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Executive Summary

1. Problem Identification

1.1 Lack of Motivation

1.2 Communication Problems

1.3 Leadership Problems

1.4 Employees Lack of Interpersonal Skills

1.5 Lack of Initiative

2. Statement of Major Problems

3. Generation and Evaluation of Alternative Solutions

3.1 Motivation

3.1.1 Rewards and Recognition

3.1.2 Recognition

3.1.3 Attainable Goals

3.2 Communication Problems

3.2.1 Weekly Meetings 3.2.2 Consultation 3.2.3 Retrain Mrs. Blakely 3.2.4 Informal Communication

3.3 Leadership Problems

3.3.1 Retrain Mrs. Blakely

3.3.2 Re-delegation

4. Recommendation

4.1 Motivation

4.2 Communication

4.3 Leadership

5. Implementation

6. References

Executive summary

The following report is based on a case study of Lawton, Langridge, Lipton and Lawless, Solicitors. The main problems that have been identified are major problems of staff motivation, lack of communication (informal), and Mrs. Blakely's lack of leadership skills.

A recommendation for the motivation problem is that Mrs. Blakely set attainable goals for the employees and reward and recognize the clerks when they have achieved their goals.

For the problem of lack of communication, it has been recommended in this report that weekly meetings be held and that Mrs. Blakely be retrained both for development of communication skills and leadership skills.

The reward program is expected to cost the company approximately $450.00 per month whilst the setting of attainable goals is not expected to cost the company anything. Because Mrs. Blakely will have to read 22 documents per month in order to recognize the employees appropriately, she will need to be paid extra for this work i.e. overtime pay. Assuming it will take half an hour to read one document, there will be approximately eleven hours spent on reading. It has been assumed that Mrs. Blakely earns $18.00 per hour while the clerks earn $15.00.

Therefore, approximately, it will cost the firm $500.00 per week for ten weeks. The weekly meetings will be run one hour before the end of the working day, beginning at 4:00 pm. and ending at 5:00 pm. eliminating the need to pay overtime.

1. Problem identification

1.1 Lack of Motivation

There is much evidence pointing towards a severe lack of motivation in the WPC department, these being the employees' constantly running late to get to work, a high error-rate through carelessness and also a high turnover rate.

Mrs. Blakely views her employees from the 'theory x' perspective as defined by Douglas McGregor (Robbins et al., 1997). Mrs. Blakely assumes that her employees dislike their work and makes statements such as "there is something wrong with young people today", that her employees "slack off" and that " the trouble is that young people these days don't want to work, but just want to have fun". Although there is evidence that this kind of motivation can successfully work in some organizations, it is evident that it is not successful in the WPC department.

Although the WPC department offers its employees excellent facilities such as the location, excellent furnishings and equipment which satisfy their hygiene factors, these are not a motivator (Robbins et al., 1997). There is an opportunity for growth in the work itself which is in fact, a motivator; however, the monotonous and boring nature of the work at the WPC, and the lack of achievement, recognition and responsibility means that the motivating factors are not enough to satisfy the employees.

1.2 Communication Problems

It is evident that there is a lack of informal communication in the WPC as a result of Mrs. Blakely emphasizing that she does not want employees in the department to chat during working hours.

Mrs. Blakely also seems unaware of why the employees are so unhappy in their position and doesn't know what to do to keep them with the firm longer. This is because she does not consult with the staff about the problems they may be having with the organisation.

Mrs. Blakely only communicates with the "girls" on a formal level; she only communicates what is expected of them. However, it is apparent that Mrs. Blakely does not provide them with feedback, neither positive nor negative, so it is not really possible for the employees to know exactly where they are going wrong and then proceed to correct their mistakes. This may be because she is afraid of offending the "girls" or dealing with their defensiveness which is a common problem for many managers (Robbins, Bergman and Stagg, 1997).

