Overview of Organizational Behavior
An Overview of Organizational Behavior Difficult Transitions Tony Stark had just finished his first week at Reece Enterprises and decided to drive upstate to a small lakefront lodge for some fishing and relaxation. Tony had worked for the previous ten years for the O’Grady Company, but O’Grady had been through some hard times of late and had recently shut down several of its operating groups, including Tony’s, to cut costs. Fortunately, Tony’s experience and recommendations had made finding another position fairly easy. As he drove the interstate, he reflected on the past ten years and the apparent situation at Reece. At O’Grady, things had been great. Tony had been part of the team from day one. The job had met his personal goals and expectations perfectly, and Tony believed he had grown greatly as a person. His work was appreciated and recognized; he had received three promotions and many more pay increases. Tony had also liked the company itself. The firm was decentralized, allowing its managers considerable autonomy and freedom. The corporate Culture was easygoing. Communication was open. It seemed that everyone knew what was going on at all times, and if you didn’t know about something, it was easy to find out. The people had been another plus. Tony and three other managers went to lunch often and played golf every Saturday. They got along well both personally and professionally and truly worked together as a team. Their boss had been very supportive, giving them the help they needed but also staying out of the way and letting them work. When word about the shutdown came down, Tony was devastated. He was sure that nothing could replace O’Grady. After the final closing was announced, he spent only a few weeks looking around before he found a comparable position at Reece Enterprises. As Tony drove, he reflected that “comparable” probably was the wrong word. Indeed, Reece and O’Grady were about as different as you could get. Top managers at Reece apparently didn’t worry too much about who did a good job and who didn’t. They seemed to promote and reward people based on how long they had been there and how well they played the never-ending political games. Maybe this stemmed from the organization itself, Tony pondered. Reece was a bigger organization than O’Grady and was structured much more bureaucratically. It seemed that no one was allowed to make any sort of decision without getting three signatures from higher up. Those signatures, though, were hard to get. All the top managers usually were too busy to see anyone, and interoffice memos apparently had very low priority. Tony also had had some problems fitting in. His peers treated him with polite indifference. He sensed that a couple of them resented that he, an outsider, had been brought right in at their level after they had had to work themselves up the ladder. On Tuesday he had asked two colleagues about playing golf. They had politely declined, saying that they did not play often. But later in the week, he had overheard them making arrangements to play that very Saturday. It was at that point that Tony had decided to go fishing. As he steered his car off the interstate to get gas, he wondered if perhaps he had made a mistake in accepting the Reece offer without finding out more about what he was getting into. Case Questions
1- Identify several concepts and characteristics from the field of organizational behavior that this case illustrates.
2- What advice can you give Tony? How would this advice be supported or tempered by behavioral concepts and processes?
3- Is it possible to find an “ideal” place to work? Explain.
2- Managing People and Organizations Humanized Robots? Helen Bowers was stumped. Sitting in her office at the plant, she pondered the same questions she had been facing for months: how to get her company’s employees to work harder and produce more. No matter what she did, it didn’t seem to help much. Helen had inherited the business three years ago when her father, Jake Bowers, passed away unexpectedly. Bowers Machine Parts was founded four decades ago by Jake and had grown into a moderate-size corporation. Bowers makes replacement parts for large-scale manufacturing machines such as lathes and mills. The firm is headquartered in Kansas City and has three plants scattered throughout Missouri. Although Helen grew up in the family business, she never understood her father’s approach. Jake had treated his employees like part of his family. In Helen’s view, however, he paid them more than he had to, asked their advice far more often than he should have, and spent too much time listening to their ideas and complaints. When Helen took over, she vowed to change how things were done. In particular, she resolved to stop handling employees with kid gloves and to treat them like what they were: the hired help. In addition to changing the way employees were treated, Helen had another goal for Bowers. She wanted to meet the challenge of international competition. Japanese firms had moved aggressively into the market for heavy industrial equipment. She saw this as both a threat and an opportunity. On the one hand, if she could get a toehold as a parts supplier to these firms, Bowers could grow rapidly. On the other, the lucrative parts market was also sure to attract more Japanese competitors. Helen had to make sure that Bowers could compete effectively with highly productive and profitable Japanese firms. From the day Helen took over, she practiced an altogether different philosophy to achieve her goals. For one thing, she increased production quotas by 20 percent. She instructed her first-line supervisors to crack down on employees and eliminate all idle time. She also decided to shut down the company softball field her father had built. She thought the employees really didn’t use it much, and she wanted the space for future expansion. Helen also announced that future contributions to the firm’s profit-sharing plan would be phased out. Employees were paid enough, she believed, and all profits were the rightful property of the owner—her. She also had private plans to cut future pay increases to bring average wages down to where she thought they belonged. Finally, Helen changed a number of operational procedures. In particular, she stopped asking other people for their advice. She reasoned that she was the boss and knew what was best. If she asked for advice and then didn’t take it, it would only stir up resentment. All in all, Helen thought, things should be going much better. Output should be up and costs should be way down. Her strategy should be resulting in much higher levels of productivity and profits. But that was not happening. Whenever Helen walked through one of the plants, she sensed that people weren’t doing their best. Performance reports indicated that output was only marginally higher than before but scrap rates had soared. Payroll costs were indeed lower, but other personnel costs were up. It seemed that turnover had increased substantially and training costs had gone up as a result.
