Located primarily in the southern region of the United States, with its corporate headquarters in Phoenix, ColorTech is a privately held company that grows and supplies annual and perennial flowers to big-box stores. Some of its clients include Walmart and Home Depot. They rented greenhouse space in other US cities to be able to handle special orders, with greenhouses in the North which helped them provide region specific and seasonal plants. ColorTech profits had been consistently dropping due to a change in the market and industry.
A saturated market and a shift away from water and high maintenance intensive gardens, along with increased price competition are the major reasons why we have seen a loss in profits for ColorTech. Demands for lowering prices and very costly customizations from the big-box stores made ColorTech even more exposed than other competitors. As part of its growth strategy and an effort to generate additional revenue, ColorTech recently acquired a Colombian company specialized in cut flowers, and quickly became one of the largest growers in North and South America.
Melissa Richardson- She is the main character in this case study. Melissa was the top sales performer in Chicago before her recent promotion to sales manager of the Phoenix office. Melissa is excited and eager to step into this position, hoping that her previous experience and success will be able to help the struggling Phoenix office become successful. She has no previous manager experience, but has taken management training courses which helped her learn about some of her duties. Beth Campbell- She is the Regional Sales manager for ColorTech.
Beth is very absent from this story and does not provide the support to Melissa that she needs. Campbell appears to be very busy and does not communicate expectations with Melissa well. Alex Hoffman- He is an account representative, and has been with the company for 8 years. He is the top salesperson in the entire company. He is very dismissive in his attitude towards Melissa. He does not appear to accept her as his manager. He might be having some feelings of jealousy born out of the fact that he may have considered himself qualified for the manager position. Alex has no interest in selling the cut flowers portion of the business and will only work on his own terms.
Gregorio Torres- Torres, also an account representative, has been with the company the longest, 12 years. His sales numbers are below average. During his first encounter with Melissa, he was more interested in discussing his idea for a new website to manage customer service. When further pushed about why his sales numbers were so low, Gregorio responded with “I guess I’m just not a hard-sell kind of guy.” From an outside perspective it seems as if Gregorio is just not cut out for sales and might be more interested in customer service or operations. Sarah Vega- Sarah is the third account representative on the team.
Even though she has been with the company for 3 years, still does not appear to have it all together. Sarah was either tardy or absent from meetings. Even when she eventually made it for a meeting, she seemed distracted, restless and unorganized. This attitude to work reflected on her erratic sales numbers, though she appeared knowledgeable in some areas of the company’s product line, she was totally clueless in others. . Chelsea Peterson- Chelsea is a store merchandiser and has been with the company for 2years.
This is a position that provides support for the sales team. Chelsea from the start was openly hostile with Melissa. Chelsea feels that Melissa is not giving her a chance to become a sales rep even though she has never expressed that desire to anyone. She eventually expresses her interest to Melissa who told her to put a resume together for consideration. Chelsea still feels slighted and has hires an attorney to approach ColorTech about gender diversity records. Nick Ruiz- Nick is fresh out of college and has been with ColorTech for 1 year.
He is the most enthusiastic of all the employees on the team. He is currently a store merchandiser, but will do whatever it takes to get into an account rep position. His product knowledge is very strong, he has active discussions with customers, and since there is a greenhouse on site he has strong knowledge of operations as well. He even forgoes his breaks to go into the greenhouse just to talk to workers about the jobs that they do. The Situation-
From the very start Melissa Richardson has received no support or respect as a manager. In addition, Melissa has never had any managerial experience and has stepped into an office where she is way over her head with problems that she has never faced before. Her first day on the job gave a glimpse of what she was in store for. Her regional sales manager did not show up to introduce Melissa and to get Melissa acclimated to the team. The top sales rep in the company did not respect her and showed up to the first meeting late even though he knew about it.
Along with that Sarah Vega showed up late to the meeting and also disrespected Melissa. Very quickly things spiraled out of control for Melissa. She was disrespected in the first meeting by Alex and Sarah, and she did not do anything to address the situation. Melissa coming from Chicago was not accustomed to the culture of the Phoenix office. The greenhouse workers and a lot of the sales team are Hispanic by nature and Spanish was their first language. Melissa has tried to learn Spanish by tape, but could not keep up with the speed that everyone else spoke it at. On multiple occasions the sales reps would speak Spanish in front of her, but Melissa could not follow what they said because they spoke in Spanish.
