Human Service Organizations Management

The Case

As pointed out by Kettner (2013), frontline workers and their managers and administrators need to establish a harmonic, understanding relationship, which is supposed to be enabled through communication. While it is described as the ideal case, Kettner (2013) demonstrates that an organization can strive towards this ideal, which is extremely beneficial for the functioning of the organization. Unfortunately, harmonic relationships are not always achieved at the workplace, and the specifics of the Child and Youth Care (CYC) service appear to be able to aggravate the issue.

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Case Description

In this case study, the lack of understanding and trust between frontline workers and their administration and managers is considered. In particular, the frontline workers of this case are certain that their supervisors, managers, and administrators are not sufficiently knowledgeable about frontline issues to be able to supervise and manage. The employees demonstrate little trust and respect; they are reluctant to communicate with their supervisors or comply with their instructions and decisions. They do not typically voice the opinion to the supervisors, but it is clear that they do not consider “paper-pushers” to be competent or important for the organization. They discuss this opinion with each other and, apparently, they are glad to be supported in this belief. The consequences include increased disengagement and low morale; however, the turnover intent is relatively low.

The fact that this issue is widespread can be illustrated by the cases that CYC managers and workers discuss in the thread Child care managers and administrators also frontline workers? (2010). The topic-starter comments on the negative attitude of frontline workers and points out that he considers himself to be a frontline worker every time he is on the “administrational” front line: for example, when he is involved in fundraising or managing public relations. Basically, he tries to explain that the functioning of the organization depends on the cooperation between frontline workers and management, which means that any form of snobbism (coming from frontline workers or administrators) is unacceptable. This thread also demonstrates another aspect of the issue: administrators and managers are aware of the lack of understanding between themselves and the employees, and they are also stressed by the existing state of events. As a result, the case situation is harmful to everyone involved and is likely to lead to productivity issues.

Case Discussion and Analysis

The relationships between frontline workers and administration can be strained for a variety of reasons. It should be pointed out that the role of frontline workers in CYC service is indeed crucial and that they are likely to be particularly knowledgeable about the realia of their work in a particular community and organization and with a particular case. It does not excuse the lack of communication skills and the reluctance to receive advice that might help them to develop their competence, but it helps to understand the reasons for their attitude towards administrators.

Similarly, it is entirely possible that the managers have somehow demonstrated the lack of competence by, for example, forcing an unrealistic decision upon the employees. Given the fact that the feedback from the employees is difficult to solicit, the managers are likely to be unaware of the issue while the employees grow more confident in their beliefs concerning the competence of their supervisors and administration. However, it is apparent that the key reason for the attitude of the employees is the lack of the understanding of the processes that enable the functioning of their organization. Both the administrators and the frontline workers play crucial parts in the work of the organization, which is why it is so important to establish a harmonic relationship between them (Kettner, 2013).

The reason for the lack of proper communication might also have deeper roots than the negative attitude of the employees. In particular, it is not unlikely that the management has not established convenient mechanisms for providing feedback and the employees feel discouraged from sharing their opinions. Also, naturally, the lack of trust is a significant issue that severely damages communication between the employees and their managers.

It is also interesting that the employees appear to “bond” over their attitude towards the managers, that is, the feeling of superiority. While coworker support is an important determinant of employees’ job satisfaction and performance (Guchait, Paşamehmetoğlu, & Dawson, 2014), this element is unlikely to be helpful in the process of the issue resolution. In fact, this aspect of employees’ bonding is more likely to further damage the relationships between them and the managers, and the new employees that are accepted in the team might experience pressure if they do not exhibit similar attitudes (Kettner, 2013).

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In general, the situation must be very stressful for the employees: they are unlikely to perceive their relationships with the managers as supportive and constant dissatisfaction with the working conditions must result in lowering morale. The managers are also likely to find the situation stressful since trust and mutual respect are a requirement for perceived psychological safety, which is typically correlated with performance (Guchait et al., 2014).

