Improving the Management of Overtime Costs Through Decentralized Controls: Managing an Organizational Metacontingency


The use of overtime in an organization is costly, in both human and monetary terms. It is associated with increased sick leave and reduced productivity. Overtime usage is supported by behavioral contingencies and becomes an important component of a potentially destructive cultural practice. As such, it can be seen as a survival-related metacontingency, the presence of which may impact an organization's viability. This study chronicles numerous organizational attempts, in two settings, to reduce the cost of overtime while maintaining or improving staffing but leaves socially valid issues, i.e., the quality of services rendered, unanswered. One approach was a change from centralized micro-management to a more macro decentralized management authority and responsibility for managers of sub-units within Sie organization. The cumulative result of organizational changes was a shift of overtime usage from comparatively expensive full-time to relatively nominal part-time staffing costs. Gains realized tended to be ephemeral prompting an analysis of the functional nature of rules and rule-governed behavior in relation to both proximate and ultimate contingencies of organizational survival. © 1997 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

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Journal of Organizational Behavior Management