This would upset Melissa and make her feel even more distant from her team. The Phoenix sales office was not meeting sales expectations, and to makes things even worse there was a fungus in the Columbia Greenhouse cut facility. The only way to remedy this problem was to destroy the stock inside, disinfect the entire facility, and then finally start regrowing all of the cut flowers.
This problem caused delays of weeks in orders from new customers, and the potential loss of many clients. Due to low self efficacy, a lack of support from upper management, not fitting into the culture of the office, and lack of experience as a manager; Melissa failed to successfully transition from team member to team leader. In the end, everything spiraled out of control, with Sarah missing work at least once a week, Gregorio consistently putting up poor numbers, Chelsea filing a gender discrimination lawsuit against the company, and Alex providing no respect and support for his manager.
Melissa Richardson is having difficulty transitioning from Team Member to Team Manager for a variety of reasons including her own behaviors and situational challenges she encounters and they contribute to a dysfunctional team environment. Melissa is in trouble even before she begins her new job as Sales Manager because of her low self-efficacy beliefs concerning her management training (Kinicki, 2008, p. 39-41). She has taken management training courses offered by her company but has little confidence in her understanding of the Managerial and Human Resources responsibilities of her new position.
She finds it hard to imagine how she might apply the specific advice and experiences that her management trainers relate to situations she will encounter. Self-efficacy beliefs are often self-fulfilling prophecies; low self-efficacy beliefs lead to low expectations of success and can result in destructive behavior patterns, such as putting off difficult tasks, which contribute to failure (Kinicki, 2008, p. 40-41). Melissa’s problems transitioning to a management position are partly because; whether she recognizes it or not, she is not confident that she has the necessary skills and abilities. As she meets her new team and interacts with her new supervisor it becomes clear that she is not communicating well with any of them.
The members of her team are mostly distant or distracted–not focused on the job at hand–and she allows herself to be distracted from making a strong first impression by other aspects of her job such as touring the greenhouses, phone meetings, and paperwork. Melissa is a low self-monitor, not particularly good at observing her own self-expressive behavior and adapting it to the demands of the situation (Kinicki, 2008, pg 42). She learns from her manager, too late to complete a quarterly sales report, that the data she is using was falsified by her predecessor. She is also confronted by an angry employee wrongly convinced of being passed over for a promotion.
Melissa, however, does not respond to the environmental cues and change her behavior as she would if she were engaged in self-management (Kinicki, 2008, p. 43). She isn’t helped by the lack of leadership from her own manager, Beth Campbell, who ought to be coaching her and providing feedback as she transitions to her new role and gets to know her new team members (Kinicki, 2008, p. 42). They meet only once before Melissa starts her new job and when Melissa does start, Beth fails to properly introduce her or give her any background information on her new team and position.
She assigns work but does not give Melissa the necessary support and training to make sure she succeeds at new and unfamiliar tasks. Beth is not providing the leadership that she needs and Melissa is not comfortable asking for help. One more situational factor working against Melissa’s transition to Team Leader is her difficulty adapting to a new environment in Phoenix, where speaking Spanish is a big part of everyday interactions with her co-workers. Several times she feels isolated from her team because she is not fluent in Spanish, even though she has tried to learn the language. Melissa’s sales team is dysfunctional and she immediately has problems in her interpersonal relationships with several team members.
Alex Hoffman is dismissive, Chelsea Peterson is hostile and Sarah Vega is absent. By the time of her July meeting with Beth Campbell, Melissa’s group has not progressed beyond the second stage of Bruce Tuckman’s Five-Stage Theory of Group Development (Kinicki, 2008, p. 88). She encounters problems in the first stage, Forming, when she fails to make a strong first impression on her team. This is followed by the second stage of group development, Storming, as demonstrated by challenges to her authority from Alex who dismisses her goal of selling cut flowers, Chelsea who accuses her of gender discrimination, and Vega who is persistently absent.
The group never reaches the third stage, Norming, because nobody challenges the team to move forward and really take on the problem solving necessary to overcome the challenges presented when sales are jeopardized by production issues in the greenhouses. They lack the common commitment necessary to qualify as a real team (Kinicki, 2008, p. 93). Melissa does not effectively set goals or provide incentives and feedback to motivate her team members. She also fails to develop teamwork competencies by helping them understand their problem solving situation so they can arrive at a common understanding of what challenges are facing them and how to go about resolving them (Kinicki, 2008, p. 93). Prescription
While the ColorTech team in Phoenix has encountered numerous problems, including lagging sales, production errors, and an infectious fungus, the team’s main issues stem from Melissa’s difficulty transitioning from team member to team manager, team dysfunction, and Melissa’s difficulty managing diversity and the new culture in Phoenix. There are solutions available to help mitigate the team’s problems, including improving Melissa’s management skills, developing teamwork competencies, and implementing diversity initiatives.
