Examining the Organisational Behaviour of Hickling’s Associates Ltd
Summary of the assignment The case introduces Tony Azzara, who was retrenched by his previous company due to financial woes, as he tries to adapt himself a fresh working environment in Hickling Associates Ltd. Soon, Tony encountered difficulties in integrating into Hickling’s organization due to the apparent differences in the working culture. Stemming from the problems that he encountered in Hickling’s associates, Tony began to lose motivation to strive for better results. Fueled with the other problems, he resigned eventually.
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Three major issues – negative motivation, lack of communication and leadership style, will be critically examined to investigate the causes of the symptoms that are evident in Hickling’s organization. After which, recommendations to rectify these problems will be proposed for organizations to learn from the mistakes in Hickling’s Associates. Content Page | |Page | |1. 0 Introduction |4 | |2. Background of the case |4 | |3. 0 Symptoms in the company |5 | |3. 1 Negative Motivation |5 | |3. 2 Communication Issues |5 | |3. 3 Leadership Problems |5 | |4. Analysis of the symptoms |6 | |4. 1 Motivation |6-7 | |4. 2 Communication Networks |7-8 | |4. 3 Leadership Style |8-9 | |5. 0 Recommendations |10 | |5. 1 Leadership |10 |5. 2 Communication |10-12 | |5. 3 Culture |12-14 | |5. 4 Job Design |14 | |6. 0 Conclusion |15 | |Bibliography |16-18 | |Appendix A: Proposed Organisation Chart for Hickling Associates Ltd. 19 | |Appendix B: Proposed New Office Layout for Hickling Associates Ltd. |20 | |Appendix C: Job Characteristics Model |21 | 1. 0 Introduction This report aims to identify the causes of organisational ineffectiveness, in the context of leadership styles and employee related issues as a consequence. Focus is placed on the causes of the symptoms that were present in an organisation, where the leader displayed an autocratic style of management which resulted in an extremely low level of employee motivation and satisfaction.
Diagnosis will be done on these causes as well as suggestions on ways to improve the organisation’s overall productivity. 2. 0 Background of the case The case focuses mainly on two parts, one being Tony’s motivation to work and the other being Hickling’s leadership. It discusses how Tony was retrenched after his previous company was engulfed with financial difficulties. Subsequently, he was offered the same position in another similar organisation, which was headed by Hickling. Hickling had a contrasting style of leadership which Tony was uncomfortable with.
Whilst working there, Tony encountered several issues that made him feel uneasy. There was an obvious disparity in the work procedures between Hickling’s Associates and Tony’s previous organisation, to the point that Tony was still unclear regarding certain issues till the day he resigned from Hickling’s Associates. The working culture that was accepted in Hickling’s Associates also came as a shock as they were deemed unprofessional by Tony. Furthermore, Tony did not engage in much communication with his colleagues, as he did not approve of certain social behaviour portrayed by them.
This was also partly attributed to Hickling’s disdain for employees’ discussion regarding work issues. Additionally, despite his good performance, Tony did not receive the amount of bonus that was assured to him by Hickling. Accumulatively, these problems led to the loss of motivation in Tony and his eventual resignation. 3. 0 Symptoms in the company 3. 1 Negative Motivation Tony was genuine in joining Hickling Associates although the compensation package offered was lacking as compared to his previous company. He was very motivated to work hard and managed to double the number of seafood exports and establish new customer contacts.
However, there was no performance feedback and bonuses as promised by Hickling. Tony was disappointed and just like his colleagues, his motivation and morale was low. Eventually, Tony resigned for a lower paid job as there were no career advancement opportunities in Hickling’s Associates. 3. 2 Communication Issues Hickling adopted an open office layout, whereby the employees did not have their personal working space. The lack of trust in Hickling towards his workers had him wanting to oversee all their actions. Also, Hickling failed to openly share information with his workers, be it on Tony’s arrival or industry functions.
Ambiguity in the level of authority of the workers was unsolved and when attempted to by Tony, a public dressing-down by Hickling was the end result. Furthermore, there was no orientation or introduction for the new employee, Tony. The lack of interaction at all levels was also evident. Communication in all forms was heavily suppressed in the organisation as Hickling objected to discussion and information sharing among workers. 3. 3 Leadership problems Hickling was not an easy person to get alone with, as he was an intimidating superior with a terrible temper.
