Dick Spencer Case
The Dick Spencer case study contains multiple management issues but perhaps the most glaring problem is Dick’s micromanagement approach. This leadership style appears to be having a very negative impact on employee morale. Additionally, Dick’s approach seems to be perpetuating resistance to desired organizational changes. These three problems are not new to organizations, and a great deal of published literature exists that defines, describes and suggests recommendations to help overcome these issues.
Some research data echoes other’s findings but others hold interesting points of view, especially with regard to micromanagement. MICROMANAGEMENT Micromanagement has been defined and described in many ways. In the most simplistic form micromanagement may be viewed as a basic lack of trust (Ward, 2003). Another view explains micromanagement as “an affliction of small-minded, task oriented, visionless leaders (Hanft, 2004). ” Others depict micromanagers as “the ones who tell you not only why things need to be done (vision) and what needs to be done (mission), but also the who, how, when and where (Weyande, 1996). Very often specific behaviors are associated with micromanagers, to including reluctance to delegate, self-insertion into others’ projects, and discouragement of decision-making without leadership consultation. Harry Chambers, author of My Way or the Highway, identified five specific behaviors. According to Chambers (2006), micromanagers like to exercise power and authority, control others’ time, want work to be done their way, allow no one to move forward without approval, and often demand frequent status reports.
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These behaviors have been likened to symptoms of a disease which can be identified and explained. Some micromanagers defend their behavior based on the belief that they are merely using efficient and necessary oversight that is indispensible for tasks to be accomplished correctly and on time (Presutti, 2006). Others go as far as stating that micromanagers actually save time and money (Weyande, 1996). Meetings to discuss options and suggestions are eliminated because the manager decides what to do. Employee training is reduced because the manager knows how to do everything the correct way.
This may indeed be tongue in cheek for most, but for others may be a perception of reality and is just one symptom of the micromanagement disease. Dr. Richard White, a professor at Louisiana State University, described other symptoms that indicate “where good detail management ends and loathsome micromanagement begins (White, 2010). ” These symptoms include being obsessed with meaningless details and setting deadlines for deadlines’ sake. Dr. White goes on to state: “At its more severe level, micromanagement is a compulsive, behavioral disorder similar to other addictive patterns….. icromanagers learn to like to control others (White, 2010). ” These symptoms can be viewed as warning signs but recognition of the symptoms may occur too late as the negative effects may have already impacted the organization. Micromanagement can do a great deal of damage to an organization by adversely affecting initiative, productivity, morale and teamwork. Employees feel they do not have any control over their tasks and soon lose motivation. This, in turn, erodes any initiative, as employees will do only what is asked by completing just the assigned work.
The lack of delegation combined with the loss of initiative results in employees standing idle awaiting direction. Employees may also lose self-confidence after repeatedly being directed on what and how to perform tasks (Presutti, 2006). Any team autonomy is degraded to the point of nonexistence and teamwork almost completely halts. Employees will usually perceive their relationship with a micromanager as mistrusting, stressful and even adversarial which dampens morale (Presutti, 2006). Ultimately, productivity pays the price and the organization goes into a downward spiral.
However, there is a cure for micromanagement. Micromanagers can place themselves on the path to recovery by first admitting there is a problem with this leadership style. One author suggests open communication with employees. The manager simply states the desire to change and asks for honest feedback. This is followed up with providing employees leeway and encouragement to perform tasks and succeed on their own (2010). The manager can then identify employees worthy of trust and capable of executing delegated authority (2010).
An upfront agreement outlining a follow up schedule and results methodology is established to eliminate ambiguity (2010). Of course self-diagnosis and action plans for recovery are rare, so in these cases employees have to act. Micromanagement behavior can be very disruptive to the organization. Quite frequently the employees must take the initiative to take back their territory. Chambers (2006) gives several suggestions on how to do this. First, the employee can take the information initiative by finding out what data the manager needs to feel confident, then provide it ahead of time.
The employee can also communicate progress on priority projects which illustrates awareness and timeliness. Stay clear on expectations by using a trail of memos or emails. Communication is vital as priorities shift, and it is very important to beat deadlines if possible. Exhibiting proactive behavior is key, and sometimes it may be better to ask for forgiveness than permission. This situation is where an employee can put a foot down and stop being an enabler (Ward, 2003). Employees that provide recommendations or solutions to problems may be seen in a proactive light (Ward, 2003).
