Human Relations Management: Dick Spencer’ Case

Introduction

In the modern-day business environment, organizations are constantly forced to exhibit innovation and enhanced performance to remain relevant and profitable in an ever increasingly competitive arena. The input of both the individuals and groups in the organization is invaluable to the achievement of organizational goals. Whereas the potential of groups and teams is monumental and crucial and as such indispensable to the organization, there comes a time when the fate of the organization may hang on the very shoulders of an individual.

Whereas the individual can be seen to be a potent force acting for the good of the organization, there may be instances whereby this individual can lead to the failure of the organization. Cyert and March (1992, p.31) present the organization as a coalition of individuals who have goals. There, therefore, exists the potential for internal goal conflict due to the diverse individuals that make up the organization. An individual may be tempted to project the goals that reflect on his/her values. Solo (2000, p.69) asserts that the economy in place favors the collective goals and those values that reflect the needs of groups rather than personal groups. This being the case, any emphasis on the individual’s values may negatively impact the organization.

Ambition and an achievement-oriented nature are some of the traits that are inherent in a person who set out to make a difference in the organization (Bolden et al. 2003, p.7). Whereas these traits are desirable and necessary for this task, they may have detrimental effects if they are exhibited in an exaggerated form. If an individual is overly ambitious, he may be tempted to act in ways that are beneficial to him/her at the expense of other members of the organization. This may alienate him/her to the other members of the organization who may then proceed to sabotage his activities thus negatively impacting the organization.

This paper shall set out to analyze the impacts of Dick Spencer’s character to the organization, its employees and himself. This shall be achieved by applying various human resource management strategies and business theories that explain his character and work ethics. Recommendations on how best these issues can be resolved shall also be provided.

Case overview

Dick Spencer is an MBA holder from a reputable university. Soon after graduating, he joined the sales department of Tri-American. In his first year in this department, Spencer managed to acquire a major account which put him among the top salesmen about sales-volume leadership. This success was attributed to his charming personality, looks, and prowess in playing golf. After this sale, Spencer was noticed by top management. As a result, he used this opportunity to transfer from the sales department to operations. After working in the home office, he used his connections and was promoted to junior Vice President. This new position necessitated his transfer to the plant at Modrow.

Tri-American has a worldwide employee base of 22,000 staff, 1,000 of which work at the Modrow branch located in Canada. This organization focuses primarily on aluminum processing and fabrication. Tri-American is greatly decentralized. This gives plant managers a great deal of autonomy. However, this structure often leads to aggressive competition among the numerous plants of the organization. The recent expansion and modernization processes at the Muldrow plant came at a great price. However, top management believes that these costs will be recovered from the profits that will come as a result of these changes.

Managerial issues exhibited by Spencer

Spencer is portrayed as an ambitious individual with high desires to progress and achieve in life. As the plant manager at Modrow and the vice president of Tri-American, he is under much pressure from top management to change the plant and achieve the profit and competition goals set to ensure the success of the plant. As a result, he has developed a reputation that precedes him in his effort to achieve these goals.

He is ruthless in the strategies he employs to cut costs and eliminate employees to guarantee low costs of production and high profitability. His actions at the firm have done little to change this reputation at Modrow. As a result, he faces numerous challenges at the firm and the employees there offer great resistance to his policies and managerial strategies. His focus on cutting costs is causing great concern at the plant and employees resent him for his lack of concern for their welfare. To make matters worse, he is pressured by the home office to perform and is having serious issues at home from his wife and children.

Identification of core issues

It is evident that while Spencer is an ambitious and committed employee, he lacks the managerial and leadership skills needed to push the organization towards success. He does not value the input of employees and uses an authoritative approach in leading his plant. Also, he lacks team-work skills and applies poor strategies in motivating and communicating with his subordinates. Similarly, he has no work-family balance as can be evidenced from the conflicts at home. In summary, it could be argued that Spencer has numerous inadequacies in his leadership, human resource management, and managerial skills.

Methodology

This report shall use various human resource theories, leadership, and managerial concepts to analyze the issues at Tri-American. This approach shall be used t explain why Spencer behaves the way he does, why his employees react the way they do and recommend viable solutions that can be applied to influence the change that is needed to ensure the success of the firm.

