Question1 What techniques increased Rich Langston’s communication effectiveness?
According to Daft (2010), communication is the process by which information is exchanged and understood by two or more people, usually with the intent to motivate or influence behavior, which isn’t just sending information but includes listening and feedback giving. Langston as the president of the Inter City Manufacturing Inc. flexibly adopted different techniques to increase the effectiveness of communication including open door policy, counseling tactic, participative technique as well as listening technique.
The open door policy Langston carried out in the Inter City Manufacturing Inc. was an innovation. He not only opened his own door but also advised other senior managers to open their door to all employees who wanted to express their complaints, feelings and suggestions to the performance or management of this organization. According to Cheney (2010) and Tourish (2010), open door policy is the one that encourage communication to take place from the bottom to the top of the organization, which means every employees no matter which position they are in, they are allowed to go to see their immediate supervisors and managers, the boss of the supervisors and managers or even the president of the organization, with the problems and suggestions which they consider as necessary issues to discuss with the management at a upper level. In the Inter City Manufacturing Inc., Langston enhanced the communication effectiveness depending on a broader range of information and messages delivered from the bottom without filtered and distorted to the top management, which can help managers to solve conflicts and problems immediately and efficiently.
The counseling tactic used by Langston was also effective enough to facilitate the inside communication. Langston gave his employees suitable and useful instructions and advice when they came to see him to express their troubles, because of which employees in the Inter City manufacturing become more active and willing to show their opinion to the top management even the president. In the case, When Leroy showed his trouble to Langston, Langston skillfully used the counseling tactic to help Leroy solve that problem. At first, he objectively analyzed the status quo and found out what was happening inside Leroy’s department that Leroy’s complaints on his manager may be right. And then he chose an appropriate context and medium for delivering his message to Leroy that he gave Leroy a direct speech that it was a must for Leroy to have a face to face communication with his manager to clarify the problem and solve it directly. At meanwhile, Langston also gave Leroy’s manager suitable instruction such as being willing and without hostility to Leroy’s suggestions. Based on the assistance of counseling tactic, Langston helped Leroy and his manager had an effectively communication and successfully solved their problem. (Tourish &
Participate technique was also properly adopted by Langston in Inter City Manufacturing Inc. the three parties meeting carried out by Langston was one form of the participate technique, in which Langston conducted Leroy and his manager positively to express their views freely. Jones et al. (2004) advocated participate technique can assist managers to make the subordinates show their own opinions more freely and provide more inputs in decision making as well as improve the level of their working performance and commitment to their jobs. The three parties conducted by Langston showed the advantage of such participate technique that Leroy and his manager showed their opinions on the management practices in their department, the fear of Leroy was moved, the harmony between Leroy and his manager was increased and specially Leroy’s manager gained more useful suggestions to improve his management method in the future.
Beyond the above, Langston also used proper listening technique to improve communication effectiveness in the Inter City Manufacturing Inc, which was reflected from the communication with Leroy. When Leroy expressed his complaints on his manager to Langston such as giving them too long work time and resulting in low work morale of their department, Langston received these messages objectively without showing partiality to both sides even though he had investigated the problems may lay in the manager side and then gave a proper and suitable respond to Leroy’s problem. As Hughes et al. (2006) disclosed effective listening technique can assist managers to get both the truth and senders’ emotions to give suitable response to message senders. In dealing with Leroy’s complaints, Langston undoubtedly used the listening technique wisely. He clearly caught the situation and offered proper respond to Leroy that he had no choice but to accept the offer of having a meeting with his manager under that kind of situation based on the fully understanding of Leroy’s emotion. With such kind of listening technique, Langston improved the communication effectiveness between him and his employees a lot.
By and large, these techniques as the above described do help Langston improve the effectiveness of communication.
Question2 Do you think that an open door policy was the right way to improve upward communications? What other techniques would you suggest?