Employees avoided Hickling when possible as they had been openly scolded by him previously. His drinking habit, dress code and lack of punctuality had a major influence on his workers. Hickling had also condoned office relationships, as he was also having an affair with his employee. Furthermore, Hickling was an autocratic boss, where his words went uncontested. This is evident when he openly lied about the company’s profits and when he failed to keep his promise of giving out bonuses. Hickling had also made empty promises to Tony about the latter’s opportunity to visit his overseas clients. . 0 Analysis of the symptoms 4. 1 Motivation ‘Herzberg’ Dual-Structure Theory can be used to understand the lack of motivation in Tony and his colleagues. It explains that a person can possess both or either motivation or hygiene factors, which could result in different satisfaction levels. People focusing on achieving goals related to hygiene factors tend to avoid pain physically and psychologically, such as the need for job security for fear of being sacked or the need to belong to be on good terms with colleagues for companionship.
They would possess no dissatisfaction outcome, merely just seeking to complete the job and not wanting to achieve much from their work (Moorhead & Griffin, 2007 & Guha, 2010). The staffs in Hickling’s Associates were unmotivated to improve and were contented with their current situation, as they wished to maintain status quo and avoid losing their job. However, Tony desired for a higher level of job satisfaction and recognition for his contributions. Therefore, his perceived needs were different from his counterparts, where he aimed to fulfill the motivation factors which are motivational means for him to perform.
Despite not receiving his bonus that he deserved, Tony continued to strive harder hoping that Hickling would recognise his contribution eventually. However, he finally lost his motivation when he received a disappointing year-end bonus for the second time. Additionally, Hickling stifled growth and advancement in the staffs; hence this hindered Tony to attain a higher position. Equity Theory is used to explain why the staff stayed on in that company. They had the perception of being paid equally, thus they had no complaints so long as they received the same treatment.
Since no one dared to confront Hickling, it became a norm which he thought everyone will abide by, but it wasn’t the case for Tony. He perceived that one’s pay should be equivalent to the effort expanded, that is why he felt unmotivated when his bonus was otherwise. In Distributive Justice, a person perceives fairness with regards to how the reward and the valued outcomes are distributed (Moorhead & Griffin, 2007). Not only was Tony upset about not getting the bonus he deserved, he was also unhappy that he did not receive any performance feedback from Hickling, an indicator which would have informed Tony on how he had fared.
All these different perception of monetary related work issues explained why Tony felt unmotivated to work, culminating in his resignation, whereas the other staff could actually remain working for Hickling. 4. 2 Communication Networks Another factor is attributed to the choice of communication network used by Hickling. He adopted the ‘wheel’ system, where information was passed on selectively by the leader (Moorhead & Griffin, 2007). This explains why the receptionist was unaware of Tony’s arrival.
On the other hand, it could be also due to Hickling’s lack of interest to inform anyone, or he might have shared it with certain staff, sans the receptionist. Hickling adopted a top-down approach in his communication system and demanded high achievement goals from there, but did not guide his staff towards it. The next factor is the physical demand of the company, which voided the workers of privacy and social interaction (Moorhead & Griffin, 2007). Hickling adopted an open concept layout, where traders did not have their own office and their actions were in full view of Hickling.
A lack of trust in Hickling towards his staff could be attributed, as he might have wanted to give the impression that he could oversee all actions at his discretion. The worst available seating was occupied by Tony, where his seat was situated directly in front of Hickling. This created undue stress for him. He had trouble conducting business over the phone, as Hickling had attempted to eavesdrop. This played in Tony’s mind and was one of the factors that resulted in Tony losing his motivation. The last communication factor is the role demand for Tony. He was never briefed of any work procedures in the organization.