In desperation, Helen finally had hired a consultant. After carefully researching the history of the organization and Helen’s recent changes, the consultant made some remarkable suggestions. The bottom line, Helen felt, was that the consultant thought she should go back to that “humanistic nonsense” her father had used. No matter how she turned it, though, she just couldn’t see the wisdom in this. People worked to make a buck and didn’t want all that participation stuff. Suddenly, Helen knew just what to do: She would announce that all employees who failed to increase their productivity by 10 percent would suffer an equal pay cut. She sighed in relief, feeling confident that she had finally figured out the answer. Case Questions
1- How successful do you think Helen Bowers’s new plan will be?
2- What challenges does Helen confront?
3- If you were Helen’s consultant, what would you advise her to do?
3- Managing Global and Workforce Diversity Culture Shock Warren Oats was a highly successful executive for American Auto Suppliers, a Chicago- based company that makes original-equipment specialty parts for Ford, GM, and Chrysler. Rather than retreat before the onslaught of Japanese automakers, AAS decided to counterattack and use its reputation for quality and dependability to win over customers in Japan. Oats had started in the company as an engineer and worked his way up to become one of a handful of senior managers who had a shot at the next open vice-presidential position. He knew he needed to distinguish himself somehow, so when he was given a chance to lead the AAS attack on the Japanese market, he jumped at it. Oats knew he did not have time to learn Japanese, but he had heard that many Japanese executives speak English, and the company would hire a translator anyway. The toughest part about leaving the United States was persuading his wife, Carol, to take an eighteen- month leave from her career as an attorney with a prestigious Chicago law firm. Carol finally persuaded herself that she did not want to miss an opportunity to learn a new culture. So, armed with all the information they could gather about Japan from their local library, the Oats headed for Tokyo. Known as an energetic, aggressive salesperson back home, Warren Oats wasted little time getting started. As soon as his office had a telephone—and well before all his files had arrived from the States—Oats made an appointment to meet with executives of one of Japan’s leading automakers. Oats reasoned that if he was going to overcome the famous Japanese resistance to foreign companies, he should get started as soon as possible. Oats felt very uncomfortable at that first meeting. He got the feeling that the Japanese executives were waiting for something. It seemed that everyone but Oats was in slow motion. The Japanese did not speak English well and appeared grateful for the presence of the interpreter, but even the interpreter seemed to take her time in translating each phrase.
Frustrated by this seeming lethargy and beginning to doubt the much-touted Japanese efficiency, Oats got right to the point. He made an oral presentation of his proposal, waiting patiently for the translation of each sentence. Then he handed the leader of the Japanese delegation a packet containing the specifics of his proposal, got up, and left. The translator trailed behind him as if wanting to drag out the process even further. By the end of their first week, both Oats and his wife were frustrated. Oats’s office phone had not rung once, which did not make him optimistic about his meeting with another top company the following week. Carol could scarcely contain her irritation with what she had perceived of the Japanese way of life. She had been sure that a well-respected U.S. lawyer would have little trouble securing a job with a Japanese multinational corporation, but the executives she had met with seemed insulted that she was asking them for a job. And the way they treated their secretaries! After only a week in Japan, both Carol and Warren Oats were ready to go home. A month later, their perspective had changed radically, and both looked back on those first meetings with embarrassment. Within that month, they had learned a lot about the Japanese sense of protocol and attitudes toward women. Warren Oats believed he was beginning to get the knack of doing business with the Japanese in their manner: establishing a relationship slowly, almost ritualistically, waiting through a number of meetings before bringing up the real business at hand, and then doing so circumspectly. It was difficult for Oats to slow his pace, and it made him nervous to be so indirect, but he was beginning to see some value in the sometimes humbling learning process he was going through. Perhaps, he thought, he and Carol could become consultants for other executives who needed to learn the lessons he was beginning to understand. Case Questions
1- What specific errors did Warren and Carol Oats make during their first week in Japan?
2- If you were talking to a non-U.S. businessperson making a first contact with an American company, what advice would you give?