”Why didn’t we know?” by Ralph Hasson
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Galvatrens, a consumer products company in Houston, has a whistle-blower’s lawsuit on its hands. Mike Fields, a former divisional sales manager, claims that he was wrongfully terminated for trying to report an illegal scheme designed by a colleague to inflate numbers. He left the company’s COO a confidential voice mail about it, but the COO referred the matter to Mike’s boss rather than following up on it himself. Mike says his boss subsequently told him his performance wasn’t up to snuff and he’d have to accept a demotion and a transfer if he wanted to stay with the company knowing that Mike, a divorced father with joint custody of his kids, couldn’t leave town. Chip Brownlee, the CEO of Galvatrens, had taken steps a while back to upgrade the company’s procedures for uncovering misconduct and solving conflicts. He and the general counsel had instituted a number of changes, including a new open-door policy for raising workplace concerns.
Although the policy encouraged employees to go to their immediate supervisors, it emphasized that they could approach any manager at any level for assistance, and it included a ban on retaliation against whistle-blowers. Chip and the board need to figure out why, with all those channels in place, only one person came forward with information about the sales scheme and why that person ended up suing the company. How should Galvatrens strengthen its system for uncovering misconduct, and what roles should the board and management play?
Keywords: Galvaterns, whistle-blower, Chip Brownlee, Arch Carter, Lawsuit Why
didn’t we know by Ralph Hasson
Ralph Hasson describes circumstances where communication, listening, and the development of a sales team could have greatly circumvented a lawsuit against the Galvatrens Company. Three of the problem areas that affect this case are, Lack communication skills, Lack listening abilities, and the ineffective development of the sales team. Lack of Communication
Engleberg & Wynn identifies communication as an instrument used by members of a group to share information and opinions, make decisions, solve problems, and develop interpersonal relationships. (Engleberg & Wynn, 2013, p. 5). The managers and employees of Galvatrens lack these communication skills and have caused major issues throughout the organization. In this article, it shows Galvatrens lacking in effective communication between departments, employees and managers to be a major issue. Lack of Listening Abilities
The ability to actually listen is a communication skill that greatly affects one’s ability to become a great leader. Effective leaders listen to their people in order to understand unseen problems and opportunities for the organization (Engleberg & Wynn, 2013, p. 151). This is another issue of concern because if the leaders of Galvatrens had listened more effectively, the circumstances that surrounded Mike’s firing may not have led to a lawsuit. Ineffective Development of project team
A project team should include managers and team members with interpersonal skills, training and team building to enhance the team’s performance throughout the project (PMI, 2008, p. 232). The sales team for Galvatrens was not successfully developed. There were several flaws in the initial structure of the sales team, the management plan and execution which led to inefficient management.
Galvatrens team of board directors analyses the situation on how to handle the lawsuit filed by Mike fields and they are devising plans to improve Lack of communication, Lack of Listening Abilities and ineffective Development of project team. Lack of Communication
Galvatrens has set methods for employees to communicate with managers, The Company also added a toll-free, 24-hour hotline for reporting violations of the code of conduct, added an ethics officer to its ranks, and launched an ethics awareness campaign. The ethics officer, who was responsible for ethics training and enforcement of the code of conduct, reported to the general counsel. After the passage of the Sarbanes- Oxley Act, the company mandated that the ethics officer inform the board’s audit committee of any allegations of financial wrongdoing or other possible code violations that involved company executives. Which has caused the strain in communication indicating that managers are not willing to listen to their employees concerns. In order to communicate you must have a sender and a receiver. The receiver must convey the verbal or nonverbal communication and provide feedback to the sender (Engleberg & Wynn, 2008, p. 13). If managers are not listening to the verbal or nonverbal communication signals, then communication has failed.
The failure of communication can cause major issues in any professional or nonprofessional situation. For example when Mike Fields was reporting Greg’s scheme to Harry Mart, the COO of the company. Harry never followed up with Mike and reported him to his direct manager. If Harry followed up with Mike this may have avoided the lawsuit for the wrongful termination and the accusations. Another issue is that Mike should have reported to his boss, the Vice President of Sales, Terry Samples first. Most professional settings have a chain of command. This was a serious issue that needed to be addressed therefore, Terry Samples should have been the first to know, and then Mike should have reported this information to Harry Mart. Lack of Listening Abilities
There are several instances throughout the case where it is evident that the listening skills of some of Galvatrens leadership affected decisions that in the end resulted in the former divisional sales manager, Mike Fields, believing he was wrongfully terminated. Chip Brownlee and Harry Mart, Galvatrens CEO and COO respectively, were brought on to change the work environment and initially appeared to make a difference in the company’s culture. It was thought that Chip was especially committed to making “Galvatrens an organization that excelled in listening to and learning from its employees and customers” (Hasson, 2007, p. 2).
