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Scenario Questions and Sample solutions

Scenario 1 – Leadership
Sandra Johnson was continuously on top of things. In school, she had always been at the top of her class. When she went to work for her uncle’s shoe business, Fancy Footwear, she had been singled out as the most productive employee and the one with the best attendance. The company was so impressed with her that it sent her to get an M.B.A. to groom her for a top management position. In school again, and with three years of practical experience to draw on, Johnson had gobbled up every idea put in front of her, relating many of them to her work at Fancy Footwear. When Johnson graduated at the top of her class, she returned to Fancy Footwear. To no one’s surprise, when the head of the company’s largest division took advantage of the firm’s early retirement plan, Johnson was given his position.
Johnson knew the pitfalls of being suddenly catapulted to a leadership position, and she was determined to avoid them. In business school, she had read cases about family businesses that fell apart when a young family member took over with an iron fist, barking out orders, cutting personnel, and destroying morale. Johnson knew a lot about participative management, and she was not going to be labeled an arrogant know-it-all.
Johnson’s predecessor, Max Worthy, had run the division from an office at the top of the building, far above the factory floor. Two or three times a day, Worthy would summon a messenger or a secretary from the offices on the second floor and send a memo out to one or another group of workers. But as Johnson saw it, Worthy was mostly an absentee autocrat, making all the decisions from above and spending most of his time at extended lunches with his friends from the Elks Club.
Johnson’s first move was to change all that. She set up her office on the second floor. From her always-open doorway she could see down onto the factory floor, and as she sat behind her desk she could spot anyone walking by in the hall. She never ate lunch herself but spent the time from 11 to 2 down on the floor, walking around, talking, and organizing groups. The workers, many of whom had twenty years of seniority at the plant, seemed surprised by this new policy and reluctant to volunteer for any groups. But in fairly short order, Johnson established a worker productivity group, a “Suggestion of the Week” committee, an environmental group, a worker award group, and a management relations group. Each group held two meetings a week, one without and one with Johnson. She encouraged each group to set up goals in its particular focus area and develop plans for reaching those goals. She promised any support that was within her power to give.
The group work was agonizingly slow at first. But Johnson had been well trained as a facilitator, and she soon took on that role in their meetings, writing down ideas on a big board, organizing them, and later communicating them in notices to other employees. She got everyone to call her “Sandra” and set herself the task of learning all their names. By the end of the first month, Fancy Footwear was stirred up.
But as it turned out, that was the last thing most employees wanted. The truthfinally hit Johnson when the entire management relations committee resigned at the start of their fourth meeting. “I’m sorry, Ms. Johnson,” one of them said. “We’re good at making shoes, but not at this management stuff. A lot of us are heading toward retirement. We don’t want to be supervisors.”
Astonished, Johnson went to talk to the workers with whom she believed she had built good relations. Yes, they reluctantly told her, all these changes did make them uneasy. They liked her, and they didn’t want to complain. But given the choice, they would rather go back to the way Mr. Worthy had run things. They never saw Mr. Worthy much, but he never got in their hair. He did his work, whatever that was, and they did theirs. “After you’ve been in a place doing one thing for so lYing,” one worker concluded, “the last thing you want to do is learn a new way of doing it.”
A. According to our class theories and concepts, what factors should have alerted Johnson to the problems that eventually came up at Fancy Footwear?
The following could been identified as alerts to the problems that eventually came up at Fancy Footwear:
1. The company had an already established culture that defined how employees behaved, worked, the level of supervision and commitment expected from each individual. By identifying that this culture made a huge part of what constituted the organization’s environment, Johnson could be able to come up with better alternatives rather than trying to shift the culture in instant.
2. The workplace at Fancy Footwear had an intergenerational team that could also be considered as an alert. Organizations whose team is composed of differences in age requires the management to ensure every generation has its needs and concerns taken care. Old employees have the need of security in the workplace. These desire to be assured that their role is significant to the progress of the company. The young generation on the other hand, have the need for self-actualization that entails them having control of what they do and their job roles. This implies that more supervision reduces the feeling of being in control of their roles.
3. The previous management style could also be used in determining whether a new style is more likely to cause dissent among employees than better performance. Formerly, the employees were in an autocratic style of management, while Johnson tends to use a persuasive management style
B. According to our class theories and concepts, could Johnson have instituted her changes without eliciting a negative reaction from the workers? If so, how?
Yes, Johnson could have instituted the changes without eliciting a negative reaction from the workers. This could be possible by ensuring the process is gradual rather than immediate. Johnson should have focused more on the capabilities of the management and employees, than her own capabilities. An organizational culture is built with gradual events, so the change must also come gradually. The organizational culture at Fancy footwear was exemplified by less supervision, and the employees being let to do their own work without having to be monitored. Johnson’s behavior to monitor all activities at the workplace made it hard for the employees to experience the freedom they were used to. Johnson should have asked for feedback from the employees and management before initiating the changes to ensure a better plan, and only advance with strategies that are relevant at the moment. Johnson should have focused on the following steps to ensure an effective change:
1. Identifying the problem.
2. Establishing the decision criteria, that involves either seeking feedback or suggestions from the employees and other stakeholders or relying on available data to deduce a possible solution.
