This case study focuses on a brand new employee who is being trained to be a coordinator of the group by a person currently holding the position. The latter’s performance proved to be ineffective due to his negative attitude and inability to properly communicate with employees. He defames employees, and the newcoming leader feels that he should handle the situation in such a way that would be beneficial for both the trainer and the employees. The dilemma is how to resolve the identified problem based on leadership and ethics.
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The given situation is a challenge to ethical leadership. On the one hand, a new leader should act to meet the employees’ satisfaction, thus gaining their trust and support that is likely to increase the effectiveness of the team in the long-term perspective. On the other hand, the trainer is also an integral part of the group, and it should be comprehended that he is rather strained and, perhaps, disappointed with the fact of his upcoming downgrading. In this regard, it becomes evident that a new leader needs to consider the situation from different angles and come up with the most relevant solution.
The need for an effective leader is especially felt by the team when in the process of achieving group goals, obstacles arise, or something threatens from the outside, thus making the situation critical.
This can equally apply to complex conditions of combat situations, natural disasters, and the vicissitudes of corporate reorganization as in the given case. In this regard, there is always a lack of consistent understanding by group members of what steps to take to achieve the goals. As noted by Svara (2015), it is essential to grasp a wide range of leadership and ethics theories and consider them concerning the given case study. It seems appropriate to analyze the case study based on Tuckman’s stages of group development considering the life cycle of the team (Figure 1).
According to this model, the entire life cycle of the team is divided into five phases: forming, storming, norming, and performing. They are necessary and inevitable as the maturity of the team grows (Northouse, 2016). The first phase refers to the beginning of the transition of each member of the group from the individual model of behavior to group one, namely, the formation of the team.
Storming implies the collision of interests and preferences, the struggle for informal leadership, and the search for one’s place in the team. The subsequent norming is characterized by the stabilization of relations, the development of internal rules of conduct, and the emergence of teamwork. Performing occurs when team members work effectively in collaboration. Each phase is marked by a certain level of team productivity. Understanding the nature and specifics of these phases allows the leader to play the role of catalyst for the process of team building to identify problems, find their solutions, plan work, and achieve meaningful results. This case study conditions may be defined as storming since the group members cannot work productively due to internal conflicts.
It seems that there is a need to develop a constructive attitude towards the regulation of the existing conflict in the course of training. Barker (2010) argues that business training is rather different from professional education since it embraces a wider range of issues. For example, the corporate training discusses system information and offers business games on the regulation of office vertical and horizontal conflicts.
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Any communication is conflict-related: people may struggle for influence, resources, goals, or opportunities. However, the diversity of conflicts can be divided into two groups: constructive (productive) and destructive ones (Saeed, Almas, Anis-ul-Haq, & Niazi, 2014). Two key criteria are singled out, according to which one or another conflict can be estimated as productive or destructive. First, if the difficult task or problem that caused the conflict as a result of intense discussions was resolved, and an action program was developed, the conflict can be regarded as useful.
If, on the contrary, the conflict interactions were protracted and painful, and the problem is not solved, then the conflict proceeded along with the destructive scenario. Secondly, if the relations between the conflicting parties were improved resulting in deeper mutual understanding and trust in each other, then the conflict was productive. If employees quarreled, refused interactions, and someone even wrote a statement of resignation, the conflict occurred in a destructive form.
To resolve the specified problem, it is possible to apply the leader-member exchange (LMX) theory. According to Northouse (2016), it “runs counter to the basic human value of fairness” and focuses on relationships between followers and leaders (p. 387). Considering that employees sympathize with the new leader, it is possible to expect that in-group vertical linkages would work well.
The paramount goal proposed by the selected solution is to provide high-quality exchanges aimed at positive outcomes. According to the LMX model, there are different people among the employees, and they can be divided into two groups. The first group includes employees with pronounced motivation, whom the leaders consider competent and trustworthy (in-group members). The second group involves those who have a reputation for being incompetent or not trustworthy and practically devoid of motivation (out-group employees).
Consistent with the LMX model, it is possible to recommend two different styles of leadership: the one based on the implementation by the leader of his or her formal powers, and the other one based on persuasion (Northouse, 2016). With incompetent subordinates, the leader may implement the first scenario and entrust them with not very responsible and not demanding great abilities. There are practically no personal contacts between the leader and such employees.
As for the competent team members, the leader should behave as a mentor, not a chief, and entrust them with important and responsible work, the performance of which requires great abilities (Northouse, 2016). Such employees and the leader establish personal relationships, through which both of the mentioned parties can rely on support and understanding.
Several field studies regarding the LMX model confirmed its fairness for different levels of management and showed that the quality of the relationship between the manager and the employees can be improved with the help of special training (Northouse, 2016).
These relationships become less “bossy” and more similar to the relations of the unofficial leader and the one who voluntarily goes after him or her. The training aimed at improving the quality of relations between the leader and employees leads to an increase in the labor productivity of the latter and to the reduction in the number of errors in their work, as well as to the increase in the level of motivation of staff members and their greater job satisfaction.
Considering that currently the given group encounters storming, it is essential to move to the next phase of norming. The leader should ensure that information is found and revised, the goals and objectives are clear and understandable, the main conflicts are resolved, the roles are distributed, and the “rules of the game” are defined. Beginning to master and improve the methods and techniques of group work, the growth of the group’s confidence in its ability to solve the set tasks will increase.
