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1. a. Identify the reasons for employees resisting the change to an open-plan office approach.
b. Explain what the partners might have done better to have minimised the resistance.
2. a. Analyse the barriers to communication (‘noise’) that appear to exist in the law firm.
b. Discuss how they could be overcome.
3. a. Discuss the sources of power the partners and others appear to have and the impact this may have on other employees.
b. What influence tactics have been used by some of the partners and employees and how effective might they have been?

Reasons for Resistance to the New Office

In the globalizing world, organizations are adapting new strategies and culture to make their business environment work effective. Organizations are making several changes into their work place to create a more effective as well as more efficient workplace. In this order a law firm started by Owen Cheetham and Jack Wynne, is moving to a new open plan office. In this change the firm has so many challenges to be faced from the employees’ end. Below discussion is all about the employee end reasons for the change and their effective solutions that the firm can adopt.

Few months after both the junior partners started observing the employees’ reaction to their new open plan office shift. There were many who were resisting the new open plan office while at the same time there were people welcoming the new change in their office layout. People were resisting the new change mostly because of their personal life issues. Only a few among the people resisting this change were complaining professional issues. In the very begging, senior partners were the first complaining about their new office demanding for a separate space for them. They were opposing only their mixing with the other staff members. After their shift to the separate enclosed corner office, they started observing people and found so many fake people talking good in public for the new change but complaining in the private conversations. Owen claimed that he found two people complaining about the new office and saying that they cannot make private conversations with their relationship partners in the new office. They were complaining that it is not safe or private to talk with their boyfriends in the new space. Along with such examples that the two senior partners found in the firm there was many more reason because of that people were resisting the move to a new open-plan office. Some of the reasons both the partners identified for the resistance they faced are as following:

  • Lack of private space provided to the employees
  • Lack of communication between colleagues at the workplace or less interaction
  • Interference in employees personal stuff like online surfing and others
  • Less connectivity the nearby market
  • The expensive market around the new office
  • Privacy concerns while discussing private conversations with clients
  • Difficulties in online bookings of conference rooms for client meetings

Along with the above reasons both the senior partners thought that Cathy and Mark have just encouraged the employees to chat and loaf only. According to seniors law is a serious business and there is no need for such things.

Cheetham and Wynne, the law firm, can resolve its challenges that the firm is facing due to the change they got in the form of their new open plan office opposite to the Harbour. They have identified several problems or challenges associated with this new office but these can be resolved with some extra efforts (Lastoe, 2018).

Lack of private space:  Firm executive found that people are resisting this move to the new office because they have a feeling of lack of private space for their family calls. For this, the young executive can provide a separate private space, especially for personal use. A place can be provided where; people can talk to their beloveds and make personal conversations. This will make employees feel more comfortable to handle their personal life in this new open-plan office. In this space only people talking with their families will visit to make their personal conversations.

Challenges Faced by the Law Firm

Privacy concerns while making private conversations with clients: To resolve this issue firm can alternative private conference rooms to make conversations with clients. Although the firm is providing the facility of online booking for meeting rooms, daily conversation with clients about their personal information, they can provide 2-3 conference rooms where employees can talk with their clients openly about their personal life stuff also. This will also resolve the problem that the employees are facing in online booking of conference rooms.

Less connectivity and expensive market: Since this is very tough for the firm to relocate the market or its office as per their requirements another location, it is better to avail basic facilities similar to a café at their office itself (Wellman, et al., 2016). This will take only a few efforts in allocating the tender for the work. Once they gave this tender to some restaurant owner-employees can get what they want in their office only.

Barriers to the communication: In the law firm employees are facing problems related to the noise. People feel disturbed when the other one is talking to doing some other work making a noise. This is a serious concern for the partners to be considered at top priority as their firm’s business is dealing with law and regulation which requires concentration while studying every case. Noise in law firms is not to be tolerated at any cost. There are factors affecting the professional communication of employees due to the excess amount of noise they are getting from a different source (Lam, et al., 2015). Some, of the noise creating sources, are ass following:

Lack of communication ease with clients: Employees are facing a serious problem while making a professional communication with their clients. During a client meeting, lawyers discuss some personal information and this communication must be very serious to understand all that the client is talking about. Therefore, noise in the new open-plan office is creating a barrier to their professional communication.