Management and leadership: a literature review

Management entails the effective and efficient utilization of resources that are available to an organization to achieve organizational goals and objectives (Sashkin, 2003). It involves planning, organizing, leading and controlling the organization’s activities and resources. Managers are the people taxed with the role of marshaling the human resource in the organization for its growth and expansion. Their role is crucial and they must possess exemplary leadership skills to fulfill these tasks. As such, four functions of management enables leaders and managers to be pro-active. They include:

Planning

Planning is among the core strategies that should be employed if a business is to succeed in its endeavors. According to Javed (2010), planning refers to the process through which an organization formulates a program that outlines a specific course of action that should be implemented to achieve set organizational goals and objectives. The author further asserts that planning often requires a definite time frame through which various activities will be carried out towards meeting the defined short and long term goals. Also, Javed (2010) contends that planning is a process through which the management can organize the present resources such that they steer towards the desired future.

Organizing

However, planning can be useless if there is no proper organization of the resources. Management should ensure that adequate efforts are directed towards organizing the available resources such that they work in unison towards achieving the set goals and objectives. As Clark (2004) states, organization of resources refers to the process through which various business components are arranged or interconnected such that they constitute a system that can be identified as a functional unit. In a business setting, organization refers to the steps implemented to ensure that differentiated business segments adequately get the resources they require to achieve the set goals. It often involves careful evaluation of available resources such that they are equally distributed to all departments in a timely and efficient manner.

Effective Leadership

Leadership most often refers to a process through which one person uses the help and support of others towards achieving a particular goal or task. In the article by Warren Bennis “The Leadership Advantage”, the author aims at highlighting the factors and characteristics that compliments a good leader and consequently, effective leadership. He descriptively states that several core attributes makes for a good leader. They include being a knowledgeable professional in the field of expertise, having a proven track record of achieving set goals and objectives and the ability to motivate and delegate effectively (Bennis, 1999). Leaders also ought to be able to cultivate and identify talent and exhibit sound judgment even under pressure

Controlling

The final tool that is often used in management is controlling. About management, controlling refers to the process through which the management exercises authoritative influence over others within the business setting. The main aim of this tool is to set benchmarks and standards that should be met within an agreed-upon period. However, Javed (2010) cautions that if this tool is misused, it may lead to tensions among employees leading to a loss in focus regarding the set goals.

By utilizing these four tools of management, leaders and managers are better placed to make concise decisions regarding the future of their organizations. Not only do these tools minimize the likelihood of encountering risks and losses, but they also ensure that the decision-making process is effective and pro-active. Clark (2004) states that being pro-active in a business setting entails careful evaluation of organizational behavior, culture, goals, and objectives. By using the aforementioned management tools, organizational leaders can consider these factors all the while maintaining the desired path to success.

Theoretical concepts that facilitate pro-activeness in a business setting

Leadership refers to a process through which one person uses the help and support of others towards achieving a particular goal or task (Shavinina, 2003). According to Shavinina (2003), strong leadership is not only desirable but also essential to the success of any project. This is because it is through strong leadership that organizational goals are met. There exist various leadership styles and traits that a person can implement in an organizational setting.

Understanding Employees

A study on leadership by Alimo-Metcalfe and Alban-Metcalfe (2001) found that the single most important positive leadership factor was whether the leaders showed genuine concern for their staff. This is because all employees regardless of their occupation or level of demographic group incur significant amounts of stress and de-motivation at work if there is a negative relationship that is characterized by a lack of concern with their leaders (Alimo-Metcalfe & Alban-Metcalfe, 2001). It can, therefore, be deduced that an engaging leadership style characterized by showing of genuine concern is linked to a significant increase in organizational productivity and superior organizational performance. An effective leader is therefore not only able to steer his/her followers towards achievement of goals but also identify with the needs of his followers and show genuine concern in their affairs.

Developing and promoting an organizational culture

Key to any efforts at effective leadership is the ability of a person to ensure that everyone under their leadership is involved in and buys into the ideas and concepts that the leader is trying to advance. As such, a transformational leader who focuses on change and embraces the more encompassing role of an ambassador is, therefore, more likely to make pro-active decisions for the organization rather than relying solely on eventualities (Sashkin, 2003).

