Management theory – student paper – case study

Question 1 What techniques increased Rich Langstons communication effectiveness?

Based on the information from the case, there are three kinds of techniques that Langston used to help Inter City increase communication effectiveness.

The first one is counseling technique. Langston smartly adopted the counseling techniques to facilitate the upward communication. For example, when Leroy came to see Langston with the complaints on the too much workload and too low working morale in his department due to his managers misleading, Langston was patient enough to listen the whole story of Leroy, and tried every means to earn the trust and confidence from Leroy by encouraging him talk freely to gain more information on the problems. And then after got the more detailed information on Leroys problems, Langston offered Leroy proper guidance on dealing with his problem such as attending the three parties meeting to have a face to face communication with his manager.

According to Day and Schoemaker (2004), the counseling technique has many advantages. It is useful to encourage maturity of individual workers via open communication. Langston depends on this kind of technique, help Leroy and his managers gained more practical information. For instance, Leroy became more positive and confident in expressing his opinion when facing his manager. And Leroys manager also gained a lot via Langstons instruction and concise direction on helping him understanding his inappropriateness in management practice. And in addition, under the help of the counseling technique, Langston promoted the relationship and trust between his subordinates such as the relationship with Leroy and his manager, which facilitated him to find better and more proper ways to solve inside conflicts on the basis of good relationship and trust between them.

The second is the open door communication technique, which was largely emphasized by Langston as the assistance to facilitate the upward communication in Inter City. Day and Schoemaker (2004) mentioned that open door communication as one of the techniques of upward communication can help organization to improve the effectiveness of communication via two ways conversations. And with opening the door of senior managers to all the employees, employees can freely express their problems, views and complaints about every aspect in the organization. For example, Inter City was favored by the open door communication because employees problems, suggestions and even some information on conflicts can flow directly to the senior management without the barrier of hierarchy to limit the accuracy of these messages, based on which trust between management and ordinary employees can be improved, solutions of some problems pointed by employees can be worked out quickly, in another word, communication become more proper and thoroughly.

The third technique is the participative technique such as the meeting. Langston positively promoted the three parties meeting involved Leroy and his manager as well as Langston himself to help both Leroy and his manager to show their ideas freely under his proper guidance and instruction. As Johnson and Chang (2000) mentioned, having meetings with the subordinated is a very useful technique to build upward communication. It is aimed to encourage organizational employees to not only express their suggestions, problems and needs related to their current jobs and tasks but also present their criticism and recommendations on the management practice. And in Inter City, Langston properly used this kind of technique to help Leroy and his manager move the iceberg and gain better communication between each other to facilitate their cooperation in the future, which is really very helpful and useful.

The fourth technique used by Langston is listening technique, which we can find from the communication between him and Leroy. Leroy showed Langston several inappropriateness of the management practices in his department by his manager which may be embraced by personal feelings and emotions of Leroy. But as a good listener, Langston could properly tell the right and wrong and gave Leroy suitable feedback in order not to make the matter blurt out. As Krizan et al. (2008) and Daft (2010) disclosed that the listening technique often includes the skill of catching not only the facts but also the senders feelings to interpret the genuine meaning of the message, which can facilitate managers to present proper response to comfort the mood of senders. Such kind of listening technique was well adopted by Langston in dealing with the case of Leroy. And because of the proper listening technique that Langston used, it can facilitate Langston to carry out the suitable response to Leroys problem such as the statement on Leroy’s refusal of spreading out his complaints to others which was seemed inarguable.

