By Merrill White, QUT International College
Sam Nguyen walked around the inner city office of his company Vibe and felt a sense of satisfaction. He watched his staff as they worked, talked and interacted in the open plan office. This place has got a good vibe, he thought; people look involved and happy to be here.
He had started his marketing, public relations and web design business 10 years ago, with himself as chief web designer and two other friends, who specialised in marketing, finding and developing business leads and delivering services to his rapidly growing business. In those 10 years his business prospered. His workforce had grown to 20, his office space had been expanded to accommodate them, and his customer base continued to grow at a pace that most of his competitors would envy.
Sam felt proud of what he had achieved as he reflected on there he had come from. He had been born in Vietnam, and had to come to Australia as a baby with his family as refugees after the Vietnam War. He thought of himself as more Australian than Vietnamese, having gone through school and university and spent much of his working life in Sydney.
Sam had always looked after the financial and planning side of the business as well as overseeing all operations. He now had two team leaders reporting to him: Andrea, in charge of marketing and public relations business and Rakesh, in charge of web design. Vibe’s workforce of 20 was divided equally between the two teams, with shared administration and sales and reception staff. While the two areas worked independently on projects and contracts, there was frequently overlap between the work of the web design team and the marketing and public relations team on jobs that needed a cross-team approach.
Andrea was the team leader/manager for marketing and public relations and had been with Vibe almost since the beginning. She was highly skilled in her craft and got on well with her team members. Sam’s only criticism of her was that she seemed to live to work. However, he didn’t really feel guilty about this as her long hours and skills were rewarded with an excellent salary and benefits package. So when she walked into his office and handed him her resignation, effective in two weeks, he was stunned. Her only explanation was that her partner had been give an overseas posting and she would be joining him. Besides, she was feeling burnt out and felt this change had come at a good time for her.
Sam wanted to recruit Andrea’s replacement in house, both to reward his people and because of the urgency of the situation. The job was highly paid and involved a small amount of interstate and Asian travel. He looked at the three likely candidates for the job. Grant was a young man in a hurry, and he was technically skilled, had been with Vibe for two years, and only needed to improve his relationships with some of the staff and he would go far. Sarah had two young children and worked three days a week. She combined the talents of being an exceptionally hard worker with being an outstanding marketing professional. Julie also had a young family and worked three days a week. She too was good at her job. While she sometimes had time off when her children were sick, she did not let her work suffer. Both women demonstrated good relationship skills with customers and fellow staff.
Sam knew that he had an important decision to make. He believed that you can’t be a part-time manager and that his customers would think Vibe was not a serious company if he appointed a part-time manager/team leader for marketing and public relations. Besides, what would customers think if they had to talk to different managers on different days? Sam decided to offer the job to Gran on a three-month trial, and to tell Grant that if he worked out it would be his.
Sam called a meeting and told Sarah and Julie his decision. He was surprised at their reaction. After their initial shock they asked him why they couldn’t job-share the position. Sam was adamant that this would not work, briefly outlining his reasons why. When Sarah said that she thought this was a family friendly workplace, and that she brought in more business in three days than Grant did in five days, Sam was shocked. Julie said she had a family to support and that she felt she was getting no recognition for her efforts. In private, both were angry and said that nothing had changed since their mothers’ time in the workplace, and that their expectation that workplaces should be equitable and family friendly seemed naïve. Both women were well paid and knew that it wouldn’t be easy to get another job with such excellent working conditions. However, both spent much of the next day on “Seek” looking at what jobs were out there.
A week later the atmosphere at Vibe is not good. The “vibe “has been lost. Grant, the newly appointed manager, does not know how to manage a team and Sarah and Julie are not making life easy for him. They are professionals, and they continue to do their jobs, but the interaction is not the same. The administrative staff alternatively feels uncomfortable with and amused by the situation.
Sam knows he has to do something fast. He is sure that he needs a manager, but he also needs Sarah and Julie. What will get them feeling good about their job? Is it more money – or is that just a short-term fix that will not deal with the real problem? Do they want power? Do they want a challenge or more interesting work? Has he dealt with them fairly? Sam realises that he has taken things for granted. He does not have a succession plan, he does not have a performance and development plan for his valuable staff, and when this crisis occurred he was ill prepared.
(Source : Instructor’s Manual Accompanying organisational behaviour emerging knowledge global insights. 4e by Steven L. Mcshane, Mara Olekalns and Tony Travaglione.)
1. Explain why Sam’s decision not to consider job sharing or part-time staff for the manager’s position could be viewed by Sarah and Julie as either unintentional or intentional discrimination.
2. What can Sam do to get Sarah and Julie motivated and engaged in the long term?
3. How could job design and job enlargement be used to improve both staff motivation and the operational effectiveness of Vibe?
4. What factors wold you consider in Sam’s situation if you were developing a succession plan for Vibe?