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The critical requirements of first line supervisors in the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada Limited, Trail operation. Barrett, John Edward

Abstract

The main purpose of the study was to determine by the Critical Incident Technique the critical requirements of first line supervisors at the Trail operations of The Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada Limited. The Critical Incident Technique, originated by John C. Flanagan, develops a job description by making use of the observations and experience of those close to the job in question. Stories of observed effective and ineffective behaviour called Critical Incidents told by these people to interviewers, are broken down into the smallest significant units of action termed critical behaviours. When critical behaviours similar in principle are grouped together, an outline of the job made up of its critical requirements is produced. In the present study, aside from establishing the critical requirements of the first line supervisors' job the critical incidents and behaviours elicited were used in a study of five variables. Three of these concern those supplying the critical incidents termed observers: 1. Data obtained from supervisors in three broad types of work (A--heavy operations: B--process operations: C--trades), were segregated and compared. 2. Data obtained from short service supervisors were compared with data obtained from long service supervisors. 3. Data obtained from the first line supervisors were compared with data obtained from their assistants. The other two variables considered were concerned with methodological features of the technique. 4. The effect of illustrative examples, used in the introductory remarks to observers, was studied. 5. The effect of selective recall was analysed. Supervisors carrying out the second line or foreman function at Trail were selected as the observers. This group included all foremen and assistant foremen, and a number of superintendents and their assistants. The personalized group technique was used with the observers to obtain the critical incidents. Thus, instead of interviewing the men individually, they were brought in about five at a time for group interview, writing their incidents in specially prepared booklets provided for this purpose. The interviews resulted in 282 usable incidents or 424 critical behaviours. These were categorized into 35 critical requirements grouped in six areas. The areas developed were as follows: I Plans and organizes. II Deals with practical job tasks. III Encourages loyalty and respect of employees. IV Deals with infractions. V Cooperates with other supervisors. VI Demonstrates responsible interest in Company. More effective incidents and behaviours were given by the observers than ineffective. In fact the ratio was 2 to 1. This might well be regarded as demonstrating a positive and constructive attitude on the part of the second line and an indication of good first line supervision. The emphasis placed on the various areas indicate that Areas II, III, and VI were accorded the most prominent position while Areas I, IV and V occupied a lesser position. Generally this positioning was maintained in the various analyses in the study. In the analysis of the five variables the emphasis shifted at times showing the difference of viewpoint in the different levels of super-vision and men of differing seniority in the supervisory group. Thus, the superintendent level concentrated more on Area II and VI while the foreman stressed incidents illustrating the encouragement of the loyalty and respect of employees (Area III). Supervisors from work types A, B, and C, referred to above, also emphasized different job elements, indicating that men of differing temperaments and abilities would turn in the best performance in each of these jobs. Junior first line supervisors seemed more active in human relations matters (Area III) than were their seniors which points up a difference likely due to the newer selection and training programs for supervisors. When the first line supervisor was compared with his assistant, differences were again evident. The supervisor was more concerned with human relations while his assistant was busy with practical job detail. The question was raised as to whether the assistant's job should not be broadened for training reasons, if no other, to include more responsibilities in relation to the men. Study of the first methodological variable resulted in the conclusion that the use of illustrative examples increased the number of incidents elicited. It also appeared that examples from an unrelated occupation and with a non-analogous content could be used to illustrate the format of an incident to the observer with a minimum of bias apparent in results. The last variable did not produce a significant difference in the type of behaviour recalled from "past months'" experience with that recalled from the past year prior to the past month. International Business Machine equipment was successfully used in the study, particularly for sorting and counting work. It cut to a bare minimum some of the more time consuming features of the technique and proved itself to be deserving of further study. When available to the research worker it could well become the standard method for handling the data in Critical Incident studies.

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