Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Richard W. Malott

Second Advisor

Dr. David Lyon

Third Advisor

Dr. Jack Michael

Fourth Advisor

Dr. William Burian


Supervision of delegated tasks is often a source of organizational problems, because workers do not complete tasks as efficiently as managers expect. Analysis of the work setting suggests that behaviors of both supervisors and supervisees are governed by overlapping contingencies; different supervisor behaviors probably result in different contingencies for supervisee behavior. The analysis also reveals two categories of tasks: recurring tasks and nonrecurring tasks, with the latter type requiring frequent supervisor attention to assign new tasks and monitor previous ones. Contingencies for nonrecurring tasks were targeted for study in the present research, because of indications by managers that productivity and timeliness were problems with such tasks, and because most organizational behavior management studies have focused on recurring tasks. Four advanced undergraduate students participated as subjects, while working in the third level of a four-tiered staff hierarchy in a large undergraduate psychology program at a midwestern university. During baseline, the supervisor/experimenter assigned tasks to individual subjects in the program office, or in the hallways, but gave no deadlines and did not monitor task completion overtly. The supervisor used a structured meeting system during intervention, and implemented it with one subject at a time, according to a multiple baseline design. The system consisted of weekly individual meetings, monitoring of all assigned tasks, and use of a nonrecurring task form--a structured form, which contained spaces for blocks of assigned tasks, with deadlines for each block, and columns for supervisors to record priorities when assigning tasks, and outcomes when monitoring them. Both supervisor and supervisee had a copy of the form. The structured meeting system improved overall task completion by an average of 46% over baseline and rapid task completion (i.e., within one week) by an average of 52%. The supervisor and an observer rated tasks for importance to the setting, and results showed that even the most important baseline tasks averaged only 38% completion. Task performance improved for all three levels of importance during intervention. The structured meeting system was proposed as a way to improve nonrecurring task performance, because it improves the contingent relation between managers' approval and disapproval and workers' task performance. Furthermore, supervisors at all levels in organizations could make use of the same system to assign tasks, so interventions would not be limited to one or two levels in an organization. Integrating techniques among all levels was suggested as a way to increase the likelihood that their use and effectiveness would maintain.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access