It is noteworthy that it is common for CYC work, as well as other human services, to be correlated with high levels of stress, emotional burnout, and low morale as well as disengagement (Kim & Hopkins, 2015; Travis, Lizano, & Mor Barak, 2015). As a result, it may be suggested that additional sources of stress need to be eliminated as soon as possible. Apart from that, job satisfaction in human service is typically dependent on non-monetary incentives (Smith & Shields, 2013), and a psychologically comfortable environment of trust and mutual respect is among such incentives (Guchait et al., 2014). To sum up, the issue needs to be resolved as soon as possible, and the following course of action can be suggested to this end.

Course of Action

The course of action that is suggested for the improvement of the situation consists of the development of a training program that is likely to include the reconsideration of the existing training materials (unless they are absent). Apparently, the employees lack the understanding of the functioning of their organization. It may be implied that their orientation was either unsuccessful or absent. In fact, either variant is not unlikely: Gharabaghi (2008) reports the issue of perfunctory orientation that has little to do with organizational values and functional processes. Therefore, the existing orientation practice of the organization needs to be examined, evaluated, and improved.

The resulting materials will be used as a part of the training and development program for the employees. A better understanding of the processes of the organization is likely to improve the employees’ attitude, but it may be not the only incorrect belief. For example, Gharabaghi (2008) mentions that the managerial pragmatism is often considered to be incompatible with CYC principles (p. 327), which might also be a belief that is shared by the employees. Determining the incorrect assumptions of the employees with respect to the role of the management and deconstructing them is required for the improvement of the understanding between them and the managers, and it should be a part of the program development.

The second part of the program will be devoted specifically to the communication issue. Even if the competence of the employees as CYC workers is not questioned, their communication skills appear to require some development. Good communication skills is a crucial requirement for a manager (Kroll-Neary, 2016a), but they are also significant for employees. Also, communication is crucial for the development of trust and commitment, can help to improve performance by fostering learning, and may facilitate the determination various issues that can be easily detected by the employees before they become visible to their managers and supervisors (Guchait et al., 2014).

The analysis of the issue also indicates that the supervisors are likely to be at least partially responsible for the existing communication problems. As a result, it is not unlikely that they also need to receive an appropriate training of their communication and management skills. Apart from that, the training is unlikely to completely resolve the issue; rather, it is aimed at the improvement of the situation and the development of the predictors of the change. In other words, the employees’ awareness of the role of the management and administration will be improved, and they will receive a major vehicle for a change: communication skills. However, trust building is a difficult and continuous process (Guchait et al., 2014). While the employees are going to play a major part in it, it is the supervisors who appear to be better suited for its management. Therefore, the supervisors should be included in the training process, which is likely to improve the training and open possibilities for a change after the training is concluded.

It should also be pointed out that the training is only going to affect the existing employees. Since the process of the change is likely to be prolonged, it should be mentioned that the newly developed training materials must be included in the training and development program for the new employees. Kettner (2013) states that negative attitudes often tend to be transmitted to newly-arriving employees. Kettner’s (2013) solution to the problem, the “positive transition into employment,” centers around the orientation process that is going to be updated in the course of the development of the training program. As a result, the issue of a negative orientation of the new employees is going to be avoided.

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As a result of following this course of action, the problem should be resolved: newly-arriving employees are likely to avoid developing undesirable attitudes while the previously hired employees will be gradually changing their opinions and beliefs. Those who are exceptionally difficult to retrain will be considered individually. However, the proposed solution is likely to be a prolonged and difficult process, which is going to require sufficient resources. In particular, the strategy is apparently going to be restricted by the available budget (Kroll-Neary, 2016b).

