Problem Identification: In the case study Why Didn't We Know, there are a number of problems that the company Galvetrens faced. First, the company's policy for the confidential reporting of misconduct is flawed, and as a result, it leaves employees vulnerable to being retaliated against.
Furthermore, this flawed policy leaves the company vulnerable to lawsuits. In the case study, Mike Field, a Galvetren employee, reported to the company’s COOS his concern about possible employee misconduct (Hasson, Hardis, Shear, Rowe, & Robinson 2007). Harry, the COO, then passed the concern to Terry Samples-Mike's boss. Shortly thereafter, Terry demoted Mike stating that the demotion is due to a drop in job performance. Unfortunately for the company, Mike filed a wrongful termination lawsuit alleging his that he was fired due to whistle blowing.
Another problem in the case is that the company had provided inadequate staff training on its newly revised open-door policy. The company's ineffective training and implementation of the new policy meant that employees were unclear on their individual role and responsibilities for responding to and handling alleged misconduct. There appeared to be no clear procedure on the steps that management must take when they receive a complaint of misconduct. This problem was clearly apparent as lower, middle and upper managers all appeared to ineffectively communicate and follow-up ith the appropriate parties regarding the misconduct complaint. Lastly, the company created a new open-door policy that included reporting procedures many employees found to be problematic. In the case, it mentions that the company ignored two of the consulting firm's recommendations- hiring an ombudsman and establishing "a committee of directors responsible for ethic's oversight" (Hasson et al. , 2007). The consulting firm made this recommendation based on information it collected through focus groups and interviews of employees.
The focus groups and interviews "revealed that many employees would not feel comfortable raising concerns through formal management channels" (Hasson et al. , 2007). Situational Analysis There are numerous circumstances that led to the misconduct committed by the Galvatrens. The replacement of Galvatrens’ CEO in 1997 led to a dramatic shift in the company’s portfolio as well as its culture (Hasson et al. , 2007, 34). While the changes that Chip Brownlee brought to the company as a new CEO led to the expansion of the company’s product portfolio, the cultural changes in the company were incomplete.
A review of the events that led to the charges of misconduct indicates inherent flaws in Galvatrens’ policies and norms of conduct. For example, a high turnover in a single department is a warning sign that some form of communication has lapsed. In addition, employees need to become familiar with the company’s communication process; as a newly formed group undergoing the initial group forming stage, board members have to connect to “explore both their personal goals and the group’s goal” (Engleberg & Wynn, 2010, p. 29).
The board members have to establish assertive communication practices at the top level of management. Several group discussions to implement a workable plan with accountability standards were determined necessary. With Galvatrens’ lack of a written communication policy available for its employees, other stakeholders were also impacted. For clients not to report Greg Wilson shows a lack trust in the company’s ability to handle the situation. Employees’ awareness of the channel-stuffing attempt did not develop into the sequence of events management anticipated.
The case study by Hasson et al. (2007) advises that employees could contact their supervisor or manager without censor or retaliation (p. 3). The additions of the hotline and ethics officer were supposed to be encouraged. However, employees bypassing the hotline and reporting process showed evidence of passive group traits. Engleberg and Wynn state that when group members lack confidence, they will follow directions regardless of whether they go against their own judgment, and they also experience high stress levels with group communication (p. 68).
Harry Mart, Galvatrens COO who was first informed about the possible misconducts, didn’t act as a responsible leader. Instead of taking Mike Fields message seriously, he ignored his message. According to Engleberg and Wynn (2007), effective leaders who are proactive listeners “don’t wait for disputes to escalate into destructive conflict; they intervene at the slightest hint of hostility” (p. 195). Harry Mart’s reaction to Mike Fields message also indicates that the changes brought under new management to advance the company’s procedures and to prevent misconducts and conflicts didn’t transmit effectively to the company’s leadership. he new leadership, the company was transforming to adopt an open door system that encouraged employees to raise their concerns to their superiors. However, Harry Mart’s disregard for Mike Fields’ concern indicates that the leadership team failed to integrate the new policy into the company’s culture. According to Engleberg and Wynn (2007), in an open system environment inputs or challenges from non-group members and outside sources are welcomed (p. 22). However, this open policy that was introduced by the company’s general counsel Sydney Baydown, was resisted by Dale Willis, the senior vice president of HR.
While at some levels the new open policy was encouraged, it remained ineffective because Galvetren’s old culture was resisting any outside or independent involvement in the internal matters of the company. Dale Willis argued, “anything that operated outside management’s chain of command might let serious problems slip through the cracks and was therefore a recipe for disaster” (Hasson et al. , 2007, p. 36). When Mike Fields bypassed his supervisor and contacted COO Harry Mart with accusations against another employee, he did so because protocol was not established.
His actions directly impacted the company and his co-workers. According to Engleberg and Wynn (2007), “each member is affected and influenced by the actions of other members” (p. 7). The situation was never resolved and both Mike and the accused later left the company for other reasons. Furthermore, a clear and defined communication process that is published and reviewed by management with employees is a missing component. Training on communicating via an open-door policy that provides guidelines for specific problems has been sidelined as secondary.
Hasson et al. states a recommendation was made by Vice President of HR to delay training. When reports such as the channel-stuffing scheme are made, a step-by-step protocol should be established to ensure that all employees- from top to bottom level-are made aware of these events. This process can alleviate the report being passed around without resolution. Lastly, several suggestions or omissions to communication resolution were made based on top managers whose views have not advanced.
The decision to exclude the ombudsman rule into the communication plan, had the opposite effect and “serious problems slipped through the cracks and was therefore a recipe for disaster” (Hasson et al. , 2007, p. 3). Recommendations How should Galvatrens strengthen its system for uncovering misconduct? While the changes that CEO Chip Brownlee brought to the company led to the expansion of the company’s product portfolio, the charges of misconduct indicate inherent flaws in the company’s policies and norms of conduct.
A high turnover in a single department is a warning sign that some form of communication had lapsed. It is recommended that Galvatrens establish within and across all departments collaborative communication and conversation that is energetic, constructive, and thought provoking. To ensure the quality of the discussion, a moderating team should be established; this team will review all comments and edit discussion for clarity, length, and relevance. Comments that are overly promotional, mean-spirited, or off-topic may be deleted per the moderators' judgment.
It is also recommended that the company revise its open door policy for reporting employee misconduct. Although the policy encouraged employees to go to their immediate supervisors, it emphasized that they could approach any manager at any level for assistance. However, employees expressed concern of having to report alleged misconduct to management. Therefore, human resources should revise the policy in a way that allows employees to report concerns to someone other than company management.
Perhaps the consulting firm’s recommendations of hiring an ombudsman would be the best solution. However, in an effort to foster a collaborative work environment, human resources should first solicit feedback from employees before implementing or finalizing its revised policy. References Engleberg, I. , & Wynn, D. (2010). Working in groups (5th ed. ). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. Hasson, R. ; Hardis, S; Shear; H. ; Rowe, M; Robinson, J. (April 1, 2007). Why Didn’t We Know? Harvard Business Review, Case number R0704A