How Different People Behave in the Presence of Authority
How Different People Behave in the Presence of Authority
The survey and behavior study was conducted in a finance office branch of the United States military. The office is comprised of both military and civilian employees as well as several different races and nationalities. A short written survey was conducted in order to discover how the military versus civilian personnel behaved in the presence of authority as well as how different races and nationalities behaved in the presence of authority. These surveys were filled out voluntarily and participants were asked not to include their name on their survey in order to remove any identification or bias.
However, they were asked to provide information about their military or civilian status. In addition, observations were also recorded after the survey as the employees went about their normal business activities while at least one authority figure was present. The questions asked are as followed: 1. Do you work harder when an authority figure is present? Why or why not? 2. How do you normally respond to authority while on the job? 3. What do authority figures do to motivate you to work harder? 4.
What do authority figures do that causes you to not work as hard? 5. What can authority figures do in the future to motivate you? Combined with the observations this survey provided valuable insight into the differences in behavior among civilian and military employees as well as differences across races and nationalities. The most striking discovery was that military personnel appear to be more motivated when in the presence of authority. From a personal standpoint, this phenomenon may be due to the intense training and fear of punishment within the military.
Military soldiers and officers are trained to respond immediately to authority and to refrain from questioning authority. At the same time, military personnel cannot be simply fired from a job as civilians are. In the majority of cases, military personnel sign up for a certain amount of time in the military and failing to meet these obligations is much more complicated than just being fired. This is one possible reason why the military employees within this particular finance office respond so positively to authority figures. Further, the written surveys provided additional support for this theory.
The military employees overwhelmingly responded that they were more motivated when an authority figure was present. Similarly, the majority of military employees also answered that this was because they wanted to perform well for their immediate boss but that they also wanted to avoid the humiliation that comes with making unnecessary mistakes. The civilian employees also answered that they were more motivated to work harder in the presence of an authority figure. However, their reasoning was most often due to their fear of losing their job if they did not perform well enough.
The questions and observations regarding behavior associated with not working as hard also provided some valuable insight into the differences between military and civilian personnel. The military employees reported that they often were much more at ease when an authority figure was not present but that they could never completely let down their guard. Several of those military employees who participated in the study reported that they felt as if someone was always watching them and that any unbecoming behavior would eventually make its way to their commanding officers which would put their rank and position in jeopardy.
In contrast, the civilian employees reported being able to joke around and being a little less focused on their work when an authority figure was not present. However, two of those surveyed responded that they were hesitant to engage in this type of behavior in front of military personnel simply because the military employees did not behave in this way. There were also some important differences found among the different races and ethnicities within this particular finance office. For example, there is one Middle Eastern civilian employee who works in the office as well as one Indian civilian.
These two employees are very dedicated to their jobs and work very hard to perform well. They are both very respectful of their white bosses and strive to please them at all times. These two employees were not observed engaging in any different types of behavior when authority figures were not present. Instead, they continued their work as if the authority figure was still in the room. Additionally, they were always careful to make eye contact with the person they were speaking with and were also careful to remain respectful at all times.
While the white military and civilian officers were also observed to be respectful and dedicated to their work, they were also more likely to be more relaxed when interacting with authority figures. Further, they were also more likely to have relationships with their bosses in the form of questions about their families and activities when not on the clock. The hours that employees work in this particular finance office are from 0730 until 1600. The observations and survey took place within these hours.
The written survey was conducted between 0800 and 0900 and the remainder of the day was filled with observations regarding behavior. The observations provided important insight about the differences in motivation in the morning versus towards the end of the work day. In the morning, the employees were observed sitting at their desks, booting up their computers and getting right to work. There was very little interaction among employees beyond casual greetings until lunchtime. As the lunch break approached the employees could be overheard discussing what to do with their time and generally looking forward to a short break.
While the employees returned from lunch and returned right to work the atmosphere remained upbeat. The employees engaged in a little more chatter right after lunch and as the end of the work day approached they once again increased their amount of dialogue. However, it was also observed that the amount of talking was significantly less when an authority figure was present than when an authority figure was not present. Further, the white military and civilian employees engaged in more dialogue with each other than did the other races or nationalities.
A final interesting and insightful bit of knowledge that was gained from the survey and observations was associated with the last question: “What can authority figures do in the future to motivate you? ” The majority of participants responded that authority figures would motivate them to work harder through incentives. These incentives did not necessarily need to be tangible goods. Instead, most of the participants felt that praising them for a job well done or thanking them for their hard work was sufficient in making them feel valuable.
Further, the participants felt that when their work was noticed it was easier to stay motivated because it helped them improve on their weaknesses by using their strengths. The participants responded that when their efforts were noticed and praised they were more willing and motivated to work on their weaknesses without feeling as if they were bad at their jobs. Overall, the employees within this particular finance office were hard working and dedicated to their jobs.
They behaved appropriately in the presence of an authority figure and even though they were more relaxed when an authority figure was not present they were still performing their jobs satisfactorily. The military employees displayed more discipline, possibly because of their training. The Middle Eastern and Indian employees were more reserved and less relaxed than the white employees. The authority figures were not surveyed but were observed and it was noticed that they treated all the employees equally but there were slight differences as well.
For example, the authority figures were much more reserved when interacting with the Middle Eastern and Indian employees than they were with the white employees, possibly because they were respecting individual differences. Ultimately, the surveys and observations provided information about the differences among military and civilian employees as well as across different races and ethnicities. While there were several differences, it was noted that each member of this office worked diligently and appropriately at all times.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 25 December 2016
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