ClarityBase Case: When to implement new policies
The purpose of this research is to conduct a case analysis on ClarityBase. Currently, Jessica, the supervisor of the accounts managers Megan, Jana, and Davis; faces the dilemma of rearranging the work schedules of Jana and Davis to accommodate their personal lives. Jessica needs to address organizational behavior (OB) issues, including psychology, leadership theories, and motivational techniques. She must keep the peace within the organization because other employees are complaining as well. A decision of whether or not to implement the blanket no-explanation clause is determined. Despite the fact the case analysts list several alternatives (flexible hours, entrepreneurship, job sharing, etc.) of their own; the optimal solution is to implement a Work-life program to supplement the company’s current work-life policy.
ClarityBase is a company located in Reston, Virginia. The company sells large database applications. Account managers such as Megan, Davis, and Jana help ClarityBase’s largest customers with installation and maintenance of the software. ClarityBase has a good work-life policy, family medical insurance, adoption assistance, paid maternity and paternity leave and a low employee turnover rate. In fact, Bill Welensky bragged about the company’s annual rate of only 5% employee turnover. Also, Ed Fernandez, the company’s supervisor of call-base center, filled out the Labor Day work schedule based upon what he thought was fair. The schedule called for those who had been off on holidays the longest would work first. However, newest employees (mothers or not) would come in first, off that short list. Sadly, the list had created tension amongst the employees. Jessica is Megan, Davis, and Jana’s supervisor. She is the one making the decisions on the number of hours and days each employee works or has off (Hayashi, 2001). Thus, work schedules are Jessica’s current problem.
2. Discussion of Jessica’s dilemma
a. Megan already has a reduced work week
In fact, Megan has a schedule that Jana desires. Megan comes in late and leaves early. She has Fridays off, does no business travel, and only attends meetings after work that her personal schedule allows. Yet, Megan came highly recommended from ClarityBase’s biggest competitor, Davison Software, where she had worked for three years prior to coming to ClarityBase. Megan has excellent technical skills, good rapport with clients, and none of the others whom Jessica had interviewed even remotely matched Megan’s qualifications. Thus, although Jessica hesitantly hired Megan based upon the demands she requested, Jessica felt she was the best person for the job. Jana wanted the work schedule that Megan has. So, Jana requested such a work schedule from Jessica (Hayashi, 2001).
b. Jana wants the same benefits as Megan
Jana and Jessica met. In the meeting, Jana told Jessica she did not have to say why she wanted a shorter work week. Jana also discussed how people with families always got time off but those without children did not. Jessica thought that Jana meant ClarityBase had favoritism within the organization. Yet, Jana insisted that was not what she meant. Before Jana and Jessica’s meeting was over, Jana admitted that she wanted the same deal that Megan had—although Jana felt that Megan was a good worker. During the meeting, it was pointed out that ClarityBase did not have a blanket no-explanation policy. Jessica thought about implementing one (Hayashi, 2001).
c. Davis wants time off to train for the Ironman Triathlon
Davis and Jessica then had a meeting. In the meeting, Davis mentioned how he wanted to leave at 3pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the Summer, but four days in the Fall. Davis was willing to come in at 6am on days he left early or work later on days he did not leave early. Jessica and Davis determined that Davis’ clients would have to adjust to his schedule. Neither of them was sure how smoothly the transition would be (Hayashi, 2001).
As Jessica and Davis were talking, Davis pointed out he wanted to place in the top 20 for the Ironman Triathlon. He compared it to the Superbowl. Jessica thought about how Davis had worked for ClarityBase for 5 years, which was longer than Megan (only 2 years with the company) and was very passionate about everything. That is when Jessica decided to seek advice from her mentor, Bill Welensky. He gave Jessica advice by telling Jessica that she was hired to do the best job possible while meeting her quarterly numbers (Hayashi, 2001).
d. Bill Welensky suggests Jessica remember why she was hired
Bill Welensky pointed out that Jessica should judge each employee’s case separately. He indicated that Jessica should understand the two account managers were not easily replaceable. Therefore, Jessica has to compare parenting to someone wanting to achieve personal goals. She has until Friday to make a decision. Today is only Wednesday (Hayashi, 2001).