Role ambiguity arose as a result of the lack of information provided to a person regarding work procedures (Moorhead & Griffin, 2007). This could lead to job dissatisfaction and low commitment to the organisation (Theodorakis et al, 2010). After working in the company for some time, Tony was still uncertain of his level of authority and was openly reproached by Hickling when he enquired more about work procedures. As Hickling refused to explain the work procedures, and yet demanded Tony to achieve high performance in his work, Tony began to lose his motivation and desire to work under Hickling. . 3 Leadership Style The symptoms mentioned above could also be attributed partly due to the leadership, or a lack of it, displayed by Hickling. Several theories can be attributed to the poor leadership skills of Hickling. Social learning, psychological contract, the Ohio State Studies and power are used as references as to why these symptoms occurred. Firstly, Hickling was an authoritative figure, where no subordinates dared to question his judgment (Times, 2010). Besides, Hickling neither engaged his employees in decision making nor in social activities.
Hickling was completely indifferent to his subordinates’ feelings, as he was entirely submerged in generating profits for his business. Even when the business did well, Hickling kept the profits for his personal gain and lied about the organisation’s performance. Hickling had also gone back on his promise to distribute bonuses in relation to staff performance. Even when the employees knew that Hickling lied about the company’s performance and had reduced their bonuses, nobody stood up.
This set of behaviour can be distinguished by the Ohio State Studies, where Hickling possesses low consideration behaviour and high initiating-structure behaviour (Moorhead & Griffin, 2007). The symptoms encountered in Hickling’s organisation can also be exemplified by the types of power that Hickling possess, specifically, legitimate, coercive, expert and reward power. Hickling’s legitimate power designated him as the ultimate decision maker over all issues (Moorhead & Griffin, 2007). No employees dared to defy his words and hence, Hickling’s call stood as the prevailing behaviour.
Hickling displayed his coercive power when he openly chided Tony when the latter had issues to clarify. Though there was no physical punishment, the aura of intimidation that Hickling exuded resulted in the employees developing a phobia towards him. Additionally, the level of expert power that Hickling owns played a part in causing the working environment to be unpleasant when he intentionally concealed information from his workers. Hickling had also shown his reward power when he reduced Tony’s bonuses even when the company did well.
As a result of Hickling’s authoritative behaviour, abusive form of power and nonchalance towards his employees’ well being, the organisation suffered plenty of intangible losses. Furthermore, after plying his trade for Hickling for a period of time, Tony began to lose his motivation to strive for better results. The loss of a positive psychological contract between Hickling and his subordinates (Development, 2010) could attributed to that. As there was no written contract in the organisation, Hickling was able to retract his promises. As such, there was nothing Tony and his colleagues could do when Hickling went back on his verbal agreements.
After the employees knew that their bonuses had no relation to their performance, they lost motivation to strive for better results. Resultantly, they did no more than the basic requirements of their job scope. In addition, Hickling also made empty promises to allow Tony to make overseas trips to conduct business. This added to the strain in the psychological contract between Hickling and his employees. Also, an extremely unhealthy office culture developed as a result of the poor leadership. Drinking behaviour during office hours was condoned. Aforementioned, Hickling was an authoritarian figure in office.
Thus when Hickling started drinking during office hours, the employees did not question him and subsequently they followed suit. This behaviour can be characterized by the social learning aspects of humans, where people observe the behaviours of others, recognise their consequences, and alter their own behaviour as a result (Moorhead & Griffin, 2007). Hickling’s staff realized that Hickling did not stop them from drinking and the culture of drinking during office hours began. Moreover, a worse culture of openly having affairs with co-workers was also generally accepted by all staff. 5. 0 Recommendations 5. 1 Leadership
The Leadership Grid is used to study the various types of leadership styles and enable managers to adopt the most ideal one. (Blake & McCanse, cited in Moorhead & Griffin, 2007) Using The Leadership Grid, it would be advisable that Hickling follows the 9,9 team management style, as it stresses on both people and work performance. As a 9,9 manager, right priorities should be set, work processes should be monitored and concerns should be shown towards employees. Hickling should also behave open-mindedly and strive to encourage ‘participation and teamwork’ among workers, increasing their level of commitment to their work. Northouse, 2010:75) These elements, which are essential for optimum organisation performance, were lacking in Hickling’s current managerial style. (Moorhead & Griffin, 2007) 5. 2 Communication As mentioned, Hickling used the ‘wheel’ network to communicate with his employees. This method of communication has proven to be inefficient and thus, it is recommended for Hickling to use the ‘all-channel’ network. The all-channel network allows all members in the organisation to communicate with one another. (Moorhead & Griffin, 2007) This approach would be more effective in disseminating information across all levels.