Being a Team Player

Similarly, leaders are invariably bound to work with and through other members of the organization. When selecting whom to work with, some leaders fail to choose competent subordinates since they feel threatened by capable contemporaries or subordinates (Sashkin, 2003). As such, these kinds of leaders limit themselves to enlisting the help of only those people whom they do not perceive as threats. This distrust based on fear of being outshined is detrimental to the organizational well being as the productivity of the organization is diminished (London, 2002). An effective leader acknowledges that the organization is indeed only as strong as its weakest link and therefore sets out to not only enlist the support of the most capable hands in the company but also equip the other members to become better for the entire organization’s benefit (London, 2002).

Effective Conflict Resolution

Morgan (2006) states that in all organizations, there arise contentious issues that elicit different reactions from the organization members at some point in time. How these issues are diffused may spell out the difference between the subsequent success and failure of the organization (Morgan, 2006). The role of a leader can play a crucial role in ensuring that the crises or contention is managed in a diplomatic.

An effective leader will, therefore, be able to diplomatically handle contentious issues and arrive at a solution that is not only workable but also acceptable to the various parties involved (Bolden et al, 2003). This calls for the leader to be equipped with the skills of a negotiator which will enable him/her to constructively resolve the conflict, therefore, leading to an agreement among all parties involved.

Discussion

Regarding this case, we can apply theories of human relations to explain the situation. Spencer is experiencing an evolutionary paradox. This can be deduced from the fact that his efforts in achieving his career development are not in line with his development as a manager. He is exhibiting a dualistic approach regarding how he progresses forward. On one hand, Spencer is realizing his career goals and achieving his ambitions to become a manager. However, he does not have control over the situation, including his life and that of others.

Arguably, human relations management is not as direct as we would think. It is a complex field characterized by different approaches. As such, there are no right or wrong answers or direct formulas to implement it successfully. As human beings, we are expected to be empathetic, deductive and learn from situations that we encounter. To understand Spencer’s situation, we should analyze his personality instead of merely applying theories that relate to his behavior. Spencer comes out as an individual who is motivated by tasks, challenges, and results. These could be described as his needs. Therefore, by using the McClelland’s theory of needs we could deduce that spencer is at the N-achievement corner (Reece, 2011). Also, based on his desire to control his working and home environment, we can state that he has a strong attitude towards n-power.

Reece (2011) contends that being an efficient employee does not necessarily mean that an individual would make a good manager. The author states that successful management is based on self-control and the need for power as opposed to the need to be liked by others. This sentiment explains why Spencer behaves the way he does. However, this is not the best approach in this situation because it does not auger well with people management. As such, it is evident that Spencer lacks n-Affiliation. This is evidenced by the fact that he prefers competitive situations more than he does collaborative ones. This means that he does not acknowledge that the human factor is of great importance in promoting success in any industry.

Using Kolb’s learning theory (Griffin, 2007); Spencer could be labeled as a practical learner due to his reliance on factual data and results. From this scenario, it is evident that he likes things and problems to be handled in his way. Similarly, the fact that he does not trust his subordinates makes him a traditional manager as described in Douglas McGregor’s X-theory assumptions (Pynes, 2005). According to this theory, traditional managers are resistant to change, authoritative and believe that things ought to be done in a prescribed manner. Spencer is seen as a manager who puts a lot of energy into ensuring that duties are executed his way. He is not empathetic and does not concern himself with the issues that affect his subordinates. These factors, as well as his inability to interact seamlessly with his environment, are among the factors that push his activities towards the negative zone.

Similarly, Spencer’s effectiveness as a manager is not only influenced by his motivation, but also by other personal values and competencies. As such, the question that is left begging is; what is hindering him from coping effectively in his work? Well, Spencer lacks communication and negotiation skills that are vital in management. These two skill sets are more important to Spencer than anything else he has acquired throughout his working experience. From the scenario, Spencer is seen as an individual with serious inadequacies when it comes to conflict resolution. His inabilities in this area can be drawn from the siding incident in which he employs a ‘forcing” conflict resolution approach. This is not always the best way to address issues in a labor-intensive environment. He should adopt a collaborative approach to resolving conflicts. Also, his motivation strategies are poor and ineffective.