However, there is no single solution or quick fix. In fact, under the Contingency Approach, the ideal solution may be a combination of multiple techniques, instead of relying on one solution (Kinicki, 2008, p. 11). The first potential solution provides Melissa with steps she can follow to improve her skills as a manager. Clark Wilson developed eleven skills managers should have: 1. Clarify goals and objectives; 2. Encourage participation, suggestions, and upward communication; 3. Plan and organize work flow; 4. Obtain technical and administrative expertise; 5. Facilitate work through training, team building, coaching, and support;
6. Provide honest and constructive feedback; 7. Keep things moving with schedules, reminders, and deadlines; 8. Control details without being overbearing; 9. Apply reasonable pressure to achieve goals; 10. Empower employees and delegate key duties; and 11. Recognize good performance with positive reinforcement and rewards (Kinicki, 2008, p. 2-3). By clarifying goals and objectives, Melissa would have given Gregorio, and the rest of her team, a target to shoot for, which may help him reverse the negative trend in his sales numbers. A clear sales target may also help Sarah become more consistent with her sales figures. Goal-setting research indicates that performance is higher when challenging goals are set, and feedback helps employees stay on track and motivated (Kinicki, 2008, p. 64).
In addition, by encouraging employees to participate in goal-setting, empowering team members, and recognizing good performance with rewards, employees become more committed to team objectives, and performance improves (Kinicki, 2008, p. 64). Lastly, organizing workflow, facilitating work, providing reminders, and motivating the team with reasonable pressure allows Melissa to ensure the team is working efficiently and productively (Kinicki, 2008, p. 64). Learning these management skills will not only improve her team’s performance, they will also help improve Melissa’s communications with her manager, Beth Campbell. By clarifying her goals and objectives with Campbell, Melissa will have a better idea of what it will take to succeed as a manager.
By improving Melissa’s technical and administrative expertise, she will avoid mistakes and late submissions with her sales reports. Lastly, by providing honest and constructive feedback to Campbell about Melissa’s frustration and difficulties, Campbell may be able to provide guidance and advice. Thus, refining her management skills will improve not just Melissa’s relationship with her team, but Melissa’s relationship with her manager as well. To address team dysfunction, Melissa and her team need to develop teamwork competencies. Urging employees to be good team players is not enough (Kinicki, 2008, p. 93).
Managers need to model and teach the following competencies: the team must understand its problem-solving situation; the team must get organized and measure its performance; a positive team environment should be promoted; conflict must be handled properly; and team members should promote their points-of-view appropriately (Kinicki, 2008, p. 93).
By understanding their problem-solving situation, Melissa’s team can take ownership of their challenges, and help find solutions. Getting organized and measuring their performance allows the Phoenix team to understand their goals and what they need to do to achieve them. Lastly, promoting a positive team environment, handling conflict properly, and expressing one’s views appropriately will foster trust, cooperation, and team synergy. The next solution requires Melissa to implement diversity initiatives. Based on Morrison’s study of diversity initiatives, organizations that successfully manage diversity focus on three main areas: 1. Accountability—treating diverse employees fairly; 2. Development—preparing diverse employees for greater responsibility and advancement; and
3. Recruitment—attracting diverse applicants who are willing to accept challenging work assignments (Kinicki, 2008, p. 36). Under the Equity Theory, motivation is a function of fairness, and employees are more likely to commit if the changes are fair (Kinicki, 2008, p. 58). In addition, because of Fundamental Attribution Bias, managers tend to attribute employee behavior to internal causes, but may be ignoring environmental factors (Kinicki, 2008, p. 28). By treating everyone fairly, implementing development programs, and communicating better, Chelsea would have understood Melissa’s thought process, and would be less likely to think that Melissa was being discriminatory.
In addition, Spanish was the predominant language at the Phoenix greenhouse, because of the large number of workers from Mexico and Central America. Thus, Melissa would have to significantly improve her Spanish if she wants to be able to communicate more effectively with the majority of workers at the site. Also, the workers in Phoenix like to keep a friendly atmosphere, and even cook outdoor lunches and share lunch with the sales staff, so it would be a good idea for Melissa to get to know them and to learn more about the culture in Phoenix, in order to maintain positive and productive relationships with her co-workers.
