Title: Course Project – Motor Parts Corporation Case
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This problem in this case study arose because of a communication gap between Bob Martin, the President of Motor Parts Corporation (MPC), and Al, one of the company’s vice presidents. In this company, there is segregation between issues of personal life and professional life. Bob has failed to open up communication channels with Al, leading to suspicion of lack of loyalty with the company.
This case approach will highlight six elements that exemplify the manner in which the communication gap has manifested itself among executives at MPC. Additionally, the case will focus on the issue of segregation between family life and work-life and their effect on communication in the company.
In every organization, there is need for supportive communication if employees want to succeed in teamwork efforts. Bob is not supportive of his colleague, who is facing many problems as a result of the malignant tumor ails his wife. Once again, Bob fails to create supportive communication channels when Al faces another problem: the illness of his mother.
While in Detroit, Al uses that opportunity to attend some matters that of the company’s wellbeing. This ascertains his commitment and loyalty to the company. However, because of a lapse in communication channels, the president of the company is not able to notice this sense of company loyalty.
Communication plays a crucial role in the creation and maintenance of learning organizations. Relations-based interactions are ideal for organizations that are always exposed to conditions of complexity and instability. According to Barker & Camarata (1998), the most crucial conditions for developing interaction-based communications include commitment, trust, and perceived organizational support. These conditions are necessary if organization-employee relationships are to be maintained. Employees always want to feel valued and empowered in order to express themselves openly during various organizational communication processes.
Barker & Camarata (1998) explain that there is a relationship between the skills of active listening and the development of a learning organization. When such relationships are built, various aspects of a learning organization are nurtured. Such aspects include systems thinking, the build-up of a shared vision, team learning, personal mastery and proper mental models (Barker & Camarata, 1998).
Although employees’ personal problems are none of the organization’s business, they end up affecting the organization’s operations in many ways (Goodstein, 1994). Sometimes, employees have to weigh the options of prioritizing on family problems and expressing their loyalty to the company. When problems such as diseases affect employees’ families, it is highly likely that such employees will choose to be absent from work in order to offer much-needed help to their affected family members. However, if such problems are properly communicated, misunderstandings arise. Such a scenario has presented itself at MPC, whereby the president does not seem to empathize with the situation in which Al has found himself.
Bob was focused only on the organizational results with regard to the influence Al’s attitude was already beginning to have on other employees’ performance. This indicates some sense of sensitivity on the side of Bob. However, by sending Mike to convey the message, he appears to be a leader who is not confident of his actions. One would expect such critical messages between top company executives to be communicated in a face-to-face platform, without any form of mediation.
Bob should have employed the techniques of active listening in discussing the matter directly with Al. Empathic or active listening is a basic skill for all organizational leaders (Nugent & Halvorson, 1995). Past research has tended to focus primarily on the existing relationship between an individual’s level of empathy and the ultimate outcome (Nugent & Halvorson, 1995). The nature of the wording of active listening responses determines the nature of short-term effective outcomes that are achieved in an organizational setting (Nugent & Halvorson, 1995).
In order to create a meaningful conversation, Bob needs to focus on the value of reciprocity in building organizational relationships with colleagues. Reciprocal relationships are critical for overall satisfaction as well as the survival of relationships between employees (Tekleab & Taylor, 2003, Manning, 1992). During such meaningful interactions, Bob needs to focus on the ways in which Al might react to perceived or inherent violations of the company’s obligations. In this case, it would take a skillful approach for Bob to instill a feeling of genuine indebtedness for not being sensitive enough to Al’s personal problems.
The MPC has an obligation to offer assistance to its employees who are facing problems. As Bailyn (2003) points out, giving consideration to the employees’ personal lives is an ideal way of revitalizing one’s business. On the other hand, Chena & Chung (1994) draw upon the concept of Confucianism as one of the cultural factors that provide a link between the success of companies and the existence of a family-like system in hierarchical relationships among employees.
Bailyn (2003) highlights the case of a corporate retreat communication whereby the vice president of a company requested his employees to speak from their hearts and not to say what the top management wanted to hear. To his surprise, nearly all the issues that were raised by all employees present related to work and family. This experience underscores the central role that the family setting plays in the on-the-job performance levels. Today’s organizations can only afford to ignore the personal needs of their employees at their own peril (Burke, 2010).