The last technique used by Langston is the facilitation technique, which Langston used in making his subordinates to accept the arrangement of the management. For instance, although Leroy freely showed his complaints on his manager for the workload and low work morale in his department, he refused to let others know his complaints for thousands of excuses. But Langston smartly used the facilitation technique to make Leroy understand current situation that he only had two choices, one of which was to leave the company and the other of which was to have a face to face communication with his manager to solve the problems. And Leroy finally agreed the arrangement of Langston on carrying out a three parties meeting to give this conflicts a proper solution. Such kind of facilitation technique mentioned by Johnson and Chang (2000) as well as Krizan et al. (2008), it is very useful in leading subordinates to process under the designed procedures of management in organization, which can help organization create harmony atmosphere and meanwhile achieve the expected result. Langstons success in dealing with the problem of Leroy was properly reflected the function of this technique, which was so useful to facilitate the communication effectiveness of Langston.

In short all of the above techniques are all helpful for Langston to carry out an effective communication in the Inter City.

Question2 Do you think that an open door policy was the right way to improve upward communications? What other techniques would you suggest?

  1. Open door policy

The open door policy carried out by Langston was to facilitate the upward communication in Inter City, which means not only open Langstons door to all employees but also open the door of senior managers to all of their subordinates to receive information in a boarder channels. And with such kind of open door communication, employees in Inter City felt more freely to express their ideas and suggestions on the job performance, department improvements and even conflicts to the senior management, which have the following advantages.

At first, the open door policy can help to foster the effective communication between employees and managers in upward communication in Inter City, which offered a good stage for managers that were lack of management skills or experience to have a direct communication with their subordinates. Via this chance, the skills of problem solving for management team can be improved and the trust between employees and the management team can also been enhanced. For example, the open door communication offered Leroy and his manager a chance of face to face communication, through which Leroy and his manager had a better understanding of the feelings and ideas of each other on their departments development, which largely improve the trust between them. (Ivancevich et al. 2010; Keyton 2011)

In addition, open door policy also enables ordinary employees to have a face to face communication with their senior managers in Inter City to offer more practical and proper problems solving means at all levels. Because if managers in Inter City only carried out solutions to some problems by their own wisdom which may often have a narrow mind or are not comprehensive enough, these means to solve problems may be more practical and useful as well as effective offered by the employees side due to their practical experience. For example, with the suggestions from Leroy, the manager in Leroy’s department may understand what should be improved better. (Ivancevich et al. 2010; Keyton 2011)

And moreover, the open door policy can act as an effective way for Inter City to retain some talents. Because it enables senior managers to immediately know what was going on and find out the solutions before it was too late to take actions. Just as the problems of Leroy that Langston dealt with, if without the help of the open door policy, Langston may not find out the problems inside Leroys department in such a short time, which may lead to greater conflicts in the near future. (Ivancevich et al. 2010; Keyton 2011)

In short, the open door policy in Inter City was the right way to improve the upward communication, which was effective.

2) Other techniques

Besides the upward communication techniques such as the open door policy mentioned in the case, there are still other alternatives for Langston to choose to facilitate the effectiveness of inside communication in Inter City such as downward communication and upward communication.

Daft (2010) showed that downward communication means the messages as well as information are sent from the top to the bottom in the downward direction inside the organization, by which managers can communicate downward with their subordinated by several means such as speeches, e-mails, bulletin boards and so on.

Referring to the advantages of downward communication, there are three aspects worth mentioning. Firstly, downward communication can increase the efficiency of message delivering. If Langston adopts the downward communication in Inter City, managers can hand out important information immediately and quickly to their subordinates via these tools such as speeches, e-mails, bulletin boards and so on, which can also enhance the efficient of top down communication without any barrier and more complicated procedures (Johnson & Chang 2000). Secondly, downward communication is a useful technique for instruction given. Especially, in Inter City, downward communication can help Langston and other manager level employees to give direct instructions to their subordinates of what should be done and how to do, which can ensure that everyone is working at the same aims and targets(Garnett et al. 2008). Thirdly, it can enhance the speed of the feedback giving. For example, if Langston or other managers find there is something going wrong with their subordinates, they can give direct feedback to these employees which can enhance the speed of problem solving and shorten the time of moving misunderstanding, debate or interpretation(Jones et al. 2004).

