1. clocked in less than 35 points per hour

One of the aims of Donald Roy’s article on quota
restriction and goldbricking was to introduce the effect of human group behavior
on the restriction of industrial product output, and to inform the reader about
what quota restriction is and one of the eventual consequences of it called ‘goldbricking’,
a term used to describe a person, or in this case, a worker who avoids assigned
work and shirks responsibilities. Another aim was to provide a study for the
restrictions of industrial outputs seen through active participation on Roy’s
part and observation of his coworkers.

Roy goes onto working at a steel
company for 11 month,  without revealing
his academic pursuit, doing ‘piece work’ – workers would have assigned a point
value to produce an item, based on what management thought of as easy or
difficult, accompanied by engineers who timed the process. For instance, if a
worker accumulated 125 points in an hour, he would earn $1.25. Additionally, workers
would be paid $0.85 per hour as a base rate, and so if their points were lower
than 85, they would still ear the minimum of $0.85. Anything over 85 points per
hour, the compensation was that one more point made one more cent per hour.

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The jobs were divided on ‘gravy’
(easy) and ‘stinker’ (hard) jobs. For stinker jobs, the work required was too
difficult in that the workers’ points amassed were too low in relation to the
amount of work needed. Roy’s research inferred that workers who clocked in less
than 35 points per hour risked being fired for blatantly slacking. So, the
extent of ‘goldbricking’ was in the 35-54 points her hour range which provided
workers the basic $0.85 salary. The gravy jobs were too easy compared to their
point values that the minimum could be reached within a few hours. However, Roy
found that whenever a job made more than 134 points per hour, the timers would
drastically lower the point value for the job, thus workers applied ‘quota
restriction’ – they limited their output by loafing or working at a slow pace
to avoid the lowering of the price or avoiding the demand for increased output.


One of the main theoretical findings of the article
was that organizations are ‘social arrangements’ that people in that society
use for resources. Organizations comprise of individuals with their own
personalities, goals, values, whether it be an employee or manager, who
eventually come together to ensure the organization functions and works to its
full potential with the help of co-operation in some form, although sometimes
this doesn’t happen. This was the heart of the problem in the steel factory–
workers put their own interests’ first using quota restriction.  Roy refers to a study done by Elton Mayo who
reasoned that this came from a lack of understanding of economical logistics of
management. However, Roy argued that it was exactly because workers knew about
their managers economic interests that made them establish quotas. The workers
thought that if they produced more than needed, the piece-rate would decrease
as management would deduce that a full day’s work would actually produce way
more than what they thought, thus reducing the piece-rate to save money. On the
other hand, another theoretical finding was the lack of information on what
obligations the managers had, such as to reduce prices and costs to eventually
increase profits could’ve also resulted in quota restriction. Perhaps if
workers were told that although piece-rate would decrease, the increase in
productivity would increase the output of products, increasing sales as there
was more to sell and eventually increasing wages as a result or more profit
being generated.

The main empirical findings were obviously a waste of
time and productivity loss. According to Roy, Ed Sokolsky (coworker) stated he
could complete a ‘gravy’ job in 6 minutes, however due to quota restriction Sokolsky
made enough in 4 hours and wasted the remaining 6 hours doing nothing. Additionally,
using his jobs as an indicator, Roy estimated the amount of time wasted was 286
hours. Moreover, the limit of output was drastic. Roy’s coworker would limit
his output to $0.68 per hour, thinking he could make $0.85 “limited output by
44 per cent instead of by the assumed 20 per cent.” (Roy, 1952, p. 440). Also, day-rate,
(non-piece work) workers also participated in ‘goldbricking’ by being mindful
of their output, cautious of the moment when management would decide to time
and price non-piece work jobs.

Overall, to an extent, I do find Roy’s arguments convincing
as he conducted research using a micro-level analysis by working  and communicating with the employees, making
observations of employees, (and arguably strong assumptions of managers), resulting
in a deduction or a “picture” of the steel company. Also, Roy’s argument on the
‘output restriction’ due to the lack of up-keep on technological advances is
convincing. However, Roy’s research lasted only 10 months, hardly enough time
to investigate the organization at a deeper level. Even more, observation of
managers would have offered a better variety of perspectives, resulting in
better consolidation of the study.