Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Organizational Culture

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About four times a year I am faced with the same scenario. My store manager comes running up to me and announces that some executive manager is going to be visiting the store today. He tells me to get everything “ship shape” so that we can be inspected. When the visitor arrives various middle and front line managers flank him. They ask questions about certain customer service or sales work processes and then add their input. That is where the real problem begins. They then begin to ask why we are not doing these processes in a different manner and then add their suggestions. Here is why this is a problem. Today’s companies preach that they have changed their organizational culture from hierarchical and staff vs. the front line employee to a culture that is supportive and collaborative but the above example dismisses this. How can an executive manager walk into a store and in 5 minutes decide that what we are doing is wrong and his suggestion will fix this problem? This just reverts everything back to the old days.

The article “The Office is the Greatest Abuser of the Line” by Ed Yager examines other examples of this problem and seeks to find a solution. This paper will summarize his article and suggest some recommendations to overcome this problem.

How many times have you heard these phrases in your career? These examples are taken directly from the article

· They ought to work here for one day to see what it is really like.

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· By the time I fill out all the reports and paperwork and surveys they ask for. I don’t have anytime to do my own job.

· They can call any time of the day and demand an immediate response.

· Things go into a huge black hole-requests, approvals, suggestions, ideas, issues-they all just disappear. It does no good to ask staff for help.

· They treat us like children. If you ask a question it’s like-duh-did you look in your handbook? If we are standing in front of the customer, I need an answer, not a directive to look in manual.

· Meetings with management amount to being talked to. Decisions are already made. No room for opinions or ideas.

These problems help to build a hypocritical organizational culture. In the training world the company preaches empowerment, support from management, and collaboration. The real world ruins this. Here are some examples in my organization that I can list

· My manager schedules a mandatory training class that falls on my day off and informs me the same week. I have to scrap any plans that I have made and rearrange my schedule.

· The program that we use to log our hours work is very confusing and requires that we enter proper codes to be processed. Payroll always sends back our submitted time sheet because there was an error on it. They don’t bother to give us even a hint to what the error is so it often takes several submissions before it is accepted.

· Web-based training, reading e-mail, and special projects are expected to be done while we are doing our day-to-day work of helping customers. The problem is there is never the time and then we are held accountable for not completing these tasks.

The word abuse may be a strong word to use for this type of behavior but if you add up all of the same annoyances and barriers that are created by management this is what it collectively equates.

How can we correct this problem? According to the author, organizational dysfunction begins at the headquarters of an organization the same way truancy begins with parenting. The success of a corporation begins with its top brass. If they are committed to providing support and resources to the front line employees the company will succeed and foster a supportive culture. The executive level then needs to pass this message to their middle and lower level managers. They also need to monitor and enforce it. By surveying the line employees at regular intervals the executives can feel the pulse of the organization’s culture. The more management removes these barriers from the line employees the more productive they will be. Job satisfaction will increase and retention of good, well-trained employees will be a given.

Once you have a commitment from management to truly changing the culture of the organization you need to nail down the specifics. Here are some of my recommendations to solving the problem

· Many of today’s managers come from different organizations or industries. They don’t necessarily have any idea of the work processes used by their organization. Management training should include training in all of the skills that that the employees under their supervision have. This will increase their ability to be a resource to their employees.

· Stop rewarding the folks at staff levels for new programs, new forms, new promotions, new procedures, new products and new changes the people doing the job may not need or want. Instead try them on a temporary basis and then evaluate their usefulness and effectiveness.

· Do not over load front line employees. Often these is work that is bumped up to management because it is a special circumstance or customer and then it is bumped back down to the front line employee because the manager does not have the time or feel it is their priority. Share the load with your employees.

· Management should respect their employee’s free time. Make every effort to draw the line between work time and free time. Announce trainings with plenty of advanced notice and make arrangements for rescheduling when possible.

In conclusion, organizational culture depends on a solid commitment by management to put into practice a supportive structure, remove arrogant and insensitive practices from management, and disallow the fostering or ignoring of abuse of the line organization by the office or staff.


Yager, E., (00). The Office is the Greatest Abuser of the Line. Enterprise/Salt

Lake City, (), .

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