1.3 Leadership Problems

Mrs. Blakely is lacking in real leadership skills and fails to consult with her staff. Rather she tells them what to do, and how, where and when to do the various tasks. In terms of Hershey and Blanchard's Situational Leadership Model, this is defined as being high task and low relationship (Robbins et al., 1997). Hershey and Blanchard also discuss the maturity level of followers. The clerks employed in the WPC department are all talented people, usually well qualified with a TAFE or year 12 certificate with good pass levels in business subjects. So it is evident that in defining the level of maturity, the staff of the WPC would be viewed as being at level M3 i.e. people whom are able, but unwilling, to do what the leader wants (Robbins et al., 1997). As a result of this mixture, there is understandably going to be resistance from both parties. This leads onto the evidence of a lack in employee empowerment leading to employee unhappiness. The employees are given orders rather than being left to their own devices: every step is outlined and is expected to be followed to the 'dot', instead of letting the girls develop their own way of 'tackling' the problem.

1.4 Employees' Lack of Interpersonal Skills

Although the staff of the WPC department know how to do their jobs and at the same time make plenty of careless mistakes, this is not because they lack the technical skills that are required in that specific department. There are other underlying causes for the carelessness. However, the clerks are expected to be able to undertake secretarial roles when positions become vacant. Mrs. Blakely is always the middle person communicating between the clerks and the solicitors, and the employees complain that they have no contact with anyone else in the organisation bar the other clerks in the WPC department and Mrs. Blakely. It is therefore understandable that the clerks are going to find it difficult to deal with other people in the organisation such as the solicitors and partners of the firm. Their lack of interpersonal skills to a large extent are a result of this seclusion.

1.5 Lack of Initiative

Due to the lack of empowerment of the clerks in the WPC department, the clerks have learnt to simply obey orders. By the time the clerks have the opportunity to work as a secretary for one of the partners of the firm, they find it difficult to do anything else but follow rules, rather than understand the tasks at hand, and to use their own initiative to solve the problems and tasks.

The initial identification of problems only deals with five major problems. This is because the other problems such as high turnover rates and the clerks making careless mistakes are simply symptoms of much larger (or major) problems in the firm.

2. Statement of major problems

Three major problems have been identified:

2.1 Lack of Motivation

2.2 Communication Problems

2.3 Leadership Problems

These problems must be solved first before the other problems. The WPC department will likely find that once these problems are solved the other problems will possibly disappear.

3. Generation and evaluation of alternative solutions

3.1 Motivation

3.1.1 Rewards and Recognition

  • A reward program which consists of monetary bonuses when each clerk produces work with less errors. As well there should be a team award if a certain number of documents by the WPC as a team, go through as correct.

Advantages:

  • The advantage of setting up a reward program would be an increase in motivation for the clerks. It gives them attainable goals, because the clerks are very capable of doing their job. It's just their lack of motivation which results in the carelessness evident in their work.
  • Will result in job enrichment for the clerks.
  • Clerks will be happier to work harder if they know that they will gain from such efforts.
  • The organisation will benefit from the lower error rates, particularly the solicitors.
  • Improved image of the law firm as a result of the release of more professional documentation from the WPC department.

Disadvantages:

  • It will cost more for the firm in terms of the monetary rewards going out to each successful employee.
  • Takes time for the work to be assessed. For instance, Mrs. Blakely would most likely be the one reading each document in order to grant the award, and this will increase the length of time for the papers to pass through the WPC.

3.1.2 Recognition

  • Require Mrs. Blakely to verbally recognize each clerk's efforts and good work.

Advantages:

  • easy to implement
  • lifts staff morale
  • doesn't cost anything
  • improves clerks' self confidence
  • improves quality of work as clerks will be encouraged by the recognition, and the staff will be likely to display this in an improvement in their work.

Disadvantages:

  • Mrs. Blakely may resist recognizing the employees.

3.1.3 Attainable Goals

  • Create attainable goals. For instance, insisting on 100% accuracy in the typing up of documents may be asking for too much, instead of finding a reasonable accuracy rate that the clerks can aim for.

Advantages

  • Gives staff focus
  • Can improve the quality of work
  • Does not cost anything
  • Creates teamwork

Disadvantages

  • Resistance to goals
  • Inconsistent participation
  • Participating employees may find it incongruous and may view it as manipulative and therefore be turned off
  • If goals are viewed as unattainable staff may be turned off.

3.2 Communication Problems

3.2.1 Weekly Meetings

  • Organise weekly meetings that all WPC clerks will attend as well as Mrs. Blakely, to encourage flow of information and so clerks can voice their concerns. Arthur Lawton will hold the meeting himself, acting as a mediator.