Daft (2010) also give the horizontal communication such definition that it is the lateral or diagonal exchange of information among peers or coworkers inside the organization, which is aimed to both inform and request support and coordinate activities.

When talking about the advantages of horizontal communication, there are also three aspects. Firstly, horizontal communication can create the efficiency in decision making under the thoroughly exchanging ideas and opinions of each members in the department (Jones et al. 2004). If Langston promotes the horizontal communication in Inter City, the intradepartmental problems can be solved more effectively even without the help of senior management because the messages can be deliberately shared and exchanged by department members, which can save lots of time to move misunderstanding and dispute. Secondly, horizontal communication can improve the rate of intradepartmental coordination (Johnson & Chang 2000). If horizontal communication is used properly in Inter City, employees can work more harmoniously via properly communication with each other, which can assist the tasks and projects fulfillment. At last, horizontal communication can facilitate the change initiatives and improvements (Garnett et al. 2008). In Inter City, effective communication among employees can help this organization gain more useful and innovative ideas and suggestions on meeting change and future development on the basis of the collective efforts

Generally speaking, besides the upward communication, the other two techniques include downward communication and horizontal communication can also help Inter City to improve communication efficiency and effectiveness.

Question3 What problems do you think an open-door policy creates? Do you think employees are reluctant to use it? Why? Use example(s) and literature to support your stand.

1) Problems

In this case, there are also some problems caused by the open door policy in Inter City manufacturing.

At first, there is a common phenomenon that many employees are used to talking with the president of Inter City freely due to this open door communication policy. In another word, employees get used to complain problems directly to the senior managers or even the president instead of their direct managers. Just as Leroy’s complaint on his direct manager, Langston spent lots of time and energy to solve it such as the face to face talk with Leroy, the three party meeting, and so on. It cost lots of time for the president to solve that dispute, which isnt seemed to be so necessary. If Leroy just had taken a straight conversation with his manager, the problem may have been solved quickly and more effectively, because Leroys manager may understand the whole situation of his department much better than the president.

Secondly, although Leroys problems were seemed to be solved via the open door policy, it may cause incessant future troubles for the inter city manufacturing. For instance, employees may go to see the head of their managers automatically for every issue without any contact with their direct managers and mid- level managers in Inter City may lose several chances to deal with problems and conflicts in their department by themselves, which is not only a waste of the mid-level management human resource but also harm to the healthy development of Inter City Manufacturing.

Thirdly, managers such as Leroys manager may hold hostility to these employees who complain directly to their heads with out discussion with them, which may arouse unfair treatment to these whistle blowers and future conflicts in the department.

Moreover, Mid-level managers may only act very modestly in their position without any innovation and creativity due to the fear of being complained by their subordinates, which cant assist Inter City Manufacturing to gain better performance in the nearly future.

2) Literature review

As Bartol et al. (2008) as well as Bateman and Snell (2007) disclosed that open door policy may have the following consequences when it runs ineffectively.

It may lead to employees going over every issue to the head of their immediate managers. The bypassing activities may rob these managers ability of solving these problems which they usually handle. That why in the Inter City, employees such as Leroy preferred to have a direct conversation with the president instead of their immediate managers even the problems can be solved by their managers and time of senior management, which wasted a lot to deal with some unnecessary issues.

The second drawback of open door policy is that it often creates a tension between the mid-level managers and their employees. The bypassing activities may arouse mid-level managers suspect of the employees motivation of whistle blow, which may cause a series of problems between managers and these employees. Thats why managers in Inter City Manufacturing such as Leroys manager may hold hostility to these whistle blowers.

The open door policy may also limit the proper development of the organization due to managers opportunities to deal with employees problems are robbed by senior management and their creativity is limited by several modest behaviors to avoiding whistle blowing. That why the open door policy in Inter City may hinder the performance of both the mid-level managers and the whole company.

3) Employees’ reluctance to open door policy and literature review.

