How to change organisational norms

During class discussions and presentations, we mentioned a lot about different forms of organizational norms and how they have become part and parcels of the lives of employees in the firm. However, some of these may not be the most efficient for the operations of the company and change may be necessary. But as we all know, change is not easy, especially when people are used to something. Thus it interests me, as to how change can be made possible in organisations?

I will be sharing my findings from “The Wall Street Journal Guide to Management” by Alan Murray and the book called “ Blue Ocean Strategy” written by W.Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne that seem to have a solution to my query.

It has been noted that when a manager tries to make changes to an organisation, he might be faced with four different types of hurdles, as displayed below:

1) Cognitive
People must have a good understanding as to why the change is even necessary in the first place. People might be comfortable with their Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and feel that this is how “things have always been done”. Thus they do not see the need for any change at all. In fact, changes might only put them into the uncertainties and away from their comfort zones.

2) Limited resources
Limited resources have to be placed in areas where they are most valued or needed. Changing an organizational culture or structure may result in reallocation of these scarce resources, or require the shifting away from certain areas into another area that definitely require good justifications.

3) Motivation
Employees of the company have to want to make the change, otherwise, it is hard to enforce such changes. It is only when people reflect through actions that they are supportive, can changes be effectively brought across.

4) Institutional politics
Some companies are not open to voices of their employees or even those in managerial ranks. They are rooted to what they believe and unwilling to make changes though the situation may calls for it. Quoting from what one manager commented: “ In our organization, you get shot down before you stand up”, we can see that some companies are not positive about employee feedbacks thus increasing the difficulties in conveying that a change is needed.

Below will then be some ways that can be considered to overcome these hurdles and result in changes:

1) The “tipping point” approach

One has to recognize that it is impossible to convert everyone at once due to individual differences, value differences and limited resources. Thus when faced with such a situation, it is necessary to start with people who possess some form of disproportionate influence in the organization. One can try to get them to be committed to this change so that they can be seen as the “example”. Shine the spotlight on these people to emphasize on their actions and accomplishments so that others will understand the need and follow through.

2) Allow people to experience why change is needed
It is not enough for one to lecture others about the need for such organizational change because people may not be receptive. Instead, if people are being put through experiencing of harsh realities that requires change, it might be more effective. For the influencing to work, it has to reach down to the emotional side of people for them to be convinced.

3) Redistribute resources toward “hot spots”
Hot spots refer to activities that require few resources but result in large change. This is especially necessary when we only have limited resources to work with, and thus there is a need for us to make sure we get the maximum amount of payout and return. As much as we should try to place our resources to such “hot spots”, we should also try to avoid “cold spots”, that are activities that demands large resource demands but relatively low impact.

4) Appointing a “consigliere”

A “consigliere” refers to one who is a highly respected insider in the firm that one works in. This is because leaders tend to lose touch with things happening on the grounds and thus such “consigliere” may be able to bridge the gap. Besides that, appointing such a “consigliere” will allow one to know the supporters or fighters in the firm with regards to this organizational change. With such knowledge, one can build coalitions or devise alternative strategies for change when deemed appropriate.

In conclusion, I believe that some forms of changes, though deeply rooted, may be necessary at some point of time in order for the company to be better equipped with changing needs and demand. When faced with resistance, we can attempt the methods above as we climb up the corporate ladder and take up managerial positions in the near future, and hopefully change for the better of the entire organization.

Resiliency lessons from Toyota recall crisis

The Toyota Recall Crisis

For the second blog post, I will be writing about resiliency because I think it is highly relevant to us as individuals and also to organisations as sudden changes in the macro environment or internal operations of the firm can easily result in failures that require them to “bounce back” and be integrated once again into the global economy.

Coincidentally, in another MNO class I am currently taking, we discussed about the Toyota recall crisis which I believe is highly relevant and would like to share with the class. I have also attached the case at the start of this blog post for referencing. Key issues that led to Toyota being sunk into this situation involve its over-confidence and complacent mentality. Post recall crisis, Toyota admitted that it grew too big and too fast and has let standards fall. Not only that, they over stretched their supply chain management and had poor supplier management. However, it is important to note that Toyota was unable to recover fast because of the deficiencies in effective communication. Thus this case will act as a negative example of how poor communications management led to delay in recovery of the firm and also emphasizes on the importance of proper communications as a way to assist in crisis recovery.

The lack of communication led to confusion amongst employees that affected company morale. This also did not sit well with the general public who lost confidence in the company and product quality. Such negativity will sink Toyota further instead of aiding in the company’s recovery. In fact, I believe that the company requires higher transparency and communicate more effectively to their employees and stakeholders not only when crisis appears, but even before the happening of crisis to help build resilience.

Communication should have taken place in three stages:

Stage 1: Pre-crisis
The company should actively communicate company goals to employees to instill faith in company. Current performance of the firm and future possible challenges may also be addressed to allow staff to have a better understanding of the current positioning of the company. The company should also actively look out for potential sources of crisis to avoid such happening in the first place.

Stage 2: In the midst of crisis
When crisis happens, the company should actively search for the source of problem and at the same time, communicate with staff to be more involved in company decisions. At the same time, the company should inform stakeholders of the crisis and assure them of efficient management of such a crisis. Empathy and emotional support should also be communicated to those affected to show that the company is there for them and will be answerable for the crisis. This should be done as soon as the crisis strikes to prevent speculations and help clear up possible misunderstandings.

