“The low number of participants who chose to take the most prudent choice for promoting high-quality grain [to not accept the wet corn] indicates that few employees are willing to defy management orders, even when they know that wet corn will spoil quickly when dumped on an already wet pile,” she notes.
The study was also able to track the factors employees used to help them make the safety and quality decision choices. Decision values were assigned to the results by charting how many times the employee viewed their options.
“Based on the assumption that if an employee who looks at each square in the decision matrix only one time, they do not use that one factor preferentially to make a decision choice,” Mosher explains. “Multiple views of a square would indicate that decision factors is more influential and ranked higher when compared with other factors and values.”
Using this tabulation, in the safety decision scenario, employees tended to look at the safety factor outcomes at a much higher rate than other factors. Supervisor opinion ranked high, indicating increased interest by employees; however, productivity and peer pressure were viewed less often than the other decision factors.
“This was an intriguing and positive finding for the grain handling facilities which participated in the study,” she says.
Although safety and quality perceptions of management showed a significant relationship with the safety and quality decisions, no significant relationship was noted between the decision choices and quality perceptions of the supervisor. It was also revealed that employees cared less about their decision’s impact on the company’s costs, but a strong interest in both company policy and storage illustrates a potential conflict in the decision making for employees.
Mosher’s doctoral dissertation research brought about more questions based on some surprising results:
- Management perceptions seem to have more of a positive influence on the decisions employees make. A strong perception of trust, safety and quality lead to more positive safety and quality decisions though this strength was not seen at supervisory level.
- Negative vs. positive peer pressure plays a role in impacting employee decision making, but this aspect requires further exploration.
- Productivity had very little relationship to do with trust in management or safety/quality.
Mosher hopes her research can serve as a basis for the development of educational training for agricultural employees, noting that little research has been done in this area to date. She plans to conduct additional research to test more decision scenarios, refine the quality perception measure for an elevator environment and to expand the number of participants.