It is also noted that there are other communication problems in Hickling’s company and most of the issues arose as there was no proper reporting system. An organisation chart can help to clarify any ambiguity of roles. As stated by Moorhead & Griffin (2007), an organisation chart shows the positions of employees and formal reporting relationships in the organisation. The organisation chart (refer to Appendix A) demonstrates that the company will be divided into three departments, namely Traders (Import), Traders (Export) and Accounting and Human Resources.
However, communication is not definitively restricted to these formal lines of the chart. Downward communication includes giving employees directions while upward communication involves providing feedback to the higher management staff, such as the department heads and Hickling. Horizontal communication concerns employees surpassing the formal reporting lines and is often related to task performance. (Moorhead & Griffin, 2007) For instance, staff from the Import and Export departments could share work practices and ideas easily, which could enhance work productivity.
This form of communication also relates back to the ‘all-channel’ network, where all members communicate with each other regardless of appointments. Open communication will ensure transparency in all processes, foster trust among members and promote organisational commitment. (Thomas et al, 2009) Besides, the working environment in Hickling Associates Ltd. was too tense and did not promote social interaction among co-workers. As suggested by Allen; Becker; Leaman & Bordass (cited in McShane & Von Glinow, 2009: 181), The ability and motivation to communicate is partially influenced by the physical space in which employees work.
A new layout (refer to Appendix B) is proposed to address these issues and improve the working conditions. Firstly, a pigeon hole is placed near to the entrance so that the receptionist could collect mails and invitations on functions promptly and distribute to all the employees. In this way, Hickling would be unable to hide the invitations and employees would be able to attend the major events. The lounge is designed for the employees so that they could take a break, play games or interact with fellow colleagues when they are stressed out from work.
Apart from leisurely activities, meaningful games such as golf putting helps to ‘refocus and concentrate the mind’ so that workers would feel recharged and might assist in generating ideas for work. (Pitt & Bennett 2008:298) The lounge also serves as a waiting area for visitors and is separated from the main office by a sliding door to ensure privacy. Enclosed meeting rooms are allocated for the traders to discuss work matters with their customers and conduct informal meetings among teams. As proposed by Haynes and Price (cited in Pitt & Bennett 2008), unconstrained interaction is crucial in the succession of new workplace initiatives.
The new layout gives Hickling his own personal room with extra chairs for discussion purposes. Hickling’s secretary is relocated just outside his office to facilitate assistant work. The human resources department is introduced to expedite matters related to company’s policy and workers’ welfare. They are integrated with the accounting department and are allocated a room due to confidentiality of the accounts. Vischer (1999) mentioned that space has significant and varied meanings for people at both conscious and unconscious levels.
Therefore, it is important to give the traders and the other employees office cubicles with low partitions so that they could have their own personal space and privacy. The traders are also seated according to their area of expertise for easy communication which increases work efficiency and productivity. The proposed layout creates a less stressful environment, boosting the staffs’ motivational levels by allowing them to communicate, build trust, and nurture mutual reliance and friendships. (Nohria et al, 2008) 5. 3 Culture
Spiers (2007) concluded that an organisation needs to set a healthy culture because it can bring out the best qualities in employees and makes them more driven to give their best. Hickling’s had a weak culture where rules and procedures were unclear, and conduct was poor. The following are some suggestions to achieve a healthy organisation culture: 1) Employment Contract The employment contract is an official document in which both employer and employee must comply. It clearly outlines the job nature, salary, remunerations and benefits, working hours, company policies, etc. Ministry of Manpower, 2010). This way, all verbal promises offered by Hickling can be made secure. One significant clause to be included is the code of conduct. This is to monitor the appropriateness of employees’ actions. Rules and regulations could be set to restrict drinking in the office, address the severity of office relationships which pertains to conflicts of interest, and dress code. Gibbs (2003) supported that the practice of corporate code of conduct would bring the company a healthy reputation, retains talents and creates enterprise value. ) Orientation and Onboard Training Tony found much difficulty settling in at work on the first day and by the third week, he was still unsure of certain company policies. It is recommended that all new staff receive an orientation session and onboard training to help them settle in and get up to speed. It also spreads a welcoming feeling for the new staff. (Power, 2010) 3) Annual Financial Report Tony and the other traders were not remunerated equitably. To make things worse, there was very little transparency in the company’s earnings to justify their bonus.