Organizations operate in a global economy, and the workplace is becoming more and more diverse (Kinicki, 2008, p. 5-6). In the past, managers were monocultural and monolingual; however, the 21st century manager must evolve to become multicultural and multilingual to remain competitive in such a diverse and fast-paced environment (Kinicki, 2008, p. 7). In addition, “managing diversity enables all the organization’s people to perform up to their maximum potential by changing the organization’s culture and infrastructure” (Kinicki, 2008, p. 32).
By learning the culture and getting to know the people Melissa is going to be working with, she will be better able to communicate with and manage her team. After all, “management” is the process of working with and through others to achieve organizational objectives in an efficient and ethical manner” (Kinicki, 2008, p. 2). Melissa and her team are facing numerous challenges, including team dysfunction in part due to Melissa’s lack of management skills, and because Melissa has found it difficult to transition from being a successful team member to successful manager. Melissa also has difficulty managing diversity and adjusting to the new environment and culture.
Fortunately, there are solutions available to help solve her team’s difficulties, including improving Melissa’s management skills, developing teamwork competencies, and implementing diversity initiatives. While there is no easy or single solution, using these techniques in combination will help Melissa and her team become more productive, and help them reach their personal and organizational goals. Action Plan
There are four key steps that need to be implemented in order to improve Melissa Richardson’s ability to manage successfully. And we have prioritized each solutions based on different challenges and its influence on how well she can lead. First of all, Richardson needs to voice her concerns to her boss, Beth Campbell. Then, she needs to talk to HR about some of the employee’s conduct. Also, she needs to meet with the team and talk about her expectations. Finally, Richardson needs to discuss performance of each individual on one-on-one basis.
As discussed before, Richardson was hoping to be guided and mentored in her new role as a sales manager. She did not have prior management experience so it was normal for her to expect some “hand holding” initially. However, she didn’t receive any support from her boss, Campbell. Not only that, she was in charge of leading a team that require clear direction and discipline. To make the matters worse, the organization was facing its own set of problems related to customer demand and operation limitations. Furthermore, Richardson wasn’t an effective communicator since she wasn’t able to address the team issues and set clear expectations.
All of these challenges are very difficult for someone new to manage. So she needs to cultivate a mentor figure, whether it is Campbell or someone else. Because mentoring will provide Richardson the career and psychosocial functions, identified by Kram (Kinicki, 2008, pg. 194), that will help her perform well in her new role. The second challenge Richardson was facing was related to the HR issues. Team members often arrived late to work or were absent. Also, an issue of gender discrimination was brought up by Chelsea Peterson. She felt that she should be receiving a preferential treatment over others because she was a woman. So it is necessary for Richardson to bring up these issues with the HR department and take appropriate actions to stay out of legal trouble and to ensure that the team adheres to organization’s code of conduct.
Next order of business requires Richardson to bring synergy and tackle the dysfunctional team. For example, Alex Hoffman is a top sales person but doesn’t open up much. He could be a great asset if she can get him more engaged and involved in the team. And Sarah Vega is not focused and is often distracted by non-work related events. So Richardson needs to understand what holds each member back from being at their maximum potential. And she can increase their performance by applying some of Clark Wilson’s recommended management skills (Kinicki, 2008, pg. 2-3). Finally, Richardson needs to recognize the human capital in her team (Kinicki, 2008, p.12). She already made a list of skills each team members has or lacks.
She needs to use that knowledge and focus on increasing productivity potential of each member. She can also increase their motivations through job redesign (Kinicki, 2008, p. 64). For example, Hoffman is focused more on selling to bigger clients while Gregorio Torres is not. So it may be helpful for her to adjust their sales quotas to reflect their customer preference. Also, Nick Ruiz is knowledgeable and enthusiastic about being in the sales team. Richardson can look into opening up an associate sales rep position for him to see how he does in the new role. She can have him work with Hoffman or mentor Ruiz herself on becoming a successful salesperson as she was. We believe that the four steps mentioned above will allow Richardson to improve her management success.
Therefore, she needs to tackle each action plan by setting up meetings to address the challenges. First meeting with Campbell seem appropriate due to many questions and concerns Richardson has about her new role. A second meeting with the HR department would help her address the ethics problem with Peterson and other issues. Finally, she needs to meet with the team members again to try to make a strong first impression and re-establish her leadership.
Kinicki, A. (2008). Organizational Behavior. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Irwin
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