Personal Chats: In the office, people have different tasks and do different activities. Due to this at the same time, some employees have enough time for chatting while others have to do their serious business. Sometimes this personal talk can be a barrier to the person sitting next to them and doing a serious work.

Focus: In the law firm, communication needs focus while making a conversation. Noise created by personal talks in the new office is also a significant barrier to the professional communication that the employees need to make while dealing with their cases.

Above discussed noise barriers to effective communication have to be overcome to make their work more effective and efficient as well. In law firms, people have to analyze their cases deeply and with more concentration (Al Horr, et al, 2016). And noise creating barriers to the communications is a very big issue for the firm. In order to overcome these barriers firm management has to take some serious issues (Landrum, 2016). In the given case scenario the identified barriers to an effective communication can be resolved with little efforts. Mark and Cathy can do the following to resolve the noise barriers to the communication process.

Solutions to Overcome the Challenges

Buy noise-cancelling earphones: Focus being the serious concern of employees has to be resolve at first priority. To stay focused on their job and not to feel disturbed employees can use noise-cancelling earphones. Today, in the market there is a variety of such products. Mark and Cathy being the firm executives can purchase such stuff for their employees or can ask employees to purchase for themselves. With the help of such little efforts employees can stay focused to their individual jobs without getting disturbed from other.

Switch locations: In the process of overcoming the noise barriers in effective communication switch location can be a solution. Switch location is the facilities provided to make personal discussions over phones or in person with colleagues in separate locations. These may be a separate enclosed room or space provided away from the working environment. In this facility, people are allowed to make moves to these locations to make their personal conversations (Haynes, et al., 2017). This will reduce the effect of noise on serious work people doing at the same time.

Client meeting spaces: Partners can provide a separate space for employees to attain client meeting in personal space. For this purpose, space like conference rooms can be used but is there is a high frequency of client meetings and conference meeting as well, a separate space, especially for client meetings, can be provided overcome the disturbance due to their discussion to other employees.

Power is the tool used by managers and leaders in an organization on a daily basis moreover, organizations would not get any existence without power relations. In order to have things done leaders need to influence others to do so. This power may vary from position to position and organization to organization. There may be different sources of power in an organization for different people. In the given case scenario of the Cheetham and Wynne law firm main source of power to the different individuals are:

  • Legitimate power
  • Expert power

In the firm, Cathy and Mark are using both the power sources in this case.

Legitimate power: This comes with the position. As the name suggests this is the power that a person holds because of his/her position in the organization. This power is most to the top leaders in the organization. As the position lowers in the organization impact of the power also reduces. For example, a manager leading a team has some responsibilities and also an authority to delegate his/her subordinates as well as review the work done by his/her team members. They are also liable to give their feedback to individual employees working in their team.

Expert power: As the name suggests, this power comes from the knowledge and expertise that the employee possesses. In today’s world knowledge is the wealth of individuals and organizations are seeking knowledge. In law firms, knowledge is the only key point to achieve success in any case. This power also acts as a step towards the gain of legitimate power. Employees showcase their knowledge through different acts and prove their suitability for a higher position. This helps them to get the legitimate power also.

Improving Communication in the New Office

In the give case scenario of Cheetham and Wynne law firm, both the new partners have joined the firm only four years ago. Both the senior partners, Owen Cheetham, and Jack Wynne, being the founder of the firm used their legitimate power to influence people to work as per their requirements. For the new office shift also they used the same legitimate power to insist employees make a move in the new office. In this decision, they did not consider employees’ comfort in making this shifting.