3. Basic organizational behavior (OB) issues in the case
The basic OB issues in this case are psychology, sociology, anthropology, leadership theories, and motivational techniques (Stevens, 2007¹). Significantly, psychology, sociology, and anthropology can be grouped together because they deal with the employee’s personal, family and work life.
Psychology deals with the human mind (Stevens, 2007¹). In this case, Jana is having difficulties accepting the fact that Megan has a better work schedule.
Sociology involves cross-cultural management, family issues, and issues related to the work of women (Stevens, 2007¹). Megan has a good work-family balance while the others do not.
Thus, from an anthropology (deals with humanity) perspective, Davis’ and Jana’s reactions to the treatment that Megan has received for the past two years vary (Stevens, 2007¹).
Leadership theories and motivational techniques can also be grouped together because they deal with management and the organization (Stevens, 2007¹). On the one hand, Davis seeks a lighter work schedule to achieve a personal goal of placing in the top 20 of Ironman Triathlon. Yet, on the other hand, Jana seeks a lighter work schedule because Jana believes she deserves the same treatment that Megan is receiving (Hayashi, 2001). Consequently, Jessica must deploy the proper leadership theories and motivational techniques to bring peace back to the workplace.
4. Strategic importance of problems in the case
a. Jessica’s problems with employees as supervisor
Employee retention, employee satisfaction, and motivating employees are the main areas of importance from a supervisory leadership perspective. Yet, conflicts of interest are another problematic area from an organizational culture standpoint. Employees are the company’s main asset due to intellect, technical skills, and manual labor. Thus, Jessica needs to figure out a way to make all employees happy with their work schedules. Stevens (2007²) wrote, “Understanding how to get a better performance from the employees is one of the end results of the implementation of OB theories” (Organizational behaviour and human performances, para. 1). If Jessica wants to effectively manage the human asset, she must implement a better work schedule policy. The blanket no-explanation policy is one option. Unfortunately, such a policy might not be aligned with ClarityBase’s organizational culture.
b. Reactions to Megan’s current work schedule
Stevens (2007²) mentioned, “Most managers will term human behaviour and reactions and actions as their major problems” (Problem solving, para. 1). Currently, Jessica faces these problems with Davis and Jana. For example, Jana has shown an aggravated reaction to Megan having a better work schedule. Despite Jana not having any children, she feels deserving of Fridays off (a shorter work week) as Megan has enjoyed for the past two years. While Davis wants time off to pursue a personal goal, he has spoken with Jana about his request. Both of them are aware that Megan has extra benefits in a shorter work week (Hayashi, 2001).
c. Keeping the peace
Megan does not have to work overtime or on the weekends. Additionally, Megan is not at all the meetings after work. Furthermore, she does not travel. All these things would be considered as perks in other organizations. Thus, the strategic importance of these problems is for Jessica to keep the peace by finding some common ground that will make Davis and Jana happy. In other words, her job is to retain Davis and Jana as employees because it would be hard to replace the two account managers (Hayashi, 2001).
5. A sense of urgency
Significantly, Jessica understands the importance of resolving this issue as quickly as possible. Jana already has a defensive attitude when she is asked questions. Davis wishes to immediately begin training for the Ironman Triathlon. Other employees have been heard whispering from their cubicles. Jessica saw a bumper sticker on one employee’s car about how he or she was glad not to have any children (Hayashi, 2001). The bottom-line is that ClarityBase needs change and soon. In doing so, Jessica must be attentive that with every change come more conflicts of interest. In fact, Stevens (2007²) reiterated,
If changes are implemented in any organization without taking into consideration the organizational behaviour theories and studies, then the change may not be very effective. Often we fail to take into account the psychological and personal consequences of any organizational change. (Dealing with organizational change, para. 1)
So how does Jessica change ClarityBase’s current work-life policy for the better of all? Luo (2006) pointed out, “Many of those managers are accustomed to working within a well-defined job scope.’ ‘[Too very] often, sales managers who focus only on relationship-building and business development depend on their colleagues to get signatures on the sales contracts’” (56). While this remark refers to sales contracts, if Jessica continues to be best friends with each employee, eventually she will not meet her quarterly sales quota and will lose focus on her own job requirements. Thus, in order to improve ClarityBase’s work-life policy, the laws associated with each employee’s situation must be analyzed.