ⅰ) the effectiveness of open door policy
According to Cheney (2010) and Tourish (2010), an open door policy in companies means managers’ doors are open to every ordinary employee to encourage the open communication inside the organizations. And in Inter City Manufacturing Inc. the open policy also refers to the door open of every managers from the senior level to mid level to allow message to flow from the bottom to the top of the organization, which is aimed at providing ordinary employees fair chances to show their ideas, feedback and even problems which they are faced with in order to improve the effectiveness in upward communication of Inter City Manufacturing Inc.. And the effectiveness of such kind of policy is described as below.
The open door policy in Inter City Manufacturing Inc. offers opportunities of speaking with senior management to employees, which can help employees to improve their personal courage, capacity to resolve conflict as well as the problem solving skills because they may have to do a good preparation on these issues which they are going to show to their senior managers before the communication (Cheney 2010; Tourish 2010).
Beyond that, open door policy can also help managers in Inter City Manufacturing Inc. to enhance their problem solving skills. Because it may offer managers access to hear ideas which they normally can’t hear and the chances for managers to see what was really going on, which can enhance managers who are in the shortage of professional management knowledge and practice gain more useful experience and skills. For example, under the communication with Leroy on some inappropriate aspect of the management practice, Leroy’s manager can understand what was really happening and how to make efforts at the right direction in the future. (Cheney 2010; Tourish 2010)
In addition to this, open door policy can also help Inter City Manufacturing Inc. to enhance the trust level between its management and ordinary employees. For example, after the direct communication between Leroy and the manager, the two parties may gain a better mutual understanding and the ideas shared by each other can also enhance the harmony and trust, which may help them work together under their common goal more effectively in the future. (Cheney 2010; Tourish 2010)
At last, open door policy can also help Inter City Manufacturing Inc. reduce the turnover of employees under the help of more effective communication from the bottom to the top of the organization. Messages can be delivered much faster and more correct to the senior management which can help them to carry out solutions to some particular conflicts or problems before situation become too worse to deal with. (Cheney 2010; Tourish 2010)
All in all open door policy is an effective means to enhance the upward communication in Inter City Manufacturing Inc, with the help of which this organization can gain several benefits to achieve better future performance.
ⅱ) Alternative communication techniques
Besides the upward communication adopted by Langston such as open door policy and other means, there are also another two alternatives for Langston to choose. One is downward communication, the other is horizontal communication.
According to Daft (2010), downward communication implies information and messages flow from top management to the subordinates along the downward direction by tools such as direct speeches, messages in the newsletters of company, e-mail, material on bulletin boards so on and so forth. Due to the characteristic of downward trend of the information flowing, this kind of communication techniques owns several benefits.
On the one side, downward communication can facilitate the implementation of organizational goals and strategies with out wasting time in explaining and clearing misunderstanding. For instance, if Langston implement the downward communication appropriately in the Inter City Manufacturing Inc, lower level employees can get the information and instruction from the top management more efficiently by synchronizing organizational procedures and giving overall organizational aims and objectives directly. (Altınöz 2009; Daft 2010)
One the other side, downward communication can improve the accuracy of job instructions as well as rationale from the top management to the ordinary employees. In the Inter City Manufacturing Inc, if all of employees can receive proper and accurate instructions and requirements for their tasks from the management more often, the overall performance and working efficiency as well as effectiveness of the whole organization would be improved. (Kester et al. 2008, Daft 2010)
Beyond that, downward communication is useful and efficient to deliver feedback from management to ordinary employees. In the Inter City Manufacturing Inc, managers can use downward communication such as direct speeches to give feedbacks on working performance to their subordinates and suggestions, which can help their department and even the whole organization, solve problems quickly and effectively. (Jones et al. 2004, Daft 2010)
Meanwhile, Daft (2010) also defined the horizontal communication as the techniques of delivering messages among peers and coworker along the lateral direction, which also owns several benefits as the following discussion.
