More Than a Paycheck
Lemuel Greene was a trainer for National Home Manufacturers, a large builder of prefabricated homes. National Home had hired Greene fresh from graduate school with a master’s degree in English. At first, the company put him to work writing and revising company brochures and helping with the most important correspondence at the senior level. But soon, both Greene and senior management officials began to notice how well he worked with executives on their writing, how he made them feel more confident about it, and how, after working with an executive on a report, the executive often was much more eager to take on the next writing task.
So National Home moved Greene into its prestigious training department. The company’s trainers worked with thousands of supervisors, managers, and executives, helping them learn everything from new computer languages to time management skills to how to get the most out of the workers on the plant floor, many of whom were unmotivated high school dropouts. Soon Greene was spending all his time giving short seminars on executive writing as well as coaching his students to perfect their memos and letters.
Greene’s move into training meant a big increase in salary, and when he started working exclusively with the company’s top brass, it seemed as though he got a bonus every month. Greene’s supervisor, Mirela Albert, knew he was making more than many executives who had been with the company three times as long, and probably twice as much as any of his graduate school classmates who concentrated in English. Yet in her biweekly meetings with him, she could tell that Greene wasn’t happy.
When Albert asked him about it, Greene replied that he was in a bit of a rut. He had to keep saying the same things over and over in his seminars, and business memos weren’t as interesting as the literature he had been trained on. But then, after trailing off for a moment, he blurted out, "They don’t need me!" Since the memos filtering down through the company were now flawlessly polished, and the annual report was 20 percent shorter but said everything it needed to, Greene’s desire to be needed was not fulfilled.
The next week, Greene came to Albert with a proposal: What if he started holding classes for some of the floor workers, many of whom had no future within or outside the company because many could write nothing but their own names? Albert took the idea to her superiors. They told her that they wouldn’t oppose it, but Greene couldn’t possibly keep drawing such a high salary if he worked with people whose contribution to the company was compensated at minimum wage.
Greene agreed to a reduced salary and began offering English classes on the factory floor, which were billed by management (who hoped to avoid a wage hike that year) as an added benefit of the job. At first only two or three workers showed up—and they, Greene believed, only wanted an excuse to get away from the nailing guns for awhile. But gradually word got around that Greene was serious about what he was doing and didn’t treat the workers like kids in a remedial class.
At the end of the year, Greene got a bonus from a new source: the vice president in charge of production. Although Greene’s course took workers off the job for a couple of hours a week, productivity had actually improved since his course began, employee turnover had dropped, and for the first time in over a year, some of the floor workers had begun to apply for supervisory positions. Greene was pleased with the bonus, but when Albert saw him grinning as he walked around the building, she knew he wasn’t thinking about his bank account.
What need theories would explain why Lemuel Greene was unhappy despite his high income?
Greene seems to have drifted into being a teacher. Given his needs and motivations, do you think teaching is an appropriate profession for him?