Organizational Motivation and Leadership in the Workplace Essay

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Organizational Motivation and Leadership in the Workplace

Established pursuant to Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has played a vital role in promoting technological innovation since the founding of the United States more than 230 years ago. Despite its importance to the protections of intellectual properties in the United States, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is not immune to the same types of motivation problems that tend to affect organizations of all types and sizes, and the agency has experienced its fair share of employee absenteeism and turnover in the past. In response, the top leadership of this governmental agency took a hard look at what was taking place within its ranks and made some savvy decisions concerning how to overcome the inordinately high levels of employee absenteeism that were adversely affected the organization's performance. To determine how the top leadership at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office addressed the problem of employee absenteeism, this paper provides a review of the peer-reviewed and scholarly literature to develop a description of this organization and this situation, as well as an analysis of the role of organizational leadership and an evaluation of the role of power and influence in resolved absenteeism in this agency. A summary of the research and important findings are presented in the conclusion.

Review and Discussion

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TOPIC: Essay on Organizational Motivation and Leadership in the Workplace Assignment

For more than two centuries, the fundamental mission of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has remained unchanged: "To promote the progress of science and the useful arts by securing for limited times to inventors the exclusive right to their respective discoveries" (Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution). According to Sears and Moody (1994) the USPTO is a Department of Commerce agency. The USPTO is headquartered in five buildings that are interconnected and which are located in Alexandria, Virginia near Washington, D.C.; the agency employs more than 7,000 full-time civil servants in support of its mission to review patent and trademark applications (an introduction to the USPTO). The agency Web site also emphasizes that, "The USPTO has evolved into a unique government agency. Since 1991 -- under the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) of 1990 -- the agency has been fully fee funded. The primary services the agency provides include processing patent and trademark applications and disseminating patent and trademark information" (an introduction to the USPTO, 2009, p. 3).

Description of the selected situation

Anyone who has visited the nation's capitol or the surrounding environs can readily attest that although it is a "nice place to visit," the rigorous commute to and from governmental offices in and around Washington, D.C. is a challenging enterprise by any measure. It is little wonder, then, that the USPTO had experienced an inordinately high level of absenteeism among its employees in recent years, particularly during periods of inclement weather in the winter and during peak periods of tourism in the summer months. These high levels of absenteeism were adversely affecting the ability of this vital governmental agency to accomplish its organizational goals (Meadows, 2007).

Explanation concerning how motivational theories could be applied to the selected situation

By focusing on the quality of life and importance of the family-work connection, the leadership at the USPTO has improved the absenteeism and associated turnover rate among its employees, most especially its patent attorneys and examiners who may otherwise have perceived greener employment pastures elsewhere. According to Meadows (2007), "Federal agencies that embrace telework accrue many benefits, from better morale and employee productivity to lower absenteeism and reduced need for office space" (p. 34). Allowing USPTO employees to take advantage of the telework alternative has paid off in major ways. Fully 86% of those who are eligible for this option have opted for telework arrangements including more than 1,000 patent examiners and 230 patent attorneys who are permitted to work up to 4 days a week from their homes and absenteeism as a result of inclement weather and problematic commutes during peak tourism periods have been virtually eliminated. In this regard, Meadows notes that, "Telework is a versatile approach to managing federal human capital costs and improving employee quality of life. In USPTO's case, it has also increased employee retention and helped meet agency quality, e-government, production, and efficiency targets for several years" (p. 34).

Analysis of the role of organizational leadership in the selected situation

The connection between effective organizational leadership and performance is well documented, but the reasons why some approaches work well in some situations but not in others also makes it clear that there is no "one-size-fits-all" approach that can be used in every organizational setting. In this regard, Michalsin, Karau and Tangpong (2007) report that based on the studies by organizational researchers to date, a wide range of theories and empirical observations have emerged that suggest certain situational factors are the most salient in identifying what approach should be used. According to Michalsin et al., "These theories and studies have revealed that the relationship between leadership behavior and specific performance outcomes is complex, and that the specific behaviors that are effective often depends on a variety of variables, including situational factors and follower characteristics" (p. 2). While it is clear that some leaders are better able to wring out the very last drop of excellence from their employees, others struggle to cope with the wide range of factors that typically come into play in any organizational setting and fail to respond to employee needs in a timely fashion. Savvy leaders, though, recognize when something must be done and take action to make changes where they will do the most good, even if this means some trial-and-error approaches. The important thing, it would seem, is that effective leaders are able to mobilize the resources that are available to them in ways that convince subordinates that they have value to the organization and their needs are recognized and appreciated. In this regard, Michalsin and his associates emphasize that, "Thus, effective leadership could serve to activate resources and core processes crucial to organizational functioning that could, in turn, have a potent effect on firm performance" (p. 2). It is this aspect of effective leadership that appears to have contributed to the ability of the USPTO to address its employee absenteeism problems in substantive ways, with the top leader being the catalyst for change. According to Meadows, "To successfully implement telework in an agency, top leadership has to be a strong champion of its value to the organization. USPTO is very fortunate that the director, Jon Dudas, is an enthusiastic supporter of telework. He often speaks about how telework has become a critical part of USPTO's business model" (p. 34).

Although eligible employees will likely readily recognize the personal and professional advantages of such alternative working arrangements, Meadows also emphasizes that the USPTO director was compelled to "sell" the telework program to the agency's top leadership team: "For telework programs to succeed, an agency needs to articulate a strong business case for teleworking to senior executives and middle managers, most of whom are baby boomers who started their careers before the advent of computers and the Internet" (p. 34). The foregoing, then, indicates that top leaders do not enjoy the capacity to make decisions concerning their employee welfare willy-nilly, and effective leaders recognize the role that power and influence will play in any such initiative and these issues are discussed further below.

Evaluation of the role of power and influence in the selected situation

While it is not the largest federal organization by any means, with more than 7,000 employees, the USPTO is a very large agency and is characterized by a civil service bureaucracy that ranges from low-end clerical staff to some of the top ranks within the government. In this environment, the role of power and influence must be carefully considered when making decisions concerning who will be offered alternative working arrangements and who will not in order to avoid even the perception f unfairness on the part of an organization's top leadership. In those instances where an agency's top leaders are perceived to be playing fair, though, the benefits can be profound. For example, according to Fernandez (2005), "The power and influence approach includes explaining leadership effectiveness in terms of the amount and type of power a leader possesses and the manner in which that power is exercised. Expert and referent power are positively correlated with subordinate satisfaction and performance" (p. 198). It is clear that the USPTO's top leadership team has managed to achieve this balance and it has paid off in major ways in helping the organization achieve its fundamental mission of protecting intellectual property rights in the United States.


The research showed that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is a self-supporting federal agency that is part of the Department of Commerce headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia. The research also showed that in spite of its longstanding mission to protect the intellectual property rights of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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