Because of these problems from open door policy, there may be some employees who are reluctant to this means of upward communication.

One the one hand, the mid-level managers in Inter City Manufacturing may feel reluctant to use open door policy. In the case, Inter City Manufacturing middle managers such as Leroy’s manager, who are faced with the situation that their subordinates can direct show complaints and dissatisfaction to the senior managers or even the president, may dont like this policy.

As Krizan et al. (2008) mentioned managers may resist the feedback of employees because they don’t want to hear any negative information and they don’t like to be blamed by their head or even the big boss in front of their subordinates directly. That is why managers such as Leroy’s manager may show negative attitude towards the open door policy. In the three parties meeting of the case, Leroy’s manager was given direct suggestions on his management style in front of his big boss and has to show politeness and willingness to these suggestions because in front of the big boss any reluctance towards employees suggestion may affect this image in the eyes of his big boss and even affect his future promotion. Such kind of embarrassing situation may arouse the resistance of the middle managers in Inter City towards the open door policy.

On the other hand, in the case, Leroy insisted that his manager and other colleagues wouldnt be informed his whistle blowing activities, from which we can see the fear and anxiety of being revenged by his managers. From this scene, we can infer, supposing Leroy had knew his whistle blowing activities would be informed to his manager, he would have given such kind of complaints to the president, because he may fear that his manager may treat him unfairly in the future work and even find any excuse to kick his opportunities for development and promotion. That is to say the employees in Inter City Manufacturing who take serious of their managers influence on their future career development may be reluctant to the use of open door policy.

And according to Krizan et al. (2008), employees, who are afraid of the future revenge from their managers or employees who dont trust their complaints and suggestion can be properly accepted and treated because of the bypassing activities, may be reluctant to use the open door policy. That’s why some employees may resist using open door communication to show their dissatisfaction or suggestions because they may worry about the revenge from their immediate managers which could largely hinder their career development in Inter City Manufacturing if they are still under the charge of these managers.

Question4 Henry Mintzberg’s research indicated that diverse manager activities can be organized into ten roles. Indentify two of these roles that Langston performed in carrying out his open-door policy.

  1. Henry Mintzberg’s ten roles of manager

Henry Mintzberg’s research indicated there are ten different roles for managers in organizations including monitor role, disseminator role, spokesperson role, figurehead role, leader role, liaison role, entrepreneur role, disturbance handler role, resource allocator role and negotiator role (Daft, R.L.2010).

  1. Monitor

In the case, Langston played the role as a monitor when he carried out the open door policy. The open door policy was aimed to facilitate the right function of upward communication in Inter City by Langston. From that policy, he could monitor the operation of Inter City by gathering information from the side of ordinary employees via encouraging the direct communication between employees and senior management in Inter City. At first, he opened his own door to all employees to get useful information such as massages on inadequate policies and procedures. And then senior managers in Inter City were also advised to open their doors to communicate with their subordinates. Depending on the open door policy, Langston could better facilitate the proper operation of Inter City.

One outstanding incident worth mentioning here is Leroys case. Acting as the monitor, Langston successfully monitored some inappropriate management practices of Leroys new manager by talking with Leroy and carrying out the three party meeting. In the face to face communication with Leroy, Langston got the problem between Leroy and his manager from Leroy’s story. In order to further dig the truth, as the monitor of Inter City, Langston appropriately arrange the three party meeting to get more fair and correct information from both Leroy and his managers part. And due to his successfully acting as the monitor role in this case, the problem of Leroy was properly solved and it also helped Leroys managers realized his inappropriateness.