6. Megan, Jana, and Davis—a different set of rules for each individual
When Jessica hired Megan two years ago, Megan demanded a shorter work week so she could spend time with her children. Jessica agreed because she had not found anyone of Megan’s caliber (Hayashi, 2001). The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is the law most relative to Megan’s situation. Requirements of FMLA include an employer giving the employee up to 12 workweeks in 12 months off. This time away from the job is due to the following:
Childbirth, newborn childcare
Adoption or foster care, time where the parent can care for that child
Care for spouse, son, daughter or parent with serious health condition
Time off if the employee develops a serious health condition and is unable to perform job requirements (The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2000).
While Jessica had to consider FMLA when hiring Megan, the employee was not hired based upon FMLA. Megan was a Person-Organization (P-O) fit for ClarityBase. According to Kwantes, Arbour, and Boglarsky (2007) the “Person-Organization (P-O) fit is defined as the compatibility that can be determined if/when one entity provides what the other needs or wants and/or if the organization and employee share similar fundamental characteristics” (para. 2). Since Megan had the job skills that ClarityBase desired, Jessica hired her. That is why Megan and ClarityBase have a P-O fit.
Jana’s situation is a bit different. She wants the work schedule that Megan has. Yet, Jana did not request such as schedule when she was hired by ClarityBase. Is this favoritism? No. Megan came highly qualified and recommended by Dawson Software, which is ClarityBase’s main competitor (Hayashi, 2001). As a result, Megan had the right to ask for a premium or bonus, as some would call it. Thus, in Jana’s scenario, ClarityBase’s organizational culture is being disrupted. “Organizational culture is responsible for maintaining the social structure within the organization.’ ‘It also generates the organization’s identity and characterizes it from other organizations’” (Kwantes, Arbour, & Boglarsky, 2001, Organizational culture, para. 1). Jana is not only starting to resent Megan, but to some extent, Jessica and Claritybase as well.
On the other hand, Davis just wants to train for the Ironman Triathlon. Davis has worked for ClarityBase 5 years. In fact, his employment with the company has been longer than both Megan’s and Jana’s employment. Since Davis has been at the company the longest of the three, the thought of age discrimination could be considered in not giving him the time off requested. Taylor (2008) wrote, “Although the legislation does allow you to implement a policy with an age bias to pursue a legitimate aim, you need to be able to objectively justify it and show that the means you are using to achieve that aim are proportionate” (para. 3). The case does not state whether Davis is older than Megan. However, it does point out that Megan received a reduced work week when she was hired 3 years ago. At that time, Davis had already been with the company for 2 years (Hayashi, 2001). Seniority is a factor that Jessica should consider in Davis’ case.
d. Determining if discrimination exists
However, it cannot be determined if age discrimination exists without knowing Megan’s or Davis’ ages. Perhaps gender discrimination exists. Yet, Jana is a female as well. So that argument would not hold up. It should be emphasized that Jessica begins documenting why employees receive certain benefits that others do not. If a discrimination lawsuit was ever filed against ClarityBase for the actions taken with Megan, Jana, and Davis, at least the company would have a paper trail. Taylor (2008) reiterated, “If you have considered the issues thoroughly and have a paper trail to show your rationale, your organization should be in a far stronger position to defend itself should an age discrimination claim arise” (para. 5). Yet, documentation would allow the company to appropriately address any type of discrimination claim.
7. Solutions to the problems presented in the case
a. Blanket no-explanation policy
In the ClarityBase case, a number of solutions were suggested. For example, the blanket no-explanation policy was thought of during Jana and Jessica’s discussion. Jana told Jessica she was under no obligation to tell her why she wanted a shorter work week. That is what a blanket no-explanation policy is: a policy that allows employees to request time off without giving an explanation as to why they need that time off (Hayashi, 2001). Sadly, this policy is not full proof because one employee may have a family emergency and another employee may want to go to the Superbowl.
b. Time off to achieve personal goals
Another suggestion was allowing Davis the time and adjustments he requested to train for the Ironman Triathlon. Yet, the problem with this scenario is that Davis’ clients would have to adjust their schedules and this may not work out for the company or the client. Still, a third solution was to give Jana the same work schedule as Megan. The problem with this suggestion is that Megan has children and Jana does not.
c. An even more effective work-life policy for everyone
Even a fourth suggestion was to make changes where all employees could benefit on shorter work weeks, off on holidays, and lesser overtime. The problems with this are that clients’ systems sometimes malfunction and the accounts’ managers must go and resolve the issues. As a result, if ClarityBase gave an accounts manger the weekend off; his or her client may still call in with a problem. Consequently, either that employee would have to work anyway to resolve the issue or another account manager would have to take his or her place. In fact, other employees have already been complaining about those with family receiving special treatment versus those who are single having to work longer and harder hours (Hayashi, 2001). Remarkably, while all the solutions would work. None of them are full proof. Are there, then, any realistic alternatives and solutions? Yes.
