First Union: An Office Without Walls
First Union: An Office Without Walls
The purpose of this paper is to analyze the Integrative Case 5.0, “First Union: An Office Without Walls,” found on page 589 of the text book Organization Theory & Design, by Richard L. Daft, and to respond to the questions relating to the case study.
First Union Federal is a large savings and loan banking organization at which Meg Rabb has been employed with since she was 18. Meg has been recently promoted to Vice President of her division after serving the last five years as assistant V.P. At the time Meg was hired as an assistant V.P. there had not been a single female in the position of V.P. After a week in her new position, Meg was notified by her boss Dan Cummings that she would be moving into a new office. After three weeks of construction, Meg’s office was complete; however, only a day after settling in, Meg was summoned to her boss’ office yet again. She was informed that the First Union president had performed a walkthrough of the building and ruled that Meg’s office was too large and would have to be torn down and rebuild from the current 12 feet by 12 feet specifications down to the new 10 feet by 10 feet specifications outlined in the new regulations.
Meg was angry and questioned herself how this would effect and damage her department’s morale, and how she could possibly lose the respect from her peers she worked so hard to earn. Meg also wondered if this had to do with her being a woman in a position of power – especially when her promotion came after an intervention from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC discovered that First Union did not have any female executives at or above the level of V.P. prior to Meg’s promotion and encouraged First Union to seek out qualified female candidates for promotion to executive status.
This paper will identify the main issue at First Union, discuss the forces for cultural change, explain the use of power, and finally determine what political tactics Meg should use to resolver her office situation at First Union.
What is the main issue in this case?
The main issue in this case is First Union’s corporate culture, the accompanying ethical values and how these are motivated by organization managers. According to Daft (2013), organizational culture exists at two levels – on the surface are the visible characteristics and observable behaviors and below the surface are the underlying values, assumptions, and beliefs that make up the second level (p. 393).
At First Union, the issue with corporate culture touches on both levels of organizational culture. The observable behaviors include office layouts, the type of control systems and power structures used by the company and the ceremonies organizations share (Daft, 2013, p. 393). The office layout in Meg’s department was split up into sections and partitioned off for each of her 12 staff. Depending on their level in the organizational hierarchy, employees had variable office furniture for their individual section. The lowest-level employees received minimal second-rate quality furniture and often had to share the space with other employees. Robertson argues with the right approach, a company can become forward-thinking by creating a workspace with flow and function that motivates and inspires people and their business (2006, p. 35). Today, forward-thinking companies are turning to egalitarianism to get the job done.
Rather than acting like the office space is symbol of status, all office spaces should be equal, cutting down on costs of space, equipment and furniture (Robertson, 2006, p. 34). Secondly, Meg’s boss, Dan Cummings, is senior V.P. of human resources. With his position, he organized the first annual “Dan Cummings Golf Invitational” now in its fourth year setup. Invitations to this prestigious event indicated status in the organization – only those V.P.s and assistant V.P.s close to senior management received invitations; yet no female employee had ever been invited to the golf tournament. Disregard to ethics threats substantial harm to reputation and to other significant intangible corporate assets – including employee morale and productivity. The outcomes of unethical behavior can affect an organization’s ability to survive (Doorley & Garcia, 2007, p. 30). In addition to these contributing factors, Meg was the first person to fall victim to strict adherence to the miscalculation of her office size.
Not only that, but shortly before her promotion, the EEOC put pressure on First Union to hire female executives since none had been put in place. Meg was the first of her kind. The EEOC was trying to encourage diversity management. Diversity management is defined by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) as a practice intended to produce and maintain a positive work environment that recognizes the value of individuals’ similarities and differences, so that everyone can reach their potential and make the most of their contributions to an organization’s strategic goals and objectives (GAO, 2013, p. 5). What are the forces for cultural change at First Union?
Cultural changes will need to start from the top down. According to Daft (2013), culture changes refer to changes in the values, attitudes, expectations, beliefs, abilities, and behavior of employees such as the mindset of the organization (p. 435). Miller and Tucker (2013) suggest the senior leadership must set the tone at the top for integrity and ethics including diversity (p. 56). Consulting with First Union’s outside auditors, internal and outside legal counsel may be helpful in laying the groundwork for an updated diversity plan and Code of Ethics (Miller & Tucker, 2013, p. 56).