Advantages

  • Open communication
  • Both parties can listen to each other
  • Invites feedback

Disadvantages

  • Arthur Lawton may not have time to be in charge
  • Mrs. Blakely may not listen
  • Clerks may not attend or may resist attending

3.2.2 Consultation

  • Organise one-on-one consultations with Mrs. Blakely where clerks can voice their concerns in privacy, and vice-versa.

Advantages

  • Makes Mrs. Blakely aware of the situation
  • It is individual and one-on-one
  • Increases feedback and creates open communication

Disadvantages

  • Time consuming (one-on-one)
  • Mrs. Blakely may be unwilling to listen or to change.

3.2.3 Retrain Mrs. Blakely

  • Retrain Mrs. Blakely in order to improve her interpersonal communication skills. This will allow her to find out where she has gone wrong and improve her communication skills.

Advantages

  • Improvement in communication skills.
  • Increase in employee happiness

Disadvantages

  • Costs money
  • Mrs. Blakely may not change

3.2.4 Informal Communication

  • Encourage informal communication during tea breaks ie. the tearoom could be designed in a way to encourage communication. For instance, the layout could be open rather than people hiding behind walls and sitting in corners.

Advantages

  • Clerks are able to vent their need to chatter in the right environment rather than during work time.
  • Encourages a friendly environment

Disadvantages:

  • Mrs. Blakely may resist this as an implementation.
  • Clerks may still talk a lot during work time anyway.

3.3 Leadership Problems

3.3.1 Retrain Mrs. Blakely

  • Retrain Mrs. Blakely, i.e. formally train Mrs. Blakely in order to improve her leadership skills.

Advantages

  • Improvement in leadership
  • Happier employees

Disadvantages

  • Costs money
  • Mrs. Blakely may not improve or she may resist training altogether

3.3.2 Re-delegation

  • Re-delegation of Mrs. Blakely to another job and appointment of a new supervisor.

Advantages

  • Quicker than re-training
  • Increase in employee satisfaction
  • Increase in efficiency

Disadvantages

  • Whoever else is put in charge, may be just as bad
  • Insulting to Mrs. Blakely
  • Creates resistance to change

4.1 Motivation

Provide employees with attainable goals, then recognize the clerks if they reach the goals and reward them accordingly.

In terms of Herzberg's Motivation - Hygiene theory, the clerks in the WPC department have their hygiene factors satisfied (Robbins et al., 1997). The clerks have excellent working conditions; i.e. ergonomic furniture, great views of the city, excellent furnishings and a pleasant staff room. Although these hygiene factors have been satisfied, motivation factors such as achievement, recognition, the work itself and responsibility are not satisfied, and therefore according to this theory, the clerks are not motivated. Recognition is theorized by Herzberg to be a major element as a motivator, and by recognizing the employees, they will feel a sense of achievement. Goal incentives have yielded an approximate 16% increase in productivity and a reward program consisting of a monetary incentive, can dramatically improve productivity by an estimated 30% (Robbins et al., 1997).

When Mrs. Blakely recognizes employees for their achievements she is sending the message out that she doesn't view them from a "Theory X" perspective, as proposed by theorist Douglas McGregor, which is a rather negative view, for instance, that the clerks dislike their work, are lazy and that they avoid responsibility and must be coerced to perform. Recognition encourages a more positive approach, "Theory Y", which assumes employees are creative when left to their own devices and seek responsibility and can exercise their own sense of direction (Robbins et al., 1997).

According to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs theory ,as one need is satisfied, ie. a "safety need", the next level of needs, for instance, "social needs," needs to be satisfied. The employees in the WPC have most of their needs satisfied up until the esteem needs. By recognizing the employees for their achievement in reaching the set goals, the organisation will in turn be satisfying their "esteem needs" (Robbins et al., 1997). Arthur Lawton assumes that by playing music he could perhaps solve the low motivational problems, and although it was initially assumed that it did in fact help the employees work, it failed after a few months. This is because as Maslow points out, once a need is substantially satisfied, it no longer motivates. The physiological needs have been more than satisfied by the conditions of the work environment and there is no complaint about the salary. The music was only an added physiological factor, and therefore no longer has a motivating impact.