Integration of work and personal life is a challenge that affects not only employees in the low cadres. Even senior managers have to contend with the challenge of handling these two unrelated but equally relevant realms of their lives (Sturges & Guest, 2009). The main problem for employees arises from the fact that traditional business goals tend to pit business goals and employee goals against each all the time (Schegloff, 2007). Al, for instance, faces a situation whereby balancing work and family challenges is a tricky undertaking.
The best organizational arrangement that can be helpful in this situation is one whereby the obligations of the company to the employees’ personal and family wellbeing are clearly outlined in the organization’s list of core values (Reina, 2006). In such a situation, it is easy for a company president to empathize with an employee’s problem without triggering a string of family-related excuses among other employees.
Rather than connect professional life to employee family benefits, organizational managers need to cultivate a close-knit relationship between work and personal life. In a study of a company that is renowned for offering family benefits, Bailyn (2003) noted that employees assumed that those benefits applied just a few people, especially women and their children. However, when a connection was created between work and personal life, every employee came on board and benefited.
Every company has an ethical obligation to help employees in times of problems, meaning that a clear policy needs to be put in place on this issue (Shore1 & Barksdale, 2009). Al’s performance was affected by an external factor and not his ability, skills or commitment to the company. The culture that has been nurtured to this day creates a conflict between an employee’s work and his personal performance. Whenever this happens, this brings about negative consequences for the business as well as an impression of the inequitable treatment of employees.
In the course of doing business, many challenges arise out of the communication strategies that are adopted by employees. The nature of communication between employees of different cadres tells a lot about the relationship existing between the communicants. In Bob, Mike and Al’s case, the context of communication must be viewed in the context of the need to cultivate positive relationships while maintaining an image of equality among all employees.
However, Al’s personal problem is a serious one and it ends up affecting his job performance. Although Bob has a reason to worry about the company’s wellbeing, he is also obliged to empathize with one of his members of staff whose wife is ill. Bob needs to understand that not all obligations in business are legal; others are of an ethical nature. It is the moral duty of employees as well as managers to maintain a balance between these two obligations. They should create and nurture a clear communication channel that can strengthen ethical obligations as part of a positive culture within the organization.
Barker, R. & Camarata, M. (1998) The Role of Communication in Creating and Maintaining a Learning Organization: Preconditions, Indicators, and Disciplines, Journal of Business Communication, 35(4), 443-467.
Nugent, W. & Halvorson, H. (1995) Testing the Effects of Active Listening, Research on Social Work Practice, 5(2), 152-175.
Reina, D. (2006) Trust and betrayal in the workplace: Building effective relationships in your organization, Amsterdam: Berrett Koehrer Publishers.
Schegloff, E. (2007) Sequence organization in interaction: a primer in conversation analysis I, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Bailyn, L. (2003) “unexpected connections: Considering employees’ personal lives can revitalize your business” in Malone, T., Laubacher, R. & Morton, S. Inventing the organizations of the 21st century, Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Chena, G. & Chung, J. (1994) The impact of Confucianism on organizational communication, Communication Quarterly, 42(2), 93 – 105.
Manning, P. (1992) Organizational communication, New York: Macmillan.
Tekleab, A. & Taylor, S. (2003) Aren’t there two parties in an employment relationship? Antecedents and consequences of the organization–employee agreement on contract obligations and violations, Journal of organizational behavior, 24(5), 585-608.
Shore1, L. & Barksdale, K. (2009) Examining the degree of balance and level of obligation in the employment relationship: a social exchange approach, Journal of organizational behavior, 19(1), 731-744
Burke, R. (2010) Do managerial men benefit from organizational values supporting work-personal life balance? Gender in Management: An International Journal, 25(2), 91 – 99.
Sturges, J. & Guest, D. (2009) Working to live or living to work? Work/life balance early in the career, Human Resource Management Journal, 19(2), 121-163.
Goodstein, J. (1994) Institutional Pressures and Strategic Responsiveness: Employer Involvement in Work-Family Issues, The Academy of Management Journal, 37(2), 350-382.
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