Horizontal communication can not only support employees to coordinate with each other on their tasks but also improve the harmony of the working atmosphere. In the Inter City Manufacturing Inc, lateral communication among peers can help move misunderstanding and make employees work together with higher harmony to facilitate the accomplishment of tasks and projects. (Altınöz 2009)
Furthermore, horizontal communication can facilitate the problem solving. If horizontal communication is used in Inter City Manufacturing Inc properly, problems can be solved more quickly and effectively because horizontal communication can enhance the communication effectiveness among employees and they can exchange ideas and information more thoroughly, which could help carry out more useful and helpful means to solve problems based on brain storm essences of all the employees. (Kester et al. 2008)
Moreover, horizontal communication is also beneficial for organizations to meet environmental changes and have self improvements. In Inter City Manufacturing Inc, if information and ideas can be communicate thoroughly via lateral communication, more innovative ideas and measures towards changes and challenges can be proposed and the cohesiveness of employees can be enhanced which is good to the implementation the organizational change and enhance the competitiveness via working on the effort of the whole organization. (Altınöz 2009; Daft 2010)
In a word, both downward communication and horizontal communication are useful techniques for Langston to improve the communication effectiveness of the Inter City Manufacturing Inc, which are recommended as the alternatives of the upward communication means.
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.
ⅰ) Drawbacks of open door policy
Every thing has two sides including the open door policy in Inter-City Manufacturing Inc.. There are some drawbacks of this policy, which are shown in the evidences from the case as below.
At first, the open door policy decreases the rate of effectively solving the problems in the Inter-City Manufacturing Inc. As the case shows, Rich Langston as the president of Inter-City Manufacturing Inc. solved one of the problems about employees’ complaints by himself depending on face-to-face communication with the employee named Leroy, carrying out an three-party and other related measures instead of Leroy’s immediate boss. Although problem was solved finally, such kind of activities may result in the ineffectiveness performance of this company in the long run.
Based on the views from Bateman and Snell (2007) and Tourish (2005), the open door policy leads to the inability of problem solving of the organizations. If the problems of a sales representative are handled by the CEO or senior managers rather than the sales manager, the chance of the problem being handled effectively and properly may be lower, due to the professional knowledge and particular experience of the sales managers to deal with this kind of problem. On this basis, we can get the reason why the open door policy in Inter-City Manufacturing Inc. may cause the ineffectiveness performance because if the president and other senior managers deal with some special problems which required professional knowledge and particular experience rather than the immediate managers, problems may not be solved as effective and satisfactory as the immediate managers do.
Moreover, in the case, it mentioned several employees are accustomed to the talking with president, which led to the trend of showing every issue to the upper management from ordinary employees in Inter-City Manufacturing Inc., which not only cost the precious time and energy of the senior management but also hinder the further development of the problem solving skills of the low to mid level managers.
Bateman and Snell (2007) and Tourish (2005) mentioned that another drawback of the open door policy is the discouragement of the development and enrichment of skills and experience of these individual managers. They held the ideas that open door policy enables senior managers to deal with some problems which may be no need to be solved by them instead of the lower to mid level managers. And what the lower to mid level managers do is just to follow the guide and the intention of the senior managers, which may limit the development potential of these managers. Due to this, the reason why the open door policy in Inter-City Manufacturing Inc. may waste the time and energy of the senior management but also hinder the development of the low to mid level manager can be got. For instance, although Leroy’s problem was solved under the guide and assistant of Langston, there was only a small piece of benefit for Leroy’s immediate manager to gain. Because for the inexperienced manager just as Leroy’s immediate manager, it is important to give them chances to solve problems by themselves, only depending on this can they quickly grow up and better service the Inter-City Manufacturing Inc. (Cascio2010).
Furthermore, there is also a possibility of the future conflicts between employees and their immediate managers because of the events of whistle blowing in Inter-City Manufacturing Inc. According to Bateman and Snell (2007) and Tourish (2005), the open door policy may make managers doubt the intention of the employees who make complaints to the senior management directly without any in advanced notice to them. On the basis of this opinion, it may be difficult for Leroy’s manager to give Leroy fair enough treatment which may lead to conflicts between Leroy and his manager in the future and even affect the performance of Leroy’s department.