4.2 Communication

Organise weekly meetings as well as retrain Mrs. Blakely. The weekly meetings will ensure that the communication flow is constant.

The weekly meetings will solve the problem of lack of feedback by providing an environment where there is a mediator, Arthur Lawton, Mrs. Blakely and the clerks. The set up is informal, as there is a lack of this kind of communication. The clerks and Mrs. Blakely would be able to communicate both positive and negative feedback on the performance of the parties involved.

Mrs. Blakely will be retrained in terms of communication along with development of her interpersonal skills. Through training, her skills in communication would improve and she will become more aware of the needs of employees. Currently, Mrs. Blakely spends a majority of her time in networking and conducting traditional management roles and significantly less time communicating with the clerks and participating in human resource management. As Fred Luthan theorized, the best way for a manager to be an effective manager is to spend 44% of their time in communicating, 26% in human resource management, 11% of their time in networking and 19% of their time taking part in traditional management activities (Robbins et al. 1997) . Mrs. Blakely is effectively managing opposite to the way she should be in order to be effective.

4.3 Leadership

  • Retrain Mrs. Blakely.

In terms of Hershey and Blanchard's theory (Robbins et al., 1997), Mrs. Blakely is at the stage of simply telling her staff what to do. With significant training, it is hoped that Mrs. Blakely will develop the skills to sell her ideas to the clerks, or even include the clerks in decision-making processes.

5. Implementation

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References

Robbins, S.P., Bergman, R and Stagg, I. (1997), Management, (1st edn), Prentice Hall, Australia.

Assignment topic

Case study summary

Lawton, Langridge, Lypton and Lawless is a large Sydney legal firm. Among its staff are 22 data entry clerks who work in the Word Processing Centre (WPC). Their job is to process the large volume of legal documents produced by the firm's solicitors. WPC clerks are carefully selected and must have a TAFE diploma or Year 12 with good passes in business subjects. When they join the firm they receive a week of training in specialised legal documents, and extra training sessions are held regularly to ensure they keep their knowledge up-to-date.

The firm occupies 10 floors of a new building in the centre of Sydney. The WPC is located on the 35th floor and has wonderful views around the city and harbour. The centre is very well equipped with excellent furnishings and a very pleasant staff room. The firm is able to attract good quality workers because it offers above average wages and many other benefits. However, all is not well. Senior staff and solicitors have complained to Arthur Lawton, the Managing Partner, that they need to check the work of WPC clerks who work as relief secretaries, because of the frequent errors made. They also believe that these workers are unreliable and lack initiative. Personnel records show that WPC staff do not stay with the firm for very long, despite the opportunities for promotion.

None of the solicitors know the workers in the Centre very well, but all praise the hard work and service provided by Mrs Blakely, the WPC supervisor, who has worked with the firm for over 20 years. Indeed, they tend to see the problem as the result of something wrong "with young people today." When Mr Lawton raises the matter of the WPC's problems, Mrs Blakely reacts a little angrily. She defends her clerks, saying that despite the errors, they do complete a lot of work. She admits that many of them find the job boring, as it mostly involves keying in information. The clerks also, often come to work late, chat at every opportunity, and generally don't work too hard. To stop this, she keeps a firm eye on them but she believes she can't be too hard or they will leave the firm.

Mrs Blakely then explains the WPC system. The work to be done arrives from each solicitor and is allocated to the clerks on a daily basis. To ensure they know what to do, she goes over each piece of work with them before they do the job. When information needs to be clarified, Mrs Blakely goes to the relevant solicitor herself and then passes the information on to the clerks. She collects the output when the job is finished and returns it to the solicitors.

Her job however, also means she liaises with solicitors on other floors, so she is often away from the Centre. Mrs Blakely agrees that the workers do not perform very well as relief secretaries, but thinks this is because the work is more complex than they are trained to do. She says the solicitors do not help the relief secretaries enough and expect them to know everything straight away.

When questioned, the WPC clerks say they like working for the firm and would like to earn promotion, but find it hard to stay interested in a job that is so repetitious and boring. Most say they get sick of seeing the same faces everyday as they are isolated on the 35th floor and have no contact with other staff, except with each other and Mrs Blakely. After trying to improve efficiency through the use of piped music - an experiment which fails - Mr Lawton turns to you, as an external management consultant, for advice.

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