No Response from Monitor Twenty-three – Case Study

Paul Keller is an employee working in a space program at Cape Kenedy in which he involved with the countdown for the space shuttle lift off. He and his family was excited when he first got this job because to him, it is a challenge and interesting work and to his wife, it promises good income. However, things did not happen as expected. As Keller got the job, his wife still complains about the matter of money. She even insulted him for doing a simple and less-paid job. She also accused him for not taking care of the family since he always returning home from work so late. As the result, after 12 hours of working exhausted, his wife left him cold lunch meat, potato salad and one lousy can of beer.

In addition, Keller’s job at work is not as pleasant. He is in charge of the countdown monitor 23 that along with hundreds of others from similar consoles signaled continuation of the countdown. His supervisor is a man who cares only about demanding everyone to perform the job precisely, otherwise, he would stand nearby to watch and note any errors with growing pressure. Wage increase is his method of forcing everyone to perform flawlessly. The situation happened when Keller and the team were in 24 minutes countdown to shuttle lift off. Keller got lost in what he was doing, his stomach hurts so he stopped the countdown but then he tried to get back to his job as normal. 5 minutes later, his college found him in a bad mood with his eyes opened but not respond to anything surrounding.

Question 1

Explain Paul Keller’s behavior at monitor 23. Why did he have trouble remembering and following countdown instructions? why did he fail to answer Wallace questions?

Answer

Paul Keller was not feeling well at monitor 23. He has been sleepless for days. The happy image of his family when he first got the job and the contrast image of his wife when he came home at lunch keep wandering in his head. He seemed to get lost of reality, he was unsure of the task he need to do at the time. He tried to calm himself and go over the instruction book but he perspired nervously as he started the standard cross-check procedures. He found it so difficult to remember and follow the instruction to perform his job. When Barksdale, the supervisor, asked him what was wrong, he was afraid to express his condition and managed to go back to do his job.

Keller had trouble remembering and following countdown instructions because he was physically tired; stressful about the job itself, about his family. In his mind, thoughts about controversy with his wife, financial burden and job responsibility have taken place. He had so many things to worry that make him unable to focus on his current task. Therefore, it is so difficult for him to intake other information and understand instructions.

Keller failed to answer Wallace question because he was exhausted, he probably lost his nerves of what was going on and thinking about the grey future waiting for him. Keller has been sleepless, lack of nutrition for days while he also had to work over time. As he could not perform his job on the final day, he thought that his supervisor would surely not giving him his wage increase. As the result, his wife would continue to complaint, insult and treat him without respect.

Question 2

How was Keller’s problem at home related to his behavior at work? Why did he have trouble sleeping? What might explain his stomach pains?

Answer

Keller’s problem at home made him can not focus on working and more stressful at work. During his time sitting in monitor 23, he can not stop thinking about his family and his controversy with his wife which prevent him from paying full attention on his current task. He was not feeling well that day, but he could not take a day off and tried to hide it from his supervisor because he was afraid if he did not finish his job on the last day, his supervisor would make him lose the chance for wage increase which is the topic of his controversy with his wife at home.

Keller had trouble sleeping because he had to work very hard to prepare for the important day that the shuttle lift off. He spent 12 hours at work the other day. Also, he was worried about the financial burden that his wife had been complaining about. Furthermore, he felt suspicious about his job since his wife thought he was being cheated at work. Keller’s wife thought Keller were given a good job title but the salary is equal to of a “push button technician”.

Keller’s stomach pain might due to lack of eating. He did not receive respect and care from his wife. After 12 hours of working exhausted, his wife left him cold lunch meat, potato salad and one lousy can of beer. I believe, Keller would not want to eat such lunch and this must have been happened for a period of time which lead to such stomach pain.

Question 3

What should Barksdale do about Keller and his problems? Can an organization like NASA do anything to identify employees like Paul and to help them cope with their problems before they become serious?

Answer

In this situation, Barkdale played an important role, it is Barkdal’s methods of leadership that put Keller under even higher pressure. Keller hesitated to express his unwell condition because Barkdale was the kind of person who would not listen, care and understand about problem that is not work, instead Barkdale expect his employees to set aside their everyday worries and focus on the task. In addition, if Keller did not perform right that day, it is likely that Barkdale would not give Keller his chance to increase wage. As the result, in my opinion, Barkdal should change his methods of leading the group. He should have listened more to his team members. As soon as he noticed there were something wrong with his monitor 23, he should have paid more attention to it, at least came to see Keller. Listening to Keller on the system can not provide enough information about his status and problem. Furthermore, Barkdale should not be so rigid because it creates a big gap in relationship between supervisor and employees at a lower level that made Barkdale fail to motivate his team to work effectively. Barkdale also should change his salary policy. People’s work must be recognized for the whole time they have been contributing, not just base on the final day when they success on lifting off the shuttle. Like the case of Keller, he had been working very hard recently, unfortunately, on the final day, he felt unwell and could not perform the last task. He should still get the reward for his overall contribution.

An organization like NASA can definitely identify employees like Paul to help them cope with their problem before it became serious. It might be difficult for a huge organization as NASA but it is possible. Division leaders, department leader or any leaders should be trained about leadership and organization behavior. Many small teams that are influenced by leadership and organization behavior perception will create organization culture that motivates members and support each other to work better and overcome family related problems.

Everyone in the organization are not only pursuing the goal of doing a good job within their specialized area but also encourage each other to cooperate and enjoy working.

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