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Case Study 1: AOL CEO Tim Armstrong’s firing of a Patch employee and subsequent apology

Students should choose ONE (1) of the three (3) brief case- study below. Each CEO requires peer coaching, including a self-reflection of their soft and hard skills, critical reflection skills, problem-solving ability, teamwork and management of self and others in a work environment.

The scenario is that you have been requested by the board of the company to write a peer coaching plan [500-words] based on the self-reflection of the business manager, and include one short, one medium and one long-term goal.

Your plan should use theoretical concepts underpinning hard and soft skills and relevant managerial effectiveness

Case Study 1: AOL CEO Tim Armstrong’s firing of a Patch employee and subsequent apology

A renowned example of poor communication came in August 2013, when AOL CEO Tim Armstrong announced that AOL would be reducing the number of Patch websites. Soon afterward, Armstrong spoke to 1,000 employees on a conference call that was intended to boost morale and discuss the future. What happened instead was far from morale-boosting. Armstrong ended up firing Patch’s Creative Director, Abel Lenz, in front of everyone. Four days after he fired Lenz, Armstrong sent AOL employees an apology for his behaviour. Unfortunately, rather than using it as an opportunity to take ownership, in a direct, heartfelt way, Armstrong missed the mark. He made excuses for his behaviour rather than owning up to it and sharing what he learned.

Case Study 2: Yahoo’s poor communication of its “in office” policy

A recent notorious example of inept leadership came when the head of HR at Yahoo sent employees the internal memo leaked around the world. It told Yahoo employees that telecommuting or working from home would soon no longer be an option and that those who worked remotely must relocate to an office or quit. The communication around the policy sparked a strong negative reaction, and it wasn’t difficult to see why: a poorly constructed memo failed to explain the rationale behind such a significant culture change, leaving Yahoo employees upset and frustrated and launching a national conversation about work-from-home policies. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer initially said via a spokesperson that the company does not discuss internal matters. But two months after the memo leaked, Marissa Mayer finally broke her silence. At a Los Angeles conference for human resource professionals, Mayer began speaking about Yahoo’s culture, but after a few minutes interrupted herself to address what she referred to as “the elephant in the room.” She refused to waver on the policy, explaining that some of the best ideas come from in-person collaboration and that the in-office policy was “wrongly perceived as industry narrative.”

Case Study 3: Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries’ old comments that drew new attention

In 2006, Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries gave an interview to Salon.com in which he stated that the retail chain’s clothes were exclusively for thin, attractive, “cool kids.” Those comments were brought back to life in the spring of 2013 when quoted in a widely-read read Business Insider blog post. The comments unleashed strong backlash from social media, consumers, popular bloggers and high- profile individuals. Jeffries waited 12 days after the Business Insider blog post was published to address the comments, but his words only attracted more negative attention.

Rather than taking ownership of his statement and apologizing, Jeffries invalidated the public reaction by stating that the quote was “taken out of context,” and that he regretted his words “were interpreted in a manner that has caused offense.” Jeffries continued to face strong criticism from both the media and shareholders. In 2013, one of Abercrombie’s most significant shareholders wrote a nine-page letter to Abercrombie’s board, calling for the

company to replace Jeffries as CEO when his contract expired. Jeffries contract was renewed, but, after courting further controversy, he was finally forced to step down in 2014.

The minimum requirement to score for this assessment is to make one post yourself (of approximately 500 words at least), and then respond to at least two other posts made by other students (approximately 100 words per response at least).

Please note the following important points:

  • Your post should be in a clear, easy to read font, 12- point size.
  • Your posts and responses should be written in a professional manner, as if you were a business executive communicating with another executive on a public facing company online forum.

Try to support your points with examples rather than just present feelings or unsupported opinions.

