ARG-168

The following appeared as a memorandum from the Human Resources director at Dexter Gorman Instruments, a company that manufactures saxophones.


"On this year's survey about work habits, our employees tended to strongly agree with the idea that if they took less time to complete their assigned work, the quality of their work would suffer. However, we recently conducted an internal study that proves this idea wrong. Managers across several divisions identified an overtime group: the employees who worked an average of 48 or more hours per week over the past year instead of the expected 40 hours per week. We then looked at the number of documented work errors produced by all of our employees during the past year and found that the overtime group was responsible for significantly more work errors overall than their fellow employees. On the basis of these findings, our recommendation to the company president is to require employees at Dexter Gorman Instruments to complete their work during the regular 40-hour work week and allow overtime only for urgent circumstances."


Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the recommendation and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.


In this memo, the Human Resources director at Dexter Gorman Instruments challenges employees' perception that working fewer hours reduces product quality by citing the results of an internal study. In this study, groups that worked overtime made more mistakes than groups that worked regular hours. Based on this, the author recommends that employees work only 40 hours per week and only overtime in urgent situations. Despite the validity of the author's arguments, I need to ask a series of questions whose answers will either strengthen or weaken the author's conclusion.


The first question I would like to ask is the relationship between overtime and work errors. Specifically, what is the reason behind the more mistakes made by the overtime group shown in the survey the length of time worked? If it is the employees' lack of workability, and those employees with poorer workability happen to be in the overtime group, then we cannot attribute more work errors to work hours, but rather to employee ability. In addition, work content also directly affects the probability of making mistakes. Is the job content of a group working overtime more complicated than an employee's job content working normal hours? If the answer is yes, then the fact that the overtime group made more mistakes should be attributed to the high difficulty of the work rather than the overtime work. Thus, the author's conclusion would be weakened. However, if there is evidence that the only factor affecting work errors between the two groups of employees is the number of working hours, the author's conclusion would be strengthened.


Second, how do you measure the severity of job errors? In general, a company should measure the seriousness of a work error in terms of the size of the damage it causes to the company, not just the number of work errors. If the overtime group has more mistakes, but they don't add up to as much damage to the company as the non-overtime workers do, then this means that the overtime work ensures the least amount of damage to the company, even though it causes errors. In this case, the author's conclusion is weakened by the fact that shorter work hours, despite fewer errors, result in significant losses per error. Moreover, what was the number of mistakes per worker and per unit of time in the study? The higher rate of errors may result from more workers and longer working time in the overtime group. A group that works normal hours, on the other hand, will naturally make fewer errors because it works shorter hours and has fewer people. Therefore, if the number of errors per unit of time and the number of mistakes per capita are higher in the overtime group than in the standard working hours group, this indicates that long working hours lead to errors, and the author's conclusion is strengthened. Otherwise, the author's conclusion will be weakened.


Finally, even if longer working hours do lead to more work errors, we still have to evaluate the reasonableness of the author's suggestions. Specifically, while it is true that working hours should be limited to 4 hours per week, would allowing overtime in urgent circumstances lead to the desired outcome? It is possible that those people in the survey who worked overtime were already dealing with emergencies and they made more mistakes at the same time, therefore, if they worked overtime only in emergencies as recommended by the author, they would still make more mistakes, and the author's recommendation should not be implemented.


In summary, while I fully understand the reasoning behind the argument, I withhold my approval of the recommendation until he/she can provide clear answers to the aforementioned questions.


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