However, when Mike initially reached out to the COO in order to disclose an unethical business sales practice, Harry did not address the issue and referred the matter to Mike’s boss. Harry missed an opportunity to listen to what Mike had to say for himself in order to understand, evaluate, and respond to a situation that could seriously affect the sales operations of the organization. For example, by listening to evaluate, Harry would have had an opportunity to assess the quality and validity of the evidence in order to determine if Mike was truly just looking to inform the organization of the problem and how that should be addressed. Ineffective Development of project team
The chain of command within Galvatrens directly affects the development of the sales team. The hierarchy of management has the COO responsible for daily operations, including the sales team which is not consistent throughout all operations (Hasson, 2007). The next dilemma is with the CEO, Chip Brownlee. He follows the ill advice of the senior vice president of HR, Dale Willis. Dale believes that if something is outside the managements chains of command it can allow a problem that is potentially serious slip through the cracks. The project team is also deferred in implementing an open-door policy. This forces the sales team to handle all projects internally without support or guidance from other divisions. The sales team lacks an ombudsman character that can resolve allegations of corruption and senior management. Terry Samples chooses not to follow up with his sales team project development, but instead becomes degrading to the employee, Mike Fields who had private matters that were directly influencing his work abilities (Hasson, 2007). Recommendations
The following are the recommendations are framed out to address the situation through problem determination and situation analysis. Lack of Communication
To develop good and effective communication amongst employees and managers, both parties must be able to send, receive and provide feedback for the verbal and nonverbal communication. To improve the communication at Galvatrens it is recommended to not only implement policies to promote communication but also training managers on how to properly receive and provide feedback for the information being conveyed. Managers then can provide methods of communication suitable for their department. This would need to be approved by the CEO, once the CEO has approved of the policy. Managers should now be required to provide a report to the CEO showing proper communication between managers and employees. As a result, a better work environment, where managers and employees are able to share and communicate information well. Lack of Listening Abilities
It is also recommended that Galvatrens work with the consultants to establish a committee of board directors to oversee ethics decisions and to provide training to managers of all levels for dealing with employee misconduct. This training should include key listening strategies in order to promote confidence in a new confidential reporting system. By proactively listening to associates that are brave enough to report conduct issues within the organization without retaliation, Galvatrens has an opportunity to create an open environment of trust amongst all associates. Ineffective Development of project team
There are several techniques that can be applied to the issues to allow the sales function to improve. The sales team should first review the group development stage model, as this representation can be applied to all types of groups to allow them to communicate and establish business management skills (Engleberg & Wynn, 2013, p. 28). During the first stage, the team will focus on forming. Forming allows the team to clearly identify formal roles and responsibilities used during the project. Management at Galvatrens should use forming to clearly identify their team’s independent roles by addressing situations, such as ethics projects. This will help improve the team’s structure and project organization. To further monitor the project team’s functions and performance, Galvatrens would want to complete the remaining four stages: storming, norming, performing and adjourning (PMI, 2008, p. 233).
Galvatrens will need effective leaders to implement team building activities. Engleberg and Wynn (2013) state effective leaders can place self-images to the side and draw out the leadership of others (p. 17). This applies to the senior manager that chose to belittle a manger that was not performing at their best. The training that was suggested should be established. Management should follow through with training especially if management is lacking technical skills that affect the project work. In order to receive a cohesive environment with the sales team, team-building activities should be established so that the team can manage conflicts and work collaboratively (PMI, 2008, p. 232). An additional resolution would be to make sure that the groups goals are not replaced with individual hidden agendas. This should be addressed during the forming stage so that the sales team can continue to develop in the right direction (Engleberg & Wynn, 2013, p. 35).
Engleberg, I. N. & Wynn, D. R. (2013). Working in groups (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education. Hasson, R. (2007). HBR case study: Why didn’t we know? Harvard Business Review, (pp. 1-9). https://rmu.blackboard.com/bbcswebdav/pid-996898-dt-content-rid-7922864_1/xid-7922864_1 Project Management Institute, Inc. (2008). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (4th ed.). Newton Square, PA: Project Management Institute (PMI). Project Management Institute, Inc. (2013). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (5th ed.). Newton Square, PA: Project Management Institute (PMI).