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Case Study: The Staff Sergeant’s Leadership Dilemma

Part A

Part A consists of three questions.

  1. Emotional contagion receives relatively little attention in organizational behaviour literature (it is studied mostly by psychologists), yet it is an important part of social interaction in the workplace. Define and discuss emotional contagion, and identify two ways this phenomenon can benefit organizations.

  2. Almost every day, supervisors must help employees resolve conflicts with other employees. Which third-party conflict-resolution strategy do supervisors use most often, and why do they tend to prefer this style? Also identify one third-party intervention that managers should apply in everyday disputes, and explain why that strategy should be used most often.

  3. The president of Advanced Systems Corp. wants the company to have a strong organizational culture around a specific set of values. As a vice-president, you are concerned that the president may be trying to strengthen the culture too much, thereby creating a corporate cult. Describe three potential problems with having an organizational culture that is too strong. Provide an example of how each problem might negatively affect the organization and its employees. 

Read the case study below, and answer the three discussion questions that follow. Avoid repetition.

Donna Lindsay, staff sergeant and commander of a Canadian regional police force detachment, just learned that she was not getting a replacement for a constable who had recently retired. Lindsay’s superintendent said, “Hiring freezes are in effect until the next budget year, so you’ll have to figure out a way for the other constables to pick up the work.” Donna spent the rest of the day deciding how to divide the work among the other officers in her detachment.

The next morning at the daily briefing session, Donna announced the hiring freeze and that the constable position would not be replaced. She explained how she had divided the job into seven categories so that one constable would be responsible for each. Donna then informed the officers of the additional work that would be added to their duties. During the rest of the session, Donna couldn’t help notice that many weren’t reacting favourably to the announced assignments.

The next day, one constable, Earl, was waiting for her at her office door. “Why did you assign me to deal with the media?” he asked. “I hate being in front of a camera. Can’t you tell someone else to do this?”

Before long, another staff member, Joe, was at Donna’s door. “Can’t you reassign the travelling presentations to someone else? I have a wife and young children. This detachment covers a large area with small communities, and asking me to travel all over is really unfair to my family.”

By the end of the day, the seven constables had produced seven complaints. Donna re-examined the tasks and duties, attempted to juggle and switch assignments, and considered everyone’s concerns, but it nearly drove her crazy. She concluded there was nothing she could do to make everyone happy. She called another staff meeting and said, “I’ve tried to accommodate you, but it can’t be done. Take the assignments I’ve given you, and do your best.”

The officers didn’t take to this decision very well and started taking matters into their own hands. Earl said to Joe, “I know you hate the travelling presentations, so I’ll do them if you’ll take my assignment.” Roz told Linda, “I’ll give you my research work if you’ll do the evidence cataloguing.” When other staff heard about the trading, they joined right in too. With more people making more offers, this wheeling and dealing kept getting louder and louder. Donna came out of her office to see what the all noise was about.

When Donna learned staff members were trading assignments without her consent, she was upset. A few days later, while discussing other matters on the telephone with her immediate supervisor in the regional office, Donna mentioned the events. “Some officers seem happy with their trades, but the ones who didn’t get the trade they wanted are unhappy and directing the blame at me. What did I do wrong? How should I have handled this? What
am I going to do now?”

  1. According to path-goal leadership theory, what leadership style did Donna use? Was it appropriate for the situation? Why or why not?

  2. Using information provided in the case, identify and discuss the environmental and employee contingencies that Donna should have considered to help her select the most appropriate leadership style.

  3. Given the dissatisfaction among the officers and the contingencies, what leadership style would have been the most appropriate? Provide support for your answer.

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