The Problems at Work Questionnaire (PAW)

On the following pages you will find a series of vignettes. Each one describes an incident and then lists four ways of responding to the situation. Please read each vignette and then consider each response in turn. Think about each response option in terms of how appropriate you consider it to be as means of dealing with the problem described in the vignette‚ and then rate it on the seven point scale. You may find the option to be “perfect‚” in other words‚ “extremely appropriate” in which case you would rate the option a 7. You may consider the response highly inappropriate in which case you might rate it a 1. If you find the option reasonable you would se‎lect some number between 1 and 7 as its rating. So think about each option and rate it on the accompanying scale. Please rate each of the four options for each vignette. There are eight vignettes with four options for each‚ for a total of 32 items. There are no right or wrong ratings on these items. People’s styles differ‚ and we are simply interested in what you consider appropriate given your own style.
In each case‚ the stories ask about what is the appropriate thing for the supervisor to do. Some portray you as the supervisor and some ask what you think is appropriate for another supervisor to do. While some of these situations may not be ones that would arise in your specific work‚ simply imagine what it would be like for you in that situation‚ and respond accordingly. In rating each item‚ please use the following scale:
very inappropriate
Jim‚ an employee for several years‚ has generally done work on a par with others in his branch.
However‚ for the past couple of weeks he has appeared preoccupied and listless. The work he has done is good
but he has made fewer calls than usual. The most appropriate thing for Jim’s supervisor to do is:
1. Impress upon Jim that it is really important to keep up with his work for his own good.
2. Talk to Jim and try to help him work out the cause of his listlessness.
3. Warn him that if he continues to work at a slower rate‚ some negative action might be taken.
4. Let him see how his productivity compares with that of his coworkers and encourage him to catch up.
Nancy‚ one of your employees‚ has been going to night school working toward her degree. She has been working hard at it‚ doing extremely well and is proud of her accomplishments. However‚ you are concerned‚ because she is very hard to work with whenever the pressure at school is high. You decide the best thing to do is:
5. Ask her to talk out how she plans to handle the situation.
6. Tell her that she ought to watch the balance between work and school and suggest she put more of her energies into her job.
7. Point out how other working “students” have handled the problem and see if that helps her handle the situation better.
8. Insist that she cut down on the studying or take fewer courses; you can’t allow it to interfere with work.
One of the work teams in another branch has been doing more poorly than the other groups all year. The appropriate way for that manager to handle the situation would be to:
9. Tell them that performance has to improve and offer them tangible incentives to improve.
10. Let them know how the other teams are performing so they will be motivated to do as well.
11. Have some discussions with the team as a whole and facilitate their devising some solutions for
improving output.
12. Keep a record of each individual’s productivity and emphasize that it is an important performance index.
For some time Jack’s down times have been at a steady‚ average level. You suspect however that he could do better. A useful approach might be to:
13. Encourage Jack to talk about his performance and whether there are ways to improve.
14. Stress to Jack that he should do better‚ and that he won’t get ahead if he continues at his current level.
15. Go over your evaluation with him and point out his relative standing with others.
16. Watch him more closely; praise him for increased output‚ and point out whenever he falls behind.
Recent changes in the operation have resulted in a heavier work load for all the employees. Barbara‚ the manager‚ had hoped the situation would be temporary‚ but today she learned that her branch would need to continue to work with the reduced staff for an indefinite period. Barbara should:
17. Point out that her employees will keep their own jobs only if they can remain productive at the current rate; and then watch their output carefully.
18. Explain the situation and see if they have suggestions about how they could meet the current demands.
19. Tell all of her employees that they should keep trying because it is to their advantage to do so.
20. Encourage her employees to keep up with the work load by pointing out that people are doing it adequately in other branches.
There is one assignment in your territory which is regarded by all as the worst. It involves a regular visit to an unpleasant building to work on equipment that is typically abused. It has been given to the employee with the least seniority. However‚ Dave‚ the man currently assigned to this job has been doing it for sometime‚ as no
one new has been hired. While he is generally very cooperative and satisfied in other respects‚ Dave seems to be increasingly resentful about this job‚ in part because it’s an object of jokes and chiding from his peers. Dave’s manager might:
21. Let him know that the other people at his level also have to put up with unpleasant aspects of their jobs‚ and give him a few examples of these.
22. Be clear with him that it is his responsibility and be sure he continues to do it.
23. Talk to him about the job‚ see if he can work through some of his feelings about it and the jokes that get directed at him.
24. Point out that the job is fairly assigned based upon seniority‚ and that such a system works for Dave’s own good as well as others’.
Harry‚ who manages the parts department‚ seems to be creating something of a bottleneck. Important parts are often “on order” and not in stock‚ and he often is slow in meeting short notice demands and “emergency” situations. The best thing for his supervisor to do is:
25. Emphasize how important it is for him to keep up with orders and emphasize that he should meet ongoing demands.
26. Let him know how other people in comparable positions are managing to keep up‚ so he can think about it. This might help him figure out how to better keep up.
27. Insist that the orders be done within a specified time limit‚ and check to be sure he is meeting the deadlines.
28. Find out from Harry what he thinks is wrong and see if you can help him figure out how to better organize his operation .
One of the customers has let you know that he is not very satisfied with the attitude of his service representative. The thing for you to do might be:
29. Raise the matter with your subordinate to see what has been going on for him in dealing with that customer.
30. Point out that customer satisfaction is important and that he should work on relating better to the customer.
31. Show him some ways that others relate to their customers so he can compare his own style to others.
32. Tell him to see to it that the customer is more satisfied and let him know you will be checking up on him.

Deci‚ E. L.‚ Connell‚ J. P.‚ & Ryan‚ R. M. (1989). Self-determination in a work organization. Journal of Applied Psychology‚ 74‚ 580-590.