More to the point, interpersonal relations should be developed at this stage along with tools and methods of group interaction. Based on the common values determined collectively, the group will demonstrate solidarity. The effectiveness of the group grows steadily creating a trustworthy atmosphere since the members of the group independently adjust their behavior towards increasing the effectiveness of the interaction. This stage is completed when the structure of the group has settled, and the group has developed a common system of expectations and criteria for joint work and the quality of the results.
Based on the above analysis, it is possible to specify the following recommendations to the leader:
- Use team leadership style for the team members. Be persuasive, yet show maximum patience, while defending their position.
- Continue demonstrating and proving your professional competence.
- Communicate with each member of the group constantly and promptly.
- Begin to determine the personal profiles of the members of the group, their motivational factors, and the informal roles they perform.
Corporate ethics of the company is a stable system of collective values, traditions, beliefs, and norms of behavior of employees. The rules of corporate ethics involve the symbolic, spiritual, and material environment of people working in a particular organization. Svara (2015) distinguishes between duties, principles, benefits to society, and virtues. Speaking of the ethics regarding the given situation, it seems relevant to point the results of the recent study conducted by Google.
The scientists analyzed the work of 180 Google teams and conducted tests and interviews with all their members (Duhigg, 2016). The analysis of the obtained data showed a surprising pattern for researchers: the members of the best teams invariably had higher indicators of emotional intelligence as well as the understanding that each member of the team should make an equal contribution to the common cause.
The results obtained led the scientists to the conclusion that the composition of the team is less important than the way of interaction adopted in it. They noted that the key factor in the success of the team is composed of the norms and traditions of mutual relations that were established in it. In other words, the respectful attitude of team members to each other contributes to the enhancement of its collective intelligence, and negative emotions – to the destruction of the team consisting of even of the most experienced employees.
The scholars called the identified factor “psychological security” of a person in the team, as stated by Duhigg (2016). In practical terms, this means that all members of the team have equal opportunities to express their thoughts and ideas without fear of being ridiculed, and also can intuitively perceive and recognize the emotions of their colleagues and treat them with respect based on non-verbal signals. Thus, the key points may be presented as follows:
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- Focus on the way of the interaction rather than team size, creating mutual respect and trust;
- Promote norms and traditions to create an appropriate working environment;
- Ensure “psychological security”. It seems critical to emphasize the role of the given point as a deterministic nature of socio-psychological security conditions allows discussing not only the psychological security of employees but also social security. In many respects, this may be achieved through the development of the concept of “emotional well-being” to disclose and more deeply understand difficulties in the emotional sphere of nowadays’ environment.
It expected that the recommended strategies applied by the newcoming leader would integrate the group and make the situation more transparent. The person that currently holds the position of the trainer would also understand the benefits of collaborating with the new leader, including team integrity, communication opportunities, and increased motivation. In other words, the given recommendations aim at the establishment of proper relationships between the leader and the employees.
The mentioned study findings provide essential insights into the practical organization of ethical leadership. For example, it is possible to recommend that during group sessions, every team member should answer questions posed by the situation, write them to stickers, and then attach them to a printed or projected template on the wall. Team members may be asked to determine their role in the team, name their values that they cannot forgo in the project, or tell about their strengths and weaknesses that can help or hinder the work of the group.
As a result, the leader would receive the so-called “outline” that explains the structure of the team and also greatly simplifies the communication and vision of the situation (Brodhead & Higbee, 2012). Setting up internal processes would help employees not only to disclose their potential but also to multiply it at the expense of other such employees. The approach to openness, telling personal stories, and interacting on a more personal level does help participants to improve the quality of communication within the team, which means that it is more effective to overcome conflict situations and move towards effective group work. Summing it up, the following points may be formulated:
- Promote emotional intelligence and the value of every employee as an understanding of personal feelings in various situations and the ability to use them in the best way to comprehend others. Emotional intelligence may also be utilized to understand how other employees’ emotions affect their decisions, thus allowing them to build relationships with others in the most effective way.
- Implementation of open discussions as a public conversation regarding any disputable issue or problems, two of the most important characteristics of such discussion distinguishing it from other types is publicity (the availability of the audience) and reasoning. Discussing a controversial problem and opposing the opinion of the interlocutor with arguments, employees would achieve effective problem-solving.
- Determining the roles in the team. To resolve the ethical conflicts, it would be rather advantageous to understand the roles every employee performs in the team and generally in terms of the organization. Such a strategy would make the situation more transparent and promote appropriate decisions.
Barker, R. (2010). The big idea: No, management is not a profession. Web.
Brodhead, M. T., & Higbee, T. S. (2012). Teaching and maintaining ethical behavior in a professional organization. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 5(2), 82-88.
Duhigg, C. (2016). What Google learned from its quest to build the perfect team. The New York Times Magazine. Web.
Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and practice (7th ed.). New York, NY: Sage Publications.
Saeed, T., Almas, S., Anis-ul-Haq, M., & Niazi, G. S. K. (2014). Leadership styles: Relationship with conflict management styles. International Journal of Conflict Management, 25(3), 214-225.
Svara, J. H. (2015). The ethics primer for public administrators in government and nonprofit organizations (2nd ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.