ⅱ) Reluctance of employees
Based on the information from the case, there is some reluctance to the open door policy from its employees in Inter-City Manufacturing Inc, which is mainly from two types of employees. One is the ordinary employees who are worried the whistle blowing may bring too many troubles to them. The other is the low to mid level managers who are directly faced with the influence of the open door policy’s consequences.
In terms of ordinary employees in Inter-City Manufacturing Inc, we can get more information from the behavior of Leroy. It mentioned that although Leroy bitterly complained his immediate manager to Langston, he still felt anxious about his immediate managers and other colleagues may know he was the whistle blower, which was reflected from his behavior that he wouldn’t allow the president to inform his manager his complaint and to seek further information from his colleagues. From that series of behaviors of Leroy as one of the representative of ordinary employees in Inter-City Manufacturing Inc, we can feel their anxiety and worry about the consequences of their whistle blowing action. Employees like Leroy may belong to the brave ones, but they still worry about the revenge and bad influence of the whistle blowing action. There are many timid employees, only choosing to stand in the middle in order to keep themselves safe who may be reluctant to use the open door communication policy.
Jackman and Strober (2003) as well as Tourish (2005) advocated that in order to avoid managers’ revenge such as unequal treatment, deliberately creating troubles and other related action; many employees may choose to keep silence in the open door communication with the big boss or their immediate managers’ head. Their views adequately explain why there are employees in Inter-City Manufacturing Inc show reluctance to the open door policy.
As far as the low to mid level manager employees concerned, they may also show reluctant attitude towards the open door policy. The case mentioned, Leroy’s immediate manager showed polite, honest, open minded attitude towards the problems Leroy presented instead of hostility. But the scene was taking place in front of the big boss, even though Leroy’s immediate manager may feel unhappy about Leroy’s whistle blowing activity, he can’t express it in front of the big boss.
Jackman and Strober (2003) as well as Tourish (2005) also mentioned the big pressure low to mid level managers have to afford both from their head and from their subordinates under the situation as Leroy’s manager, because whether the managers can well deal with the problems or not may direct affect their images in the eyes of the big boss which may have a big influence on their future career development. Due to the great press the open door policy may bring to the low to mid level managers, these managers of low to middle level in Inter-City Manufacturing Inc may don’t prefer the use of this policy.
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.
ⅰ) Disturbance Handler
Langston performed the role as disturbance handler in implementation the open door policy. When he got through some conflicts and complaints in the Inter City Manufacturing Inc. including some inadequate policies and procedures, employees’ complaints on their managers and other related issues, he took corrective action to remove conflicts, calm down each disputing parties and clear up the iceberg. For example, to make the inside communication more effectively and thoroughly, he remove barriers for upward communication to avoid the organizational hierarchy by carrying out open door policy to give every employees the chance to express their ideas, suggestions and even complaints towards Inter City Manufacturing Inc, which can help senior managers have a better understanding of detailed parts of the organization and then take effective action such as Leroy’s case.
When Langston had a face to face communication with his employee Leroy, he found there may be too much working load for employees in Leroy’s department under the charge of the manager who was just promoted from a technical position with out any management experience. To further understanding the situation from wider aspects and help to carry out practical solution from the overall benefit of the Inter City Manufacturing Inc., Langston advised a three party meeting although it was refused by Leroy at first. Under the assistance of well formed conceptual skills and human skill such as communication skills, long term view (Daft 2010), conflict solve skills and so on, Langston successfully got the trust of Leroy and made him think from the overall benefit of the organization to promote the three party meet. And after the proper and effective face to face communication between Leroy and his manager, the two parties reached a final agreement and all felt satisfactory. In another word, the dispute was solved adequately thanks to the role of disturbance handler performed by Langston.
Henry Mintzberg had given the disturbance handler role of manage such as definition that this role is a generalist role including taking action during disputes or crisis, offering solutions to move conflicts between the subordinates, and help organization to adapt to environmental crises specially when organization hits the unexpected iceberg and there is no clear respondent solution to some problems. To solve problems, disturbance handler is suggested to involve these steps such as calming matters, evaluation problem solving alternatives, re-allocation and removing the thorn (Henry Mintzberg 1971, 1973 cited in Daft 2010; Dunphy 2006).