Along with such powers, leaders do use some influence tactics to make people do what leaders want them to do. Influence tactics have defined a power or force that leaders use to induce a change in the targeted employees, also to change their behavior, attitude, needs, goals, and behavior (Bélanger, et al., 2016). This is the ability of leaders to affect the behavior of people to work for some directed achievements. To influence people leaders to use some strategies or tactics and some set of behaviors that are designed to influence people. The concept of using power to influence people seems to be making quite a negative impact on people leaders are using such tactics more and more (Bélanger, et al., 2015). There are different strategies or tactics that leaders use such as:

  • Legitimating
  • Rational persuasion
  • Inspirational appeal
  • Consultation
  • Personal appeal
  • Ingratiation
  • Exchange
  • Coalition
  • Pressure

Among all the tactics used by leaders to influence people both the senior partners, in this case, are using the legitimating strategy to influence their employee to accept the shift. In this process, leaders have the authority to get people to do what they wanted to be done by them. Although, the whole idea was of junior partners, both the senior partners took the decision to shift the office on their own and informed their employees as an essential move to make. In this process, they did not ask for any suggestion or consider someone’s personal opinion about the new open-plan office. They even don’t ask if there is a need for a new office or employees want a new office to work more efficiently. Both the partners made a decision and moved into this new office.

Another example of using the same tactic for their own demand was the demand of senior partners for a separate space differentiating them from other employees. And they got their separate cabins just because of their legitimate power as both the junior partners could not deny providing separate space to their bosses.

Conclusion:

From the above discussion it is concluded that organization have to face several changes from the employees’ end to make any change into their existing infrastructure. But if there are challenges, also the organizations have solutions for the respective challenges. In this case study the law firm can implement the above discussed solution to make their employees feel satisfied for the new change into their infrastructure in the form of moving to the new open plan office.

References:

Al Horr, Y., Arif, M., Kaushik, A., Mazroei, A., Katafygiotou, M. & Elsarrag, E., 2016, ‘Occupant productivity and office indoor environment quality: A review of the literature’, Building and environment, vol. 105, pp.369-389.

Bélanger, J.J., Pierro, A. & Kruglanski, A.W., 2015, ‘Social power tactics and subordinates’ compliance at work: The role of need for cognitive closure’, Revue Européenne de Psychologie Appliquée/European Review of Applied Psychology, vol. 65, no. 4, pp.163-169.

Bélanger, J.J., Pierro, A., Barbieri, B., De Carlo, N.A., Falco, A. & Kruglanski, A.W., 2016, ‘One size doesn’t fit all: the influence of supervisors’ power tactics and subordinates’ need for cognitive closure on burnout and stress’, European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, vol. 25, no. 2, pp.287-300.

Haynes, B., Suckley, L. & Nunnington, N., 2017, ‘Workplace productivity and office type: an evaluation of office occupier differences based on age and gender’, Journal of Corporate Real Estate, vol. 19, no. 2, pp.111-138.

Lam, M., O'Donnell, M. & Robertson, D., 2015, ‘Achieving employee commitment for continuous improvement initiatives’, International Journal of Operations & Production Management, vol. 35, no. 2, pp.201-215.

Landrum, S. 2016, How to focus and stay productive in a noisy open office, https://www.forbes.com/sites/sarahlandrum/2016/10/25/how-to-cope-with-the-most-dreaded-part-of-work/#16c7f4575d9e 

Lastoe, S. 2018, 5 Really annoying open-office issues (plus, solutions for how to deal with each one), https://www.themuse.com/advice/5-really-annoying-openoffice-issues-plus-solutions-for-how-to-deal-with-each-one 

Wadsworth, M.B. & Blanchard, A.L., 2015, ‘Influence tactics in virtual teams’, Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 44, pp.386-393.

Wellman, N., Mayer, D.M., Ong, M. & DeRue, D.S., 2016, ‘When are do-gooders treated badly? Legitimate power, role expectations, and reactions to moral objection in organizations’, Journal of Applied Psychology, vol. 101, no. 6, p.793.

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