Despite this challenge, the solution should be implemented because the described issue is extremely harmful for the organization and it will not be resolved naturally without managerial interventions. As it has been pointed out, the problem causes significant stress to the employees who already work in a stress-prone environment (a CYC service organization). Also, the issue affects the employees’ and managers’ performance in a negative way, and it is capable of reproducing itself due to the fact that the employees tend to “bond” over their attitude towards their managers and do not support the employees who do not share this attitude. At the same time, the lack of trust that stems from the issue (and, possibly, the cases of prior mismanagement) has damaged the communication between the employees and their supervisors, which means that the employees are extremely unlikely to take steps towards the resolution of the issue. As a result, the choice of a comprehensive and, therefore, resource-consuming solution is justified.

Summary

The present paper considers the case of a managerial issue that appears to be relatively widespread in CYC, that is, the problem of the development of appropriate and effective relationships and communication between frontline workers and their supervisors and administration. The issue does not occur in CYC sphere exclusively (Guchait et al., 2014), but the specifics of the profession (in particular, its stressfulness) aggravate it. In the described case, the frontline workers exhibit snobbism as a result of their belief that the people who do not appear on the front line are incompetent and not vital for the existence of the organization. The issue is likely to result from the lack of understanding of the processes that take place in the organization, but the consequences include the lack of trust, lowering morale, and the lack of communication between the employees and the managers, which makes the resolution of the problem more difficult for the latter. At the same time, the employees bond over their attitude towards the managers, which affects the organizational culture and can have an impact on new employees.

The suggested course of action is aimed at eliminating the reason for the issue as well as the major problem that stems from it: the lack of understanding and the communication issues. Both difficulties can be resolved with the help of a training and development program that should involve the reconsideration of the orientation process and materials, which will be used to enhance the understanding of the organizational processes among the employees. Also, the program needs to be aimed at the improvement of communication between the employees and their supervisors. The training is not going to ensure the development of a trust- and respect-based relationship between the employees and the management because the process is very prolonged (Guchait et al., 2014), but it is going to prepare the ground for this eventual change. The supervisors will ensure the change of the employees’ attitudes to organizational decisions and empower them to provide feedback and report the issues that hinder their work. Also, the newly developed orientation materials will help the new employees (should they be recruited before the problem is resolved) to refrain from developing dissatisfactory attitudes. The solution is likely to be resource-consuming, but its use is justified by the specifics of the issue and its severity.

References

Child care managers and administrators also frontline workers? (2010). Web.

Gharabaghi, K. (2008). Child and Youth Care Approaches to Management. Child & Youth Services, 30(3-4), 327-362. Web.

Guchait, P., Paşamehmetoğlu, A., & Dawson, M. (2014). Perceived supervisor and co-worker support for error management: Impact on perceived psychological safety and service recovery performance. International Journal Of Hospitality Management, 41, 28-37. Web.

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Kettner, P. (2013). Achieving excellence in the management of human service organizations (2nd ed.). Toronto: Pearson Education, Inc.

Kim, H. & Hopkins, K. (2015). Child Welfare Workers’ Personal Safety Concerns and Organizational Commitment: The Moderating Role of Social Support. Human Service Organizations Management, Leadership & Governance, 39(2), 101-115. Web.

Kroll-Neary, T. (2016a). General introduction, establishment of course and web site, review of course outline and schedule, initiation of course. Personal Collection of T. Kroll-Neary, George Brown College, Toronto.

Kroll-Neary, T. (2016b). Staff Training and the Career Development Plan. Text Chapter 7. Personal Collection of T. Kroll-Neary, George Brown College, Toronto.

Smith, D. & Shields, J. (2013). Factors Related to Social Service Workers’ Job Satisfaction: Revisiting Herzberg’s Motivation to Work. Administration In Social Work, 37(2), 189-198. Web.

Travis, D., Lizano, E., & Mor Barak, M. (2015). ‘I’m So Stressed!’: A Longitudinal Model of Stress, Burnout and Engagement among Social Workers in Child Welfare Settings. British Journal Of Social Work, 46(4), 1076-1095. Web.

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