According to the evidences and Henry Mintzberg’s definition on the disturbance handler role, we can make the conclusion that Langston performed as the disturbance handler in carrying out the open door policy, because all he had done such as had a face to face communication with Leroy and implementation the three party meeting and so on under the help of open door policy is aimed to assist Inter City Manufacturing Inc to solve problems and function well, which is definitely the role of disturbance handler.
Langston definitely performed the role as a leader in implementation his open door policy. He gave proper direction to all of his subordinated that every body can use the open door communication to have a face to face communication with their senior managers even with the president, Langston himself openly and freely. And then on the favor of the open door policy, upward communication can largely enhanced such as the case mentioned there were a great many employees used to talking with their senior managers or even the big boss to show their ideas, suggestions, complaints and so on. By this proper direction, the communication effectiveness was improved just as the case mentioned some messages from employees on inadequate policies and procedures were gained by this open door policy.
In addition, performing as a leader, Langston is also a good motivator towards his subordinates. He possess fantastic interpersonal skills particularly the persuading ability. The incident of Leroy’s complaints for instance, Langston has skillfully motivated Leroy from feeling reluctant to have a face to face communication with his immediate boss to act actively and positively take part in the three party meeting. Because Langston motivated Leroy to realize he and his department is an entire body, he must face these problems positively and then the department and even the whole organization can run smoothly.
Langston is also good leader with great influence. He can make the low to mid level management even the senior management act positively in accordance with the open door communication through his influence. For example, he wisely used his influence as the president of Inter City Manufacturing Inc. to bring Leroy’s manager directly and actively face his problem in management. And he finally helped this manager can anal size the problems in his department on his subordinates’ view, which was so important for the future development of low to mid level managers in Inter City Manufacturing Inc.
Henry Mintzberg emphasized the importance of the leader role for managers that is in the center of the relationship between managers and their subordinates. To strengthen the leader role in organization, it is important for managers to give a proper definition on the structure and environment inside which individual workers carry out their works and are motivated, which require managers to oversee problems as well as activities to keep the subordinates alert, to implement employee selection, encouragement, promotion and discipline, and to balance organization’s needs and subordinates’ need in order to support organization’s efficient operation. (Daft 2008, 2010; Dunphy 2006)
According to the evidences from the case as the above mentioned and Henry Mintzberg’s definition on the leader role for managers, we can make the conclusion that the role Langston performed is a leader in carrying out the open door policy, because he gave proper direction, motivation and influence to his subordinates to assist the efficient operation of Inter City Manufacturing Inc. when he investigated there were some problems such as the problem in Leroy’s department. He used his proper management skills and charisma helps his subordinates to work harder for the better performance of Inter City Manufacturing Inc. under the facility of open door policy.
Question5: Which style of leadership is Langston exhibiting based on Hersey & Blanchard’s Situational Theory? Evaluate its effectiveness in a company like Inter-City.
ⅰ) Leadership style (selling)
There are four leadership styles including telling style, selling style, participating style and delegating style in Hersey & Blanchard’s Situational Theory. In this theory, there are also four levels of follower’s readiness from R1 to R4 with the lowest readiness level to the highest readiness level of the followers. According to the level of follower’s readiness, leaders of organizations can choose the most suitable and effective style to assist the followers to gain better achievements.
In the following, it will give a analysis to define the leadership style of Langston used in Inter City Inter City Manufacturing Inc. as a leader from the aspect of follower’s readiness and his behaviors on the basis of Hersey & Blanchard’s Situational Theory.
At first, on the follower’s readiness aspect in Inter City Inter City Manufacturing Inc. we can get the following evidences. One the one hand, many employees in Inter City Inter City Manufacturing Inc are willing to learn and enthusiastic to improve themselves, such as the manager of Leroy. The manager of Leroy had high working passion and zeal and he planned to enhance their department’s performance by prolong the working hours, although the outcome wasn’t so satisfactory. On the other hand, employees in Inter City Inter City Manufacturing Inc may have a shortage in professional education and working related experiences such as the manager of Leroy, who was in a shortage of professional knowledge on management practice and planning experience, which may be the main factor of great working pressure but relatively low working morale in his department.