Henry Mintzberg described the monitor role as the following. As the monitor, managers try every means to search information by a variety of channels and sources in order to evaluate the performance, wellbeing and status of organizations (Daft 2010). The function of the monitor role is to assist the organization to meet necessary changes, solve problems, catch opportunities and make proper decisions via monitoring the internal organizational operations as well as ideas, trends and events from outside (Daft 2010). Based on this description on monitor, we can conclude the role Langston played in Inter City as its monitor is relatively success. He helped this organization properly solved the inside conflicts as Leroys case and facilitated the middle managers such as Leroys manager to realize their weakness via the open door policy which may further facilitate the future wellbeing of the whole organization because he can dig out the causes to several problems by the open door policy.

Based on the above evidences and literature support, we can make the conclusion that Langston is a relatively successful monitor by the assistance of the open door policy.

3) Disturbance handler

Langston also played the role as a disturbance handler. In the case, Langston successful put out the fire between Leroy and his manager by the help of open door policy. In the process of carrying out this policy, Langston has received lots of complaints from employees who werent getting along well with their bosses, which arent easy to handle. But he can find out solutions to solve these problems via the help of his monitor role. Lets still take Leroys case for instance. When receiving the complaints on the impropriate management practice from Leroy on his manager, the initial reaction of Langston was to calm down the complainant Leroy by skillfully persuading him to accept the idea of three party meeting. And then Langston actively contacted with Leroys manager to join in the meeting to face the problem together depending his position power. And in the course of the three party meeting, Langston helped the two parties Leroy and his manager have an open and effective communication on the problems emergence in their department under the guidance of him. And then Leroy and his manager reached an agreement on Leroys management style which means this conflict was successfully solved by Langston.

According to the description of Henry Mintzberg, to act as the disturbance Handler, managers have to work like the fire fighters via seeking solutions to a variety of unpredicted problems such as a loom large strike, major customers going bankrupt, suppliers breaking the contracts and so on (Daft 2010). As referring to the case, Langston successfully annotated his role as a disturbance handler via the help of open door policy including the steps of calming matters, evaluation, re-allocation, supporting removing the thorn (Daft 2010). These measures Langston carried out to handle these problems are relatively useful. He depended on the open door policy to know the problems and properly analyzing the causes to these problems from different aspects, the carried out problem solving means such as the three party meeting mentioned in this case to help the interaction between the two parties in the contradiction, he gave large support and guidance to help each parties remove the problems such as he helped Leroys managers realized his problems on management aspects. All of these evidences proved Langston was a disturbance handler in Inter City and a successful disturbance handler.

By and large from the support of the above evidences in the case and the theory of managerial roles from Henry Mintzberg, we can get Langston played the role as a disturbance handler in carrying out his open door policy in Inter City.

Question5 Which style of leadership is Langston exhibiting based on Hersey & Blanchards Situational Theory? Evaluate its effectiveness in a company like Inter-City.

  1. Selling leadership style

The situational theory on leadership styles proposed Hersey and Blanchard defined four types of leadership such as telling style, selling style, participating style and delegating style. Each of the four styles is based on the readiness of its followers (Daft 2008). On the basis of the case, the leadership style of Langston is selling style. The following will give evidence support from the case and literature support to explain the leadership style of Langston.

According to Hersey and Blanchard, when followers of the leader are lacking in some education and experience for their job but they have high confidence, interest and willingness to learn to make them better, this kind of following readiness is defined as medium level of readiness. In short the readiness level for this kind of follower is called R2 by Hersey and Blanchard, that is to say the followers are unable but willing or confident. And based on such kind of readiness, Hersey and Blanchard recommended leaders to adopt the selling style of leadership, which involves not only direction giving but also searching input from others and making clarification for tasks rather than just giving simple instructions. (Daft 2008, 2010)

When referring to the readiness level of employees in Inter City, lets just take Leroys manager for instance. At first we can get that the manager of Leroy was full of passion and enthusiasm in his work which reflected from he made his subordinates work for long hours just from this point we can see he meant to lead his department to present a better performance via so hard work. Secondly, although he was willing to present a better performance to the Inter City, he was lack of management experience and the related knowledge, which was just as he said he had been promoted form a technical position just a few months before into the current situation with out management or planning experience. In short, he was willing and interested to learn more to help his department gain better performance even though he was lack of that field’s education and experience which was just as his statement that he welcomed Leroys suggestion to assist him to do a better job of planning. From this analysis, we can get the readiness level of Langston’s followers is unable but willing or confident according to the theory of Hersey and Blanchard. (Daft 2008, 2010)

