0.58 0.568

MTE -2.55 0.012 -1.61 0.119 0.28 0.779

Note:‘t’ values with P < 0.05 are given in bold

Management & Change, Volume 11, Number 2 (2007)


Avinash Kumar Srivastav 121

CONCLUDING REMARKS

The study has revealed that problem management strategies are differently

adopted across the qualification levels. Executives with lower qualifications

are relatively more dysfunctional as compared to their counterparts with

medium or higher qualifications. Executives with medium or higher

qualifications become functional under pressure. Executives with lower

qualifications continue to be dysfunctional under pressure. Hence better

work would get done in the organization by putting pressure on those with

medium or higher qualifications. On the other hand, there is no use of putting

pressure on those with lower qualifications.

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RECOMMENDATIONS

Further research needs to be done for understanding why there are no

significant differences in the adoption of (i) problem management strategies

between the medium and higher qualification groups and (ii) Fatalistic

Thinking, Blaming the Self, and Blaming the External Agency across the

qualification groups.

REFERENCES

Folkman, S. and R.S. Lazarus (1980) “An Analysis of Coping in a Middle-

Aged Community Sample,” Journal of Health and Social Behavior,

21: 219-239.

Folkman, S. and R.S. Lazarus (1985) “If it Changes, It Must be a Process:

Study of Emotion and Coping during Three Stages of College

Examination,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48:150-

170.

Gupta, P. (1989), “Role Stress, Locus of Control, Coping Style and Role

Efficacy: A Study of First Generation Entrepreneurs,” M. Phil.

Dissertation, University of Delhi, Delhi.

Harrison, R.V. (1976) “Job Stress as Person - Environment Misfit”, paper

presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychological

Association, Washington, D.C.

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Igodan, O.C. and L.H. Newcomb (1986) “Are You Experiencing Burnout?”

Journal of Extension, 24:1, Spring, http://www.joe.org/joe/1986spring/

a1.html. Accessed on May 30, 2007.

Lazarus, R. and J.B. Cohen (1977) “Environmental Stress”. In Altman, I.

and J.F. Wohlwill (eds.), Human Behaviour and Environment (Vol.

2). New York: Plenum.

Nezu, A.M., C.M. Nezu and E.R. Lombardo (2001) “Managing Stress

through Problem Solving”, Stress News, July, 13:.3 (http://

www.isma.org.uk/stressnw/ manstrprob.htm). Accessed on May 14,

2007.

Pareek, U., (1987) “Role PICS: Measuring Strategies for Coping with Role

Stress.” In Pfeiffer, J.W. (ed.), The 1987 Annual: Developing Human

Resources. San Diego, California: University Associates, p.91-107.

Pareek, U., (2002) Training Instruments in HRD and OD (2nd ed). New

Delhi: Tata McGraw Hill Publishing Co. Ltd.

Quazi, A.M. (2003) “Identifying the Determinants of Corporate Managers’

Perceived Social Obligations,” Management Decision, 41(9): 822-831,

November.

Rosenzweig, S. (1978) Aggressive Behaviour and the Rosenzweig Picture:

Frustration Study. New York: Preager Publishers.

Srivastav, A.K. (2006a) “Achievement in Quality Assurance:An Empirical

Study on Relationship with Stress, Coping and Personal Variables,”

Indian Journal of Training and Development, January – March, p.

65-76.

Srivastav, A.K. (2006b) “Coping with Stress in Organizational Roles,” Indian

Journal of Industrial Relations, 42(1): 111-128, July.

Srivastav, A.K. (2007a) “Problem Management in Public Sector: An

Empirical Study,” South Asian Journal of Management, 14(1):38-52,

January - March.

Management & Change, Volume 11, Number 2 (2007)


Avinash Kumar Srivastav 123

Srivastav, A.K. (2007b) “Problem Management Across Age:An Empirical

Study,” The Icfaian Journal of Management Research, VI(10): 71-

81.

Taylor, S. and Psychosocial Working Group (1998) “Coping Strategies

(Summary)”. In John, D. and C.T. MacArthur (eds.), Research

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Accessed on February 1, 2008.

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SWAMI RAMAKRISHNA PARAMHANSA :

A GREAT SAINT OF INDIA

These extraordinary personalities have powerfully influenced their

generation and the succeeding generations. They have powerfully

influenced great men and changed the whole tenor of their lives. Sri

Ramakrishna Paramhansa obviously was completely outside the run

of average humanity. He appears to be in the tradition of the great

Rishis of India, who have come from time to time to draw our attention

to the higher things of life and of the spirit. For India never ignored, in

the course of her long history and in spite of the other activities of the

world, the spiritual values of life, and she always laid certain stress on

the search of truth by whatever names they may call themselves. India

built up this tradition of the search for truth and reality, and at the

same time she built up the tradition of the utmost tolerance to those

who earnestly strive for the truth in their own way.

- Jawaharlal Nehru

Source: J.LNehru, Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda,

(Speech Delivered at the Ramakrishna Mission, New Delhi,

March 20, 1949), Advaita Ashram, 5 Dehi Entally Road,

Kolkata 700014, 1995.

Management & Change, Volume 11, Number 2 (2007)


124 Avinash Kumar Srivastav

S.No.

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

11.

12.

13.

14.

15.

16.

17.

.18.

19.

20.

21.

22.

23.

24.

Role-PICS Questionnaire

(Simplified by omitting pictures)

Questions

So they load you with so much more work!

It’s too much that my boss and my subordinates

have just opposite expectations from me.

It’s a pity you did not have an opportunity to prepare for

the future role you are likely to take in the organization.

You are so lonely in the organization.

I cannot use my talents and skills in my job.

I just don’t get enough time to spend with my family and friends.

You do not get enough resources to do a good work on your job.

They have taken away some important functions from your role,

and have given those to other roles.

Too many people expect too much from me.

It is not clear what I am supposed to do on my job.

Enough attention should have been given to help me

get into the present job more effectively.

I just don’t have an opportunity to interact with other roles.

I wish your job would help you to use your special training.

Your family is disappointed and feels deprived of

your attention because of your busy job.

I wish I had a higher level of expertise on this job.

I would like to work on many more functions than are contained

in my job.

I know you are already over-burdened,

but I am afraid you will have to do this assignment also.

You are not clear about the requirements of your job.

You are not yet ready to take higher responsibilities.

You do not have close relations with other roles in the

organization.

You do not use your main talents in your role.

You are too busy with your work

and you do not have enough time for us.

You do not have the necessary technical knowledge

and experience for the job.

I am afraid the specific function you wanted

to perform has to be given to some other role.

Source: Pareek, 2002, p. 620-624.

Management & Change, Volume 11, Number 2 (2007)

Appendix

Asked by

A colleague

A colleague

A colleague

The spouse

The boss

A colleague

A colleague

A colleague

A subordinate

A subordinate

A subordinate

A colleague

A colleague

A colleague

A subordinate

A subordinate

The boss

A colleague

The boss

The boss

The boss

The spouse

A colleague

The boss

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