And Hersey & Blanchard’s Situational Theory also give the readiness level as the above description a definition that when followers are in a shortage of some education and experience for their job but they have high confidence, interest and willingness to learn they are in the moderate readiness level. And for this level the selling style may be the most appropriate for leaders to adopt. And with the selling leadership style, leaders give some direction but also seek input from and clarify tasks for their followers instead of simply instructing how to perform task. And based on this let’s check whether Langston adopted such kind of style (Daft 2008, 2010,)
One the one side, Langston did give his follower proper directions when they encounter problem in their works. For instance, when Langston found the manager of Leroy may be faced with an embarrassing situation that his input in work can’t match the outcome. He offers the manager appropriate direct such as what was really going and advice on him to behavior properly when receiving his subordinates’ suggestion in face to face communication. And then, he promoted a three parties meeting for Leroy and his manager to clarify the actual situation and reach an agreement to solve the current problems by themselves rather than give them direct instructions and orders. This kind of leadership behavior was fit for the description of selling style from Hersey & Blanchard (Daft 2008, 2010; Bateman & Snell2007).
By and large, the leadership style Langston adopted is selling style on the basis of the above evidences and the situational theory from Hersey & Blanchard.
ⅱ) Leadership effectiveness
Foti and Hauenstein (2007) as well as Manning and Curtis (2009) mentioned there are four aspects to evaluate the effectiveness of leadership including the aspects of getting the facts, creating a vision, motivating people and empowering others. According to the four aspects, we will discuss the effectiveness of Langston as the leader in the Inter City Inter City Manufacturing Inc.
At first, Langston was an effective leader in getting the facts. He gained insights into the realities of the environment of Inter City Inter City Manufacturing Inc. faced with. Langston determined the facts such as the truth of Leroy’s complaints on his manager’s misbehaviors of their department by seeking information from as many sources as possible including the face to face communication with Leroy and his management and so on. And then Langston learned the challenges facing the Inter City Inter City Manufacturing Inc. via open door communication policy to know the compatibility and motivation of his subordinates in the organization. For example, he understood the problem Leroy’s manager facing and the weakness and strengths of this manager. Furthermore, based on these information, he promoted the three parties meeting with Leroy and his manager to help them how to work together much better. (Foti & Hauenstein 2007, Manning & Curtis 2009)
Secondly, Langston was an effective leader to develop a vision and a strategy to give meaning to the work of his employees by providing purpose and clarity direction. He carried out the open door policy to facilitate the well function of upward communication in Inter City Inter City Manufacturing Inc., which was used as a tool for this organization to move the barrier of group work and create a clear and positive picture for the future development of the organization. Just as the case of Leroy’s complaints on his manager, Langston depending on the effective communication means including the face to face communication and three party meeting helped Leroy and his manager move the iceberg and work together to the better achievement of their department. (Foti & Hauenstein 2007, Manning & Curtis 2009)
Thirdly, Langston was an effective leader in motivating individual employees with different ideas, skills, and values to achieve a common mission. He implemented the open door policy to help manager level employees to get more suggestions from their employees and to realize their shortage, which can assist them to know how they were progressing towards organizational goals better. For instance, with the help of Langston, Leroy’s manager finally realized his weakness and the right direction of what he should work towards. (Foti & Hauenstein 2007, Manning & Curtis 2009)
At last, Langston was an effective leader in empowering ordinary employees the right to talk with senior management to show their opinions, suggestions and even complaints by open door policy. Under such kind of empowerment, inside communication became more effective in the Inter City Inter City Manufacturing Inc. (Foti & Hauenstein 2007, Manning & Curtis 2009)
Generally speaking, all of the above evidence proves Langston is an effective leader, especially the selling leadership style he properly adopted on the based of the follower readiness at the level of unable but willing or confident such as Leroy’s manager (Daft 2008, 2010; Bateman & Snell2007).
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