When referring to the leadership behavior of Langston, we can get the following information from the case. At first, Langston tries to give proper and useful directions to help Leroys manager when he received complaints from Leroy about the long work hours and low working morale in that department. The direction includes two aspects. One was that he gave Leroys manager a good explanation of what was going on. The other was he gave advice on the manager to behave willingly and positively without any hostility when he talking with Leroy. Secondly, Langston was also actively to seek inputs such as subordinates’ advice for Leroys managers and offered him a face to face communication chance to further understand the whole situation. With the help of this kind of inputs, Leroy’s managers may gain better output under the support of his willingness and confidence. (Daft 2008, 2010)

On the basis of the readiness level and Langston’s leader ship behavior as well as Hersey and Blanchard’s situational theory on leadership styles, we can make the leadership style adopted by Langston is selling style.

2) Effectiveness of the Leadership

To assess the effectiveness of leadership, the leadership effectiveness analysis is a useful tool which will give a 360 assessment of organizational leadership effectiveness includes several key aspects such as creating a vision, developing followers, implementing the vision, following through, achieving results and team playing (Spillane et al. 2004; Hughes et al. 2006; Bloom2009). Based on this theory, we will give a analysis of the leadership effectiveness of Langston in Inter City from four of the above aspects.

Referring to the aspect of creating a vision, Langston was both conservative and innovative. At first, Langston had a good insight on the past practice. He made some investigation on some of the organizational ineffectiveness such as the problems in the upward organizational communication. Such kind of conservativeness in past problem analysis showed the vision of Langston was based on ensuring the weakness of the past and present situation. And secondly, he was also innovative when he made decisions to meet the need of environment changes. For example, he innovatively carried out the open door policy to facilitate the effectiveness of upward communication, which expanded the channel of massage receiving to senior management in Inter City. Such kind of practices shows the effectiveness of Langston in vision creating. (Spillane et al. 2004; Hughes et al. 2006; Bloom2009)

Referring to the aspect of developing followers, Langston did a good job. He was not only persuasive but also outgoing as a leader. In carrying out the open door policy, Langston received a lot of complaints from employees about the inappropriateness of their managers and supervisors. But his fantastic persuasive skills helped him successfully persuade these employees to have an effective and proper communication with their managers and supervisors such as the case of Leroy. And in addition, Langston often acted extroverted and friendly which helped him establish a free and easy interpersonal relationship with his subordinates, which was reflected from that his employees often feel free to have a conversation with him rather than their immediate bosses. These two points can help Langston build a good followership in Inter City, which also shows the effectiveness of his leadership practices. (Spillane et al. 2004; Hughes et al. 2006; Bloom2009)

With reference to the implementation the vision aspects; Langston clarified the vision via the help of good communication skills. For instance, he gave clearly clarification and statement to his subordinates that it was necessary for the entire company to adopt the open door policy to facilitate upward communication and encouraged the senior management to open their door to all of their subordinates. All of the practice carried out by Langston all shows his effective communication skills in assistance the implementation of his vision. (Spillane et al. 2004; Hughes et al. 2006; Bloom2009)

And concerned with the achieving results aspect, Langston was smart enough to use his position power to influence his subordinates to achieve expected goals. For instance, he facilitated the effective face to face communication between Leroy and his manager with his influence as the president of Inter City and gained the expected result that the two parties reached a final agreement on the future management practice of their department under harmonious atmosphere.(Spillane et al. 2004; Hughes et al. 2006; Bloom2009)

In short, the above practice of Langston fully shows his effectiveness as a leader in Inter City.


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