Stage 3: Post-crisis
The company should continue to communicate to different stakeholders to demonstrate that the company is working hard to eradicate the root of the problem and is toiling towards preventing future repeats. The sincerity of the company will allow stakeholders to see that the company is open about mistakes and willing to change for the better of the people. The company should also communicate effectively to staff to regain back any lost confidence and bond everyone together to be better equipped for future crisis should it happen. This will also facilitate understanding and acceptance, and allow staff to collectively build common agenda for actions.

However, from the above, we can also see that a purpose driven leader is important to help make the company more resilient because he has to have a clear sense of mission in order to allow the company to communicate efficiently. The leader may also use culture, moral spirit and management support to help support actions in order to improve resilience of employees and improve their overall beings. It is also necessary for the leader to strengthen the psychological capital of employees by injecting a sense of self-efficacy and enhance feelings of hope and optimism that the company will recover from the crisis soon enough. The leader may also try identifying “shock absorbers” such as social support from peers and family or recognition by customers or superiors that will help the staff tide over the tough times and build resiliency in the face of crisis and challenge.

In conclusion, effective communications is the key to building resiliency in a company. It is only when the crisis is addressed in a timely manner can employees and the stakeholders instill confidence in the company and assist in its recovery. Unnecessary speculations are detrimental to the company’s image and is hard to recover once damaged. A purpose driven leader is also crucial to help direct the company and lift it out of the crisis with a clear direction.

Leading with emotional labour

“Hi Miss, could you help me with this system?”

“Hi Miss, the system is still not working. Are you even capable of doing this?”

“Hi Miss, are you expecting me to pay for this service? Who are you to even tell me what to do, bring me your manager!”

This may be a common scenario in the service line when dealing with difficult customers and I have personally encountered such instances during my part-time job whereby I feel both angry and humiliated because comments by customers can be degrading and harsh. Yet, due to the fact that it is part of my job to not only perform the tasks efficiently but handle customers effectively, I have to put on that big smile on my face and remain calm to pacify and satisfy the customers.

This is an example of the emotional labour concept that we have discussed in class. This term emotional labour has been first conceptualized by Hochschild in 1983 whereby he touched on the attribute of work that goes beyond physical or mental tasks especially for service line staff who acts as a major service touch point and has the most interaction with customers. In class, we discussed mainly about workers managing demands of emotional labour but personally I wonder if leaders of a company also have to go through such phase as they, too, have to deal with difficult situations whereby they have to display suitable emotions.

The answer is yes! Ashforth & Humphrey’s (1993) broader conceptualization of emotional labour widened scope of the term emotional labour by defining it as “ the act of displaying the appropriate emotion” and even included professions who are not only in the service line. Leaders in organisations also face difficulties when dealing with “toxic” emotions in organisations (Frost, 2004).

I chanced upon a paper with relevance to our class on the topics of leadership and emotional labour named :“ Emotional labour and leadership: A threat to authenticity?”. It was published in 2009 and sought to explore the three categories of leader emotional displays, mainly surface acting, deep acting and genuine emotions, and indicate desirable forms of displays that leads to effective leadership.

Model of leader emotional labour and authenticity

The paper provided us with a clear model representing factors that could possibly affect the way the leader may react to situations, such as the situation at hand ( “hassles and uplifts”) as well as individual differences. The model also depicts the possible outcomes that could arise from the 3 possible forms of leader’s emotional display.

Key takeaways from the paper:
1) Surface acting by a leader is negatively related to: a) the favorability of follower impressions; b) follower perceptions of leader authenticity and c) leader felt authenticity whereas deep acting and genuine emotional displays are positively related.
2) Leader emotional displays produce more favorable follower impressions when they reflect genuine emotions as opposed to deep acting, which in turn yields more favorable follower impressions than surface acting
3) Favorability of follower impressions of a leader and follower perceptions of leader authenticity are positively related to follower trust in the leader
4) Displays that produce high levels of leader felt authenticity ( e.g. genuine displays, and to a lesser extent, deep acting), yield lower levels of leader emotional dissonance and depersonalization and higher levels of personal accomplishments than displays that product lower levels of felt leader authenticity (e.g. surface acting)

The table below gives us a clear overview of the findings as well:

Leader emotional displays and outcomes

This shows us that emotional displays tend to be more desirable when consistent with display rules and genuine display of emotions seem to be the most appropriate form of emotional display out of the three options. However, personally I believe that it is not easy to consistently display genuine emotions due to situational pressures and thus leaders may choose to engage in deep acting as it is still the next best alternative to allow for trust in leader, relatively high favorable impression and perceived authenticity. Deep acting may also benefit leader’s well-being which is a fresh perspective from what we previously discussed in class.

As a potential future leader of the company, we should also try to show our most sincere and genuine side hopefully in line with display rules of positivity so that we can impact our staff in the right way as well! However in situations whereby it is hard for us to reflect truly how we feel, we should empathize with employees’ situation and engage in deep acting as workers will tend to react more positively when they see attempts from their superiors. We should try avoiding surface acting as fake emotions are easy to tell and may cause us to lose respect in the minds of our workers.

Gardner, W. L., Fischer, D., & Hunt, J. G. (2009). Emotional labor and leadership: A threat to authenticity?. The Leadership Quarterly, (20), 466-482.