Annual financial reporting should take place in disclosing company earnings to all external and internal stakeholders. Since Hickling could potentially skew the integrity of the report, the company could engage in an auditor to ascertain the validity and reliability in the information. (Zarb, 2006) 4) Team Building In Hickling’s case, there was no hint of teamwork. Therefore, it is recommended, as according to Howard and Mullane’s (2008) research, teamwork brings about satisfaction and knowledge sharing which eventually can promote better results.
To help achieve this, the goal setting theory can be applied through setting specific and challenging goals. Locke et al (1981) explained that it will lead to highly motivated employees with higher performance output, than having easy or no goals. For example, traders could team up to different categories of seafood and each group could work towards achieving 20% increase in revenue by the end of the financial year. Since incentivised goals increases goal commitment (Locke & Latham, 1990), rewards should follow thereafter. The suggested reward systems are gain-sharing and team bonus plans.
Gain-sharing rewards employees based on savings generated by improved performance from departments, units or functions. The gain (payout) will then be shared amongst all employees (Masternak, 2003). For example, employees at Hicklings could work towards reducing wastage. On the other hand, team bonus plan rewards only to the particular performing team, hence it could be targeted at specific performance goals (Moorhead & Griffin, 2007) such as developing business on a new category of seafood. Work performance needs to be assessed to determine amount of reward received.
The 360-degree feedback involves feedback provided by the boss, subordinates, colleagues and peers (Moorhead & Griffin, 2007). This helps individuals get a wider range of feedback than traditional evaluation which is only “upward”. Liviu et al (2009) emphasised that this feedback tool is typically used for developmental plans. Since goal-setting requires progressive performance, this tool would deem suitable. 5. 4 Job Design Aforementioned, there have been signs of negative motivation and job satisfaction among the staff.
It is suggested through implementing the job characteristics theory, these issues would be reduced. Hackman & Oldham (1976) created the job characteristics theory, explaining that there are five job characteristics that will enhance three critical psychological states, which will lead to various personal work outcomes. It is identified in the case study that psychological states lacking from the employees are (refer to Appendix C): a) Responsibility and accountability for the outcome of the job – The traders were made to sign all correspondences with the company’s name instead of their own.
It could get tricky if the person held accountable for certain jobs is unidentifiable. This might encourage some to put in less effort in being responsible for their own work. By empowering employees, they would have the autonomy and independence of personally handling their own contacts and customers at discretion. b) Continuous knowledge of their job effectiveness – They had never received Hickling’s feedback about their work performance, which was probably why they never had the motivation to push their standards further than they should.
Regular work-in-progress meetings could be conducted within teams/departments so that employees are continuously aware of their job effectiveness. Lloyd (2005:9) pointed out that meetings help employees know what is expected of them, so that “they can perform well and successful” and allows them to know how they are doing so that “they can do a mid-course correction if they get off track. ” 6. 0 Conclusion Wrapping up, the study of Hickling’s associates enlightens the importance of good leadership, communication network and an appropriate working culture in order for an organisation to survive.
Devoid of the three factors mentioned, organisations face the arduous task of eliminating job ambiguity, job dissatisfaction and low level of commitment that hinders growth, productivity and effectiveness. An appropriate leadership style should be adopted according to the situation on hand, either to solve problems or lead employee towards their goals. A proper and effective communication system should be selected in an organisation to dispel ambiguity among staff pertaining to job related issues. An effective formal communication should practice both ‘upwards’ and ‘downwards’ streams.
However, an informal communication network should also be put in place to encourage facilitation of ideas and discussion among employees. This unconstructed communication between workers allows the discussion of ideas at informal settings and ultimately aids their productivity. Last but not least, a professional working environment that promotes positive culture should be established. This ensures that employees would be fully aware of their roles and the regulations of their behaviour prevent unprofessionalism, which could lead to poor productivity and low organisational effectiveness from setting in.
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