8. Logical alternatives and solutions
The case analysts have identified a number of solutions to the ClarityBase case. For example, flexible hours, employee referral bonuses, entrepreneurship and job sharing are all practical alternatives to Jessica’s dilemma. Not only that, ClarityBase’s organizational identity will remain intact. Organizational identity consists of values, respect for individuals, teamwork, autonomy (self-government), etc. (Kawantes, Arbour, & Boglarsky, 2007, para. 2). Case analysts believed these suggestions to be good solutions because employees are beginning to take sides when it comes to discussions about who receives the best time off deals. If ClarityBase employees lose respect for each other and supervisors have to keep a close eye on account managers, then company values, teamwork and autonomy get thrown out the window. At that point, ClarityBase would lose its organizational identity.
When it comes to flexible hours, well, all ClarityBase employees could benefit from them. In fact, Megan already has a reduced work week. Additionally, Davis and Jana are seeking the same thing. The company, OCLC (2008) allows its employees the benefits of flexible hours. Significantly, OCLC (2008) mentioned that flexible hours are “Available to staff in most positions so they may arrive at work anytime between 7-9 a.m. and leave between 4-6 p.m. (assuming a one hour lunch break) (Flexible hours, para. 1). Case analysts believe this is a great solution because it would enable Davis the opportunity to train for his Ironman Triathlon (Hayashi, 2001). This would satisfy the employee’s needs (Davis) as well as meet the company’s current work-life policy. Consequently, from an OB perspective, psychology (human mind), sociology (cross-cultural management), and anthropology (humanity, compassion) have been met (Stevens, 2007¹). Thus, the concept of flexible hours is the first option for ClarityBase’ change.
Employee referral bonuses
Second, employee referral bonuses would help motivate employees to refer highly talented and qualified individuals to work at ClarityBase. This would enable the organization to acquire very skilled employees. It would also help current ClarityBase’ employees achieve a greater deal of job satisfaction which would lead to increased productivity. OCLC (2008) indicated, “Not only are our employees our best asset, but they’re our best recruiters, too.’ ‘Since you probably know other talented people who would also be assets to OCLC, we offer a generous recruiting bonus’” (Employee referral bonus, para. 1). A good recruiting program can enable ClarityBase to acquire employees willing to work long hours, weekends, and holidays. These factors would satisfy both the company’s needs and the needs or aspirations of employees currently seeking time off for family or to achieve personal goals. Consequently, employee referral bonuses is the second option for ClarityBase’ change.
A third option is entrepreneurship. While Megan currently has a great deal to work reduced hours, the company could decide to allow Megan to have her own business and then outsource accounts with her. This would eliminate some of the tension within the organization and reduce the number of complaints coming from Megan’s co-workers. In particular, Jana and Davis believe they should have shorter work weeks (Hayashi, 2001). ClarityBase would have difficulties retaining a sustainable competitive advantage if all employees decided not to work longer hours, holidays, and weekends. Kirkwood and Tootell (2008) pointed out, “Thus, work-family balance potentially removes role conflict by passing the management of roles over to the employee” (p. 285). Since Megan is the only ClarityBase employee currently off on Fridays, the company does have a problem.
Yet, without this time off, Megan would not have a good work-family balance. If this were to occur with Megan and other employees, ClarityBase’s work-life policy would not be as successful. Kirkwood and Tootell (2008) mentioned, “While work-family balance is an issue for many workers, it is a particularly pertinent issue for women for a number of reasons” (p. 286). Despite entrepreneurship meaning that Megan would have to run her own company, ClarityBase would not be discriminating. There are other parents who work for the company that do not receive the same perks as Megan. If ClarityBase presented this option to Megan, maybe the company could do so from telecommute, outsourcing, or freelance perspectives. These solutions would enable employees the benefits of choosing their own schedules, the freedom of having a life outside the job and the ability to save money on travel expenses to and from work that are not covered by the company. In addition, the company could achieve a cost advantage in terms of reduced overhead costs, motivated employees, and maintaining an effective work-life policy.