Miller and Tucker go on to state top management should work with legal counsel to identify possible events that could impact the company’s diversity program, such as the annual golf tournament (2013, p. 56). Discuss the use of power at First Union.
The use of power at First Union is interesting as it has many facets. For one, the mortgage division was considered the most powerful as it was the department that made that brought in a substantial amount of revenues. Because of the mortgage division’s contribution to the bottom line, the mortgages offices had been remodeled so beautifully, that they stood out from the rest of the bank. This is an example of reward power (Jing, 2010, p. 220). The president was not happy with the cost of the renovations but kept his displeasure to himself due to the significant profits generated by the mortgage division.
Just as stated above, First Union had not employed any female executives until the EEOC intervened encouraging them to do so. And just as there had not been any women executives in a VP status, none had been invited to play in the annual golf invitational either. This is a prime example of referent power, which refers to the ability to provide others with feelings of personal acceptance, approval, usefulness, or worth (Jing, 2010, p. 220).
The artwork around First Union was also suggestive of the values perceived by top management as one particular art piece displayed a member of the female body and was hung in the president’s conference room. This is another example of referent power.
An example of legitimate and possible coercive power is the president’s influence on the building manager in deciding to downsize Meg’s office. As stated in the text, Meg was the first person to come under scrutiny with the current regulations. This is considered legitimate because of the president’s position to impose a sense of obligation on the building manager to follow the guidelines even though they were casually held in compliance with other executives. It is also coercive as the president has the power to grant and take away rewards and privileges (Jing, 2010, p. 220). What political tactics should Meg use?
Political behavior is an important factor of power progressions in organizations and has been found to enhance leader-member relations, career mentoring, and customer satisfaction (Gupta, Singh, & Singh, 2008, p. 16). Meg should only employ sanctioned political tactics that are perceived as acceptable in the workplace as a way to progress positive relationships. She should try to cultivate positive relationships throughout the First Union by learning about their views and developing mutually advantageous coalitions and alliances (Daft, 2013, p. 548). Meg should also use the political tactic of reciprocity which works hand in hand in building coalitions and alliances.
Being in a V.P. position, Meg has the prime opportunity to be a mentor to other females since she is the first woman V.P. at First Union; not only would she be educating females, but educating males on acceptable behavior changing the culture of First Union and its perception of women in the workplace (Gupta et. al, 2008, p. 23).
Other political tactics include: promoting self-interests (such as her golf lessons) through creating and maintaining a favorable image with the “power holders” to help foster a change in culture. Meg can draw the attention to the success her department has in establishing positive staff morale and by developing a reputation as formidable as the mortgage division. Doing so would make her as a V.P. and the department more desirable to the influential members of First Union (Gupta et. al, 2008, p. 24). And lastly, Meg can become a “mentoree” by looking up to the more senior members of the organization for advice and support.
In conclusion, First Union’s main issue is the corporate culture and the need for change in the organization. In order to foster this need, top management will need to change their way of thinking and educate the staff from their level on down. With Meg being the first woman hired as a female V.P., she is in a prime position to help pave the way towards this new cultural change.
Daft, R. L. (2013). Organization Theory & Design (11th ed.) Mason, OH: South-Western.
Doorley, J., & Garcia, H. (2007). Reputation Management: The Key to Successful Public Relations and Corporate Communication. New York: Routledge.
Government Accountability Office. (2013). Diversity management. (GAO-13-238). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Jing, Z. (2010). Cross-cultural study on French and Chinese managers’ use of
power sources. International Journal of Business & Management, 5(5), 219-225.
Miller, S.K., & Tucker III, J. J. (2013). Diversity trends, practices, and challenges in the financial services industry. Journal of Financial Service Professionals, 67(6), 46-57.
Robertson, D. (2006). Does your office work for you?. J@Pan Inc, (66), 32-35.
Gupta, B., Singh, S., & Singh, N. (2008) Self-monitoring and perceived job security and use of sanctioned and non-sanctioned political tactics. Vilakshan: The XIMB Journal of Management, 5(2), 15-32.