The case study I chose to evaluate was Oak Brook Medical Systems, Inc. The manager, Jackie, is known as a “no nonsense” kind of manager who is credited with large increases in business accounts resulting in a $40 million dollar addition to the corporate bottom line. She is a valuable corporate asset but has considerable communication issues with staff members. This is a so called “armchair” case study that is based on the fictional documentation produced by O’Rourke in case 10-1 (2010)
Part of the problem faced by Oak Brook Medical Systems is Jackie. She is difficult to communicate with and on occasion, makes other staff members feel their contribution to the welfare of the company is less important than her own. Workers feel unappreciated and Jackie is sometimes short tempered and condescending toward her coworkers and subordinates. Jackie believes the issue to be no more than a hurdle that has been faced by many who went before her. She believes that the issues with her subordinates are no different than those faced by every manager or superior, not suspecting that the issue may actually lie with her.
From Jackie’s perspective, the staff problems are due in part to her race. Jackie is of African American descent and, as such, is perhaps a little more observant of people’s attitude toward her than other employees would be. She is beginning to believe that the company may prefer to have a non-black in the position she currently holds; and would rather she not advance any further with the company. Jackie has known nothing but success in her life and is having difficulty recognizing hurdles to advancement because she has not faced failure in her past. She cannot understand the reason she is not progressing more within the company and does not consider her communication issues with fellow staff members as anything more than a nuisance to her advancement.
The business problem for Oak Brooke Medical Systems is how to improve communication between staff members and prevent Jackie from demeaning her subordinates by her very direct approach to management.
The issues faced by Oak Brooke Medical Systems, Inc., are related to communication and human resources. If staff feels they have no support in dealing with an overly aggressive manager, the company will lose vital talent and the creativity of the remaining members may be inadvertently subdued by fear or perceived bullying. The loss of current staff members could pose a long-term problem for the company as attracting and cultivating talented team members is costly and time consuming.
If Jackie can eliminate one or more of the other members of the team by her aggressive managerial stance, she may ultimately cost the company more than she generates in revenue. Jackie is also a talented team member; but tends to want to play alone and seldom seeks the approval of other staff members. She has a direct approach to management and can steam-roller over others to reach her goal. She is African American and this will ultimately become an issue should the company decide to discipline her for unacceptable behavior. In the short term, Jackie believes her color is hindering her advancement within the company.
Jackie is exceptional at producing profits for the company. If Oak Brooke was willing to invest further in Jackie and provide some cultural training and sensitivity classes she may benefit. If Jackie can make other team members feel their contribution is important and indeed welcome, she may be able to generate a wave of support rather than create an unpalatable hostility in the workplace (Vlachoutsicos, 2011).
Staff members may also benefit from cultural training and perhaps they would be more accepting of Jackie’s stance with regard to upward mobility in the corporation. IF team members understood the perceived hurdles Jackie faced in her work, they may be able to accommodate slightly more than they are currently able to.
Meetings to openly discuss issues that staff have with Jackie and vice versa, may be all that it takes to settle the workplace down to something more easily managed. According to O’Rourke (2010), we all judge people by a standard to which we are accustomed and that standard is set by our experiences, values, education, and beliefs. Being able to recognize differences in the experiences of others is a big step toward building the bridges to successful communication.
Racial bias is a two-way street and it should be made clear to all involved in the resolution that they must each understand the issue from the perspective of the other party or negotiations will be futile.
O’Rourke, J. S. (2010). Management communication: A case-analysis approach (4 ed.). Upper
Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.
Vlachoutsicos, C. A. (2011). How to Cultivate Engaged Employees. Harvard Business Review, 89(9), 123-126.
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