The goal is to earn the micromanager’s trust. Perhaps the hardest action to take is non-action, as one must pick battles that are worth fighting. Micromanagement does not go away overnight. MORALE Organizational morale plays a major role in that organization’s productivity (Sirota, Mischkind & Meltzer, 2005). “Leaders should care about the morale of their employees—not because of humanitarian concern for worker’s happiness, but because study after study unmistakably shows a direct link between employee morale and company performance (Sirota, Mischkind & Meltzer, 2005). ” According to Dr.
Gene Klann (Klann, 2004), morale is described as a reflection of a person’s or group’s attitude or mental condition. People with a high level of morale are most likely to be cooperative, optimistic, and supportive of the organization’s vision and mission (Klann, 2004). Other qualities or behaviors include persistence, a can-do attitude and a willingness to do whatever is necessary to accomplish organizational goals (Klann, 2004). Dr. Klann (Klann, 2004) goes on to state employees with high morale “quietly but with great confidence in themselves and the group go about the business of completing their tasks. One can see how these behaviors are conducive to maintaining or even increasing an organization’s productivity. Given this importance, managers then should be aware of what to do to help foster high morale. According to W. H. Weiss, effective managers seek out opportunities to generate and use morale to benefit company operations (Weiss, 2011). He goes on to say that the key to success is a high level of involvement. Leaders should not hold back information no matter how insignificant it seems. This action sets the stage for clear and open communication. “People on the job want to be in the know (Weiss, 2011)”.
Management should immediately respond to problems and provide feedback as soon as possible (Weiss, 2011). Praise and recognition also go a long way to foster morale, but keep it sincere. Positive strokes need to be genuine as employees will see right through fakers. Although knowing what to do is very important, what may matter more is what not to do. According to Sirota, Mischkind and Meltzer, “the main question for management is not how can employees be motivated. Instead, it may be how can management be deterred from diminishing—even destroying—employee morale and motivation (Sirota, Mischkind & Meltzer, 2005). Organizations may want to rethink the target group of established policies. Most organizations gear their policies toward the bottom 5% of performers (Sirota, Mischkind & Meltzer, 2005).
This, however, restricts the remaining 95% of employees who are motivated and looking for opportunities to succeed (Sirota, Mischkind & Meltzer, 2005). Managers need to fight against being indifferent and pay attention to employees’ needs. This includes obstacles to completing tasks along with verbal appreciation. According to Sirota et al. “When leaders take employee performance for granted, the employee and the organization both lose (Sirota, Mischkind & Meltzer, 2005). ” Ultimately, organizational leadership should refrain from decisions and operations that damage employee trust, respect and teamwork (Schafferr, 2010). RESISTANCE TO CHANGE Any leader or manager has to deal with organizational change. Some may approach this topic with dread whereas others look forward to the challenge. A great deal of research has been accomplished on how to properly conduct and manage change in the workplace.
Most agree that resistance to change is a normal human response (Romero, 2007). Resistance to change in an organization may be defined as “employees’ behavior that seeks to challenge, or disrupt the prevailing assumptions, discourses, and power relations (Boohene & Williams, 2012). ” Such behavior is driven by the fear of change which is usually associated with added pressure, stress, and uncertainty (Boohene & Williams, 2012). A leader’s approach to managing change is a key determiner of success or failure. It is highly unusual for any change to not attract some level of resistance.
Good leaders will use this resistance to actually benefit the impending change. According to Michelman, “One of the biggest mistakes change leaders can make is to assume that resistance is without merit. But resisters can shed valuable insights about how proposed changes might be modified to increase the odds for success (Michelman, 2007). ” Atkinson concurs with this philosophy and stated, “…. you should expect some resistance as the norm. Recognize it as a healthy response and an opportunity to openly debate possibilities and treat resistance as a powerful ally in facilitating the learning process (Atkinson, 2005). A positive approach coupled with key insight is a leader’s necessary tools for effective change management. Attempting to get everyone in the organization behind a proposed change is probably unrealistic. Perhaps a smarter plan is to focus on areas that will have significant impact. A leader needs to evaluate where resistance would be most harmful and where spreading power would be most prominent (Michelman, 2007). An important note about change is that not all resistance is overt. In fact, perhaps the most damaging resistance is accomplished behind the scenes which makes it even more difficult to address (Atkinson, 2005).