Recommended solutions to the issue

Greene & Burleson (2003) contend that the success of any organization depends mainly on the effectiveness and ability of the leader to inspire. Studies have it that the stock prices of well-led companies increased by over 900% in 10 years as opposed to a bare 74% growth recorded by those companies that lacked good leadership. This fact effectively underscores the importance of understanding group dynamics because a leader is deemed worthless if he lacks the backing and support of a team/group.

It is therefore important that Spencer work towards cultivating and generating an intellectual capital for their firms. By understanding the importance of teamwork and group process, Spencer will be better placed to motivate group members towards working together as a team. This duly gives Tri-American a competitive advantage over other competitors in the market.

Similarly, an exemplary leader should ensure that his organization has a sense of purpose and is working towards the achievement of some organizational goals. He/she should also set out to generate and sustain trust between the administration, employees and clients. Malhotra (2000) asserts that this will result in the promotion of hope and confidence in the organization’s worker force. Having these qualities will ensure that employees at Tri-American have heightened levels of optimism within the organization all the while boosting their morale and guarantees future success in all organizational endeavors.

In all organizations, there arise contentious issues that elicit different reactions from the group members at some point in time. How these issues are diffused may spell out the difference between the success and failure of the organization. Spencer can play a crucial role in ensuring that the crises or contentious issues are managed diplomatically. Diplomacy entails the use of power and authority carefully to achieve positive outcomes by being unanimous or arriving at a consensus (London, 2002).

By promoting diplomacy, Spencer will, therefore, be able to handle contentious issues and arrive at a solution that is not only workable but also acceptable to the various parties involved. This means that he has to learn the skills of a negotiator, which will enable him to constructively resolve the conflict, therefore leading to an agreement among all parties involved. The key to being an effective negotiator is the ability of a leader to understand how various factors affect different members of a group.

Negotiation and mediation are termed as procedures that are utilized in dealing with opposing preferences (Carnevale & Pruitt 1992). Negotiation involves the discussion between the opposing parties to reach an agreement. Mediation, on the other hand, is a form of negotiation involving the presence of one or more outsiders. In the negotiation process, the parties in question may choose to take an approach in which discussions are held concerning their respective interests.

On the other hand, mediation is a process that employs neutral party/parties to facilitate the negotiation process between the opposing members. Goldberg et al. (cited in Shamir 2003, p.23) states that “mediation is an assisted and facilitated negotiation carried out by a third party.” Spencer should invest some effort in learning these skills and applying them in various situations accordingly.

It is the role of the manager to come up with a vision and communicate the same to the employees to give them a sense of purpose and meaning. From this scenario, Spencer comes up with a goal that he expects his employees to follow. His goals are unchallenging, unclear and in some cases even unattainable by his workforce. Knowledge of the Goal-setting theory advanced by Locke will ensure that Spencer does not get into such pitfalls again.

Pynes (2008, p.155) states that according to the Goal- setting theory, high performance results from clear expectations. With such knowledge, Spencer will set specific task goals for his employees and ensure that these goals are challenging, clear and attainable. In addition to this, Spencer will realize that the set goals may need to change in time since the same goals that were challenging and achievable in the past year may be unchallenging or unachievable for the next year.

Conclusion

This paper set out to give a concise description of various managerial and leadership concepts that enable leaders and managers to be pro-active in an organizational setting. To this end, a detailed discussion on the functions of management has been offered and their relevance in facilitating pro-activeness addressed. Theoretical concepts on leadership styles and skills that are required to ensure that leaders make the best out of each endeavor, all the while securing a successful future have also been analyzed.

A case analysis highlighting various managerial and leadership inadequacies that affect Spencer has been provided. While Spencer is portrayed as an ambitious and motivated employee, it has been evidenced that his character and human relations skills need to be improved if he is to become a successful manager and family man. Recommendations on how best these issues can be corrected have been offered based on different theories and principles in management and leadership.

If implemented, these strategies will assist Spencer in making the required changes, all the while eliciting positive support from his subordinates. This will, in the end, make him a better manager thereby guaranteeing him and the organization the success that they desire.

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