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On 28 January 1986, the Challenger space shuttle exploded seconds after take-of. Te retrospective conclusion was that the explosion was due to a technical failure between the rocket and the shuttlecraft. In addition, those failures had been commented on by various NASA experts, who warned of launching in temperatures below 53 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures on launch day were considerably lower. So, what made management decide to go ahead with the launch, despite those warning signals? A reconstruction showed that the pressure on NASA to launch the shuttle was immense; that pressure meant that warnings were either not submitted to, or ignored by, top level management. Tey wanted to prove to their sponsors that the shuttle programme was efcient and efective, and that it was possible to perform a signifcant number of launches within a certain amount of time. Tis was of great importance to the fnancing of the shuttle programme. Any suggested technical improvements might have cause severe delays to the programme. Another factor was the time and energy spent on the ‘Teacher in Space’ programme, which meant a teacher would be joining the crew to convince the public of the shuttle’s safety and successfulness. Tese two factors combined meant that last-minute delays would only mean loss of face. Indicate the factors that contributed to poor decision-making. Involve the following aspects in your answer: a task characteristics; b decision-maker characteristics; c organisational characteristics. d Which were the dominant characteristics of the decision-making process?


Jean Pierre works as an air-trafc controller at a large international airport. Every day, thousands of people’s lives depend on the quality of his work. Almost every day there is a near-accident. To prevent a disaster you have to think quickly and remain calm. Now that he is over 30, he is one of the oldest people in the control tower. Tere are few air-trafc controllers over 40, so he knows he has only a few years of service left. He has tensions in his private life, too. He is going through a protracted divorce. A medical check-up has discovered a stomach ulcer. Furthermore, he has high blood pressure. He has recently been fantasising about the possibility of starting a business with a friend. But he no longer wishes to work with other people.

a What stress factors of a personal and organisational nature do you recognise in this situation? b Is there a bufer efect here? c What strategies can Jean Pierre use to handle stress? d What opportunities does he have to become less stressed in his work situation?


Read the following recommendations by Van Bergen (2000) to counteract or cure burn-out: (1) ‘Not every task is worth doing perfectly. You also do not always have to do everything that is asked of you, no matter how fattering it is to be asked to do diffcult jobs. Sometimes it is wiser to disappoint people and say “no”.’ (2) ‘Do not cut all the down time out of the production process but also provide “idle time”. Tis gives employees the opportunity to rest.’ (3) ‘Make sure there is proper guidance for newcomers. Teach them to have realistic expectations of their work and let them also see that work does not always go smoothly for others.’ a What work-related interventions do you recognise in the above recommendations? b What person-related interventions do you recognise in the above recommendations?

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