After the most likely areas of greatest resistance have been identified, the change manager needs to plan how to use and overcome it. General change management rules to follow are as follows: 1) sell the benefits, 2) get key players involved, and 3) execute the plan with allowed adjustments along the way. However, several theories have been developed that go beyond these generic rules. In 1951, the renowned psychologist Kurt Lewin presented a model that depicted change as a three step process to include unfreezing, moving, and refreezing (Boohene & Williams, 2012). Lewin identified change as being comprised of two forces—those driven nternally by people’s needs and those coming from externally from the environment (Boohene & Williams, 2012). Lewin went on to develop another theory know as the Force-Field Analysis. Boohene and Williams described this theory: “An issue is held in balance by the interaction of two opposing sets of forces—those seeking to promote change and those attempting to maintain the status quo (2012). ” When these forces are equal no change takes place. Change occurs only after opposing forces are overcome. Various studies have supported the idea that leadership can overcome the opposing forces by focusing on key factors.
These factors are participation in decision making, motivation, communication and information exchange, and trust (Boohene & Williams, 2012). Getting employees involved early results in a sense of control over decisions and promotes ownership of the planned change (Boohene & Williams, 2012). Motivated employees are less likely to oppose organizational change (Boohene & Williams, 2012). Atkinson states, “Simply by talking with people about the likely outcomes and benefits that will accrue from the change, in tangible terms, is sufficient to ease people into a more accepting emotional state (Atkinson, 2005). “Boohene and Williams explained, “Trust in management involves employee’s perceived confidence levels in the ability of management to do what is best for the organization and its members (Boohene & Williams, 2012). ” Leadership must understand these factors in order to achieve success. RECOMMENDATIONS I believe with a little reflection and mentorship Dick may come to realize that his leadership style may not be appropriate in all cases. Assuming this is the case, there are several things he may have done differently. It is difficult to tell but Dick’s successes as a troubleshooter may have been a temporary success.
According to Dr. White (2010), “In some cases, micromanagement may increase productivity over the short term, but long-term problems will eventually defeat any short-term gains. ” Micromanagers have been quite frequently referred to as control freaks (White, 2010). As the assistant plant manager, Dick repeatedly felt he could not make recommendations or suggest innovations. A better description may be he could not micromanage the employees to get what he wanted because he did not have the control or authority. A better approach may have been to espectfully approach the other leaders and work as a team to improve the plant’s operations. The siding department incident is an excellent example of a micromanager getting involved in a meaningless task. Actions such as this are usually counterproductive and are seen as oppressive and demeaning by the employees (Presutti, 2006). Dick should have worked with the departments to establish short term and long term goals as this is the appropriate involvement level for the leader (Presutti, 2006). Dick’s micromanagement is having a detrimental effect on morale.
Assuming this leadership style can be altered there will still be work to do to rebuild morale. This rebuilding begins with understanding what employees want, followed by giving it to them (Sirota, Mischkind & Meltzer, 2005). According to Sirota, Mischkind, and Meltzer, there are three things employees want: equity, achievement, and camaraderie. Equity can be defined as the desire to be treated justly in relation to the conditions of employment (Sirota, Mischkind & Meltzer, 2005). Employees want to be treated as responsible adults and not as children. Achievement refers to pride in accomplishment (Sirota, Mischkind & Meltzer, 2005).
Employees want to do things that matter and be recognized for their significant contributions. Camaraderie is a sense of closeness that develops from working well with teammates. Morale is increased and maintained when the organizational culture satisfies these needs (Sirota, Mischkind & Meltzer, 2005). Dick is failing miserably with regard to change management. Naturally, the micromanagement leadership style directly contradicts what needs to be done to properly conduct organizational change. The basic premise to breaking down resistance to change is to get the key players involved (Romero, 2007). Any change effort typically involves change sponsors, change agents, and change targets—all of whom have unique and essential roles (Romero, 2007). ” In this case Dick is the change sponsor as he has the authority to utilize resources to make changes in the organization. The change agents are typically mid-level managers responsible for actually executing the change. Change targets are then the employees who actually accomplish the organizational change. Once Dick communicates with the organizational players involved, the changes he wants to implement will have a much higher chance of success.