A fourth option is job sharing. The Office of Human Capital Management (n.d.) defined, “Job sharing is a form of part-time employment in which the schedules of two part-time employees are arranged to cover the duties of a single full-time position.’ ‘For example, each job sharer may work a portion of the day or week’” (Questions and answers: What is job sharing?). Job sharing would benefit Megan, Davis, and Jana because it would allow each account manager to achieve the work-life balance they currently desire. Yet, job sharing would enable ClarityBase to have each client’s account managed when the regular account manager was unavailable. OHCM (n.d.) reiterated,
When two part-time employees voluntarily share the duties and responsibilities of a full-time position, the employees are job sharing. In addition to providing the opportunity for employees to work part-time in positions where full-time coverage is required, job sharing provides management with extra flexibility. Job share team members may have different strengths and contribute in diverse yet complementary ways. (para. 2)
In addition, job sharing would allow ClarityBase employees to accommodate each other’s absences, split the extra workloads, and help the company reduce unnecessary costs associated with overtime (OHCM, n.d.). Thus, job share is a win-win scenario for ClarityBase to consider.
a. Implement a Work-life program
After careful review of the alternatives and solutions suggested by the case analysts, an optimal solution would be to create a Work-life program that would enable the work-life policy to remain effective. Flexible hours, employee referral bonuses, telecommute, and job sharing are the alternatives recommended for the program. With flexible hours, employees could have the option of coming in at 6 a.m. (as Davis wanted to do while training for the Ironman Triathlon) and working until 9 p.m. When looking at Davis’s problem of finding time to train, this would enable him to do so in both the Summer and Fall (Hayashi, 2001).
The employee referral bonuses would satisfy the monetary needs of employees in addition to offering ClarityBase highly qualified and skilled workers. In looking at the issue of Jessica knowing it would not be easy to replace Davis and Jana if she had to, the employee referral bonus works (Hayashi, 2001). Since entrepreneurship would mean ClarityBase employees basically leaving the company and starting their own businesses (this would be additional competition to the company), it is not the best suggested solution. However, telecommute is an available alternative because it would result in a cost savings to ClarityBase. Jana would receive the reduced work week she desired as well (Hayashi, 2001). Moreover, job sharing would help ClarityBase achieve even more sustainability. Employees would have the option of working certain days in the week while the other employee sharing the job with them would work the other days. Any tension currently existing in the company would be eliminated.
b. Be attentive to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs model
As a result, the Work-life program would enable ClarityBase to implement Maslow’s hierarchy of needs model. Chapman (2004) listed the model that discussed the following:
self actualization (personal growth and fulfillment),
esteem needs (achievement, status responsibility, reputation),
belongingness and love needs (family, affection, relationships, work group, etc.),
safety needs (protection, security, order, law, limits, stability, etc.,
biological and physiological needs (basic needs such as air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sleep, etc.) (Maslow’s hierarchy of needs).
Why is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs important? In consideration of the case, Megan fit the belongingness and love needs. Davis wanted to place in the top 20 of Ironman Triathlon. Thus, he fit the esteem needs. Jana desired to have the same work schedule as Megan. Significantly, she fit the self actualization. Jessica was always concerned about what she heard or was told. In fact, Jessica wanted the best for both the organization and its employees. This fits the safety needs. And Bill Welensky bragged about having a 5% employee turnover rate and a successful work-life policy (Hayashi, 2001). This fits the biological and physiological needs because employees are receiving those things (Chapman, 2004).
ClarityBase is already a very successful database applications company. In order to retain a sustainable competitive future, the organization must be attentive to the needs of its employees. By implementing a program such as the Work-life program suggested in the recommendations section, the company could increase productivity and minimize costs. The main reason is because the program would combine flexible hours, employee referral bonuses, telecommute, and job sharing. As a result, employee turnover would remain low, employees would be motivated, and the current problems that exist within the organization with Megan, Davis, and Jana would be eliminated. Not only that, the Work-life program would lead to the company retaining its organizational culture and identity. It would also ensure that everyone’s needs were met according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs model (Chapman, 2004). Moreover, the work-life policy that Bill Welensky bragged about would be in full effect (Hayashi, 2001).
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