Case Study 1: AOL CEO Tim Armstrong’s firing of a Patch employee and subsequent apology

The case study highlights a gap in the communication and a discrepancy in the communication management. The case study highlighted that CEO of the company wanted to reduce the number of patch websites due to certain issues within the organization. The company was suffering from a financial crisis, and in an endeavour to cut the costs the CEO of the organization, Tim Armstrong had decided to reduce the costs of the Patch, which is a news network, created by Armstrong in 2007 (Pepitone, 2019). The organization is considering to cut down the sites from a 900 to 600, to monetize the situation, therefore, this cut down of the sites ensured that many of the workers, working for the Patch would have to leave, which is approximately around a some hundreds.

In an endeavour to communicate regarded the future plans of the company, the CEO, had decided to conduct a conference using the technological modes, instead of a face to face conference. However, while conducting the conference he had fired Abel Lenz, who was the creative head of his hyper- local news network. Tim had fired him over the conference call, and it was heard by all the members involved in the meeting (CARLSON, 2019). According to Tim, he was emotionally motivated when Lenz was trying to take a picture, and therefore, in the surge of anger and emotional upheaval, he ended up into such a deed. Armstrong had fired him on the spit and every other members presented during the conference call could overhear. This was quite insulting for the creative head, Abel Lenz.


Therefore, such a situation had shown that the organization includes a gap in the communication. First, the organization had included wrong notion regrading, solving the crisis situation that they are facing. The organization decided to stop some of the websites in order to have cut down the cost, but they did not consider the future of its employees who were soon to be jobless. Being the CEO of a major company, Tim should have thought his plan and ideas through. More importantly, as can be found, Lenz had previously been warned for his conducts of taking pictures or recording the confidential conferences. Yet, he was found to have been indulged in a similar behaviour that had motivated the whole decision making process (Lau et al. 2015). Therefore, it can be said that there had been gaps and loopholes in the legal structure of the organization as well, and that the management had a poor attitude towards the maintenance of the rules and regulation into the system, which then managed by employing a bad decision making process.

The CEO of AOL, had formally apologized to the creative head of Patch news network, to redress the damaged situation. However, Lenz was still out of job at that point of time. Therefore, the entire situation reflects that the organization had a wrong attitude towards decision making and problem solving, the organization must have asked for suggestion form the employees and they must have involved an employee engagement plan to deal with such a situation (de Carvalho. 2014). Therefore the CEO of AOL had shown an utter irresponsible attitude, and the organization lacks a proper management system.

The conduct, made by Tim Armstrong and the behaviour of the team during the conference call, had shown an utter failure of team work. The first student has rightly recognised that the communication process and the communication management within the organization is not working properly. The session was kept in order it morally boost the employees but instead, it made the even more depressed, also, there is a lack in the decision making process, as the CEO should have given more thought to how to conduct the situation.

The other student, have approached the situation from a different perspective, as she had mentioned about the lack of emotional intelligence shown by the CEO. She is right to have pointed out that the CEO of such a big company should be more emotionally equipped to tackle a business situation. Tim must have understood the social responsibility that he possess being the CEO of a big company, and therefore, he should have made a detailed plan of braking out the news to his employees.

References:

CARLSON, N. (2019). THE COST OF WINNING: Tim Armstrong, Patch, And The Struggle To Save AOL. [online] Business Insider. Available at: https://www.businessinsider.in/tech/the-cost-of-winning-tim-armstrong-patch-and-the-struggle-to-save-aol/articleshow/25355140.cms [Accessed 24 Oct. 2019].

de Carvalho, M.M., 2014. An investigation of the role of communication in IT projects. International Journal of Operations & Production Management.

Lau, R., Stevenson, F., Ong, B.N., Dziedzic, K., Treweek, S., Eldridge, S., Everitt, H., Kennedy, A., Qureshi, N., Rogers, A. and Peacock, R., 2015. Achieving change in primary care—causes of the evidence to practice gap: systematic reviews of reviews. Implementation Science, 11(1), p.40.

Pepitone, J. (2019). AOL CEO: Publicly firing employee for taking a photo was a mistake. [online] CNNMoney. Available at: https://money.cnn.com/2013/08/13/technology/aol-patch-fired/index.html [Accessed 24 Oct. 2019].

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