3. Weigh decision criteria to determine which among the decisions is more effective.
4. Generate alternatives.
5. Evaluate the alternatives and choose the best.
6. Implement the decision while ensuring everyone is involved.
7. Finally, evaluate the decision to identify any possible shortcomings or positive impacts if there is any.
Scenario 2 – Motivation
Gerome Sampson was a trainer for National Home Manufacturers, a large builder of prefabricated homes. National Home had hired Sampson fresh from graduate school with a master’s degree in English. At first, the company put him to work writing and revising company brochures and helping with the most important correspondence at the senior level. But soon, both Sampson and senior management officials began to notice how well he worked with executives on their writing, how he made them feel more confident about it, and how, after working with an executive on a report, the executive often was much more eager to take on the next writing task.
So National Home moved Sampson into its prestigious training department. The company’s trainers worked with thousands of supervisors, managers, and executives, helping them learn everything from new computer languages to time management skills to how to get the most out of the workers on the plant floor, many of whom were unmotivated high school dropouts. Soon Sampson was spending all his time giving short seminars on executive writing as well as coaching his students to perfect their memos and letters.
Sampson’s move into training meant a big increase in salary, and when he started working exclusively with the company’s top brass, it seemed as though he got a bonus every month. Sampson’s supervisor, Mirela Albert, knew he was making more than many executives who had been with the company three times as lYing, and probably twice as much as any of his graduate school classmates who concentrated in English. Yet in her biweekly meetings with him, she could tell that Sampson wasn’t happy.
When Albert asked him about it, Sampson replied that he was in a bit of a rut. He had to keep saying the same things over and over in his seminars, and business memos weren’t as interesting as the literature he had been trained on. But then, after trailing off for a moment, he blurted out, “They don’t need me!” Since the memos filtering down through the company were now flawlessly polished, and the annual report was 20 percent shorter but said everything it needed to, Sampson’s desire to be needed was not fulfilled.
The next week, Sampson came to Albert with a proposal: What if he started holding classes for some of the floor workers, many of whom had no future within or outside the company because many could write nothing but their own names? Albert took the idea to her superiors. They told her that they wouldn’t oppose it, but Sampson couldn’t possibly keep drawing such a high salary if he worked with people whose contribution to the company was compensated at minimum wage.
Sampson took to a reduced salary and began offering English classes on the factory floor, which were billed by management (who hoped to avoid a wage hike that year) as an added benefit of the job. At first only two or three workers showed up—and they, Sampson believed, only wanted an excuse to get away from the nailing guns for a while. But gradually word got around that Sampson was serious about what he was doing and didn’t treat the workers like kids in a remedial class.
At the end of the year, Sampson got a bonus from a new source: the vice president in charge of production. Although Sampson’s course took workers off the job for a couple of hours a week, productivity had actually improved since his course began, employee turnover had dropped, and for the first time in over a year, some of the floor workers had begun to apply for supervisory positions. Sampson was pleased with the bonus, but when Albert saw him grinning as he walked around the building, she knew he wasn’t thinking about his bank account.
A. According to our class theories and concepts, what need theories would explain why Gerome Sampson was unhappy despite his high income?
Needs can be divided into two groups; The Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and McClelland’s acquired-needs theory. The Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that could possibly apply to this instance of Sampson’s unhappiness even with high income could be:
• Esteem needs – The desire to feel important, and appreciated.
• Self-actualization – The desire to become all you are capable of becoming.
Development and growth opportunities are a way of satisfying self-actualization needs. It is important for organizations to focus on satisfying employee needs as this creates a motivated workforce. Acquired-needs theory includes the need for affiliation, the need for power, and the need for achievement. Those with high need for achievement are more focused on being successful. Those with the need for affiliation want to be liked and accepted by others. If someone is more focused on getting work done by influencing others, this is characterized by the need for power. This can be destructive if used for one’s own good and prestige. Sampson was unhappy despite his high income because the income part served a different need than his real needs at the moment. In this case, Sampson’s need was more of esteem that involves feeling important in the workplace, and realizing that there is a significant role he is playing. He also seemed to have had a need of self-actualization, that training employees is more important than earning while remaining idle for the most part of his work.
B. Sampson seems to have drifted into being a teacher. According to our class theories and concepts, given his needs and motivations, do you think teaching is an appropriate profession for him?
Yes. Teaching is an appropriate profession for Sampson. Self-actualization and esteem needs can only be met by being involved in what someone loves most and what one considers their main vision in a career or job position. By attending to the specific need, it is only when an individual feels they have achieved what they would consider most important. By being a teacher, the trainees are more likely to deliver this satisfaction whenever they show signs of improvement, and a better performance at the workplace.
Scenario 3: Organizational Culture
In ten years, Greenery Plus had grown from a one-person venture into the largest nursery and landscaping business in its area. Its founder, Gerry Ying, combined a lifelong interest in plants with a botany degree to provide a unique customer service. Ying had managed the company’s growth so that even with twenty full-time employees working in six to eight crews, the organization culture was still as open, friendly, and personal as it had been when her only “employees” were friends who would volunteer to help her move a heavy tree.
To maintain that atmosphere, Ying involved herself increasingly with people and less with plants as the company grew. With hundreds of customers and scores of jobs at any one time, she could no longer say without hesitation whether she had a dozen arborvitae bushes in stock or when Mrs. Smith’s estate would need a new load of bark mulch. But she knew when Rose had been up all night with her baby, when Gary was likely to be late because he had driven to see his sick father over the weekend, and how to deal with Ellen when she was depressed because of her boyfriend’s behavior. She kept track of the birthdays of every employee and even those of their children. She was up every morning by five-thirty arranging schedules so that John could get his son out of daycare at four o’clock and Martina could be back in town for her afternoon high school equivalency classes.
Paying all this attention to employees may have led Ying to make a single bad business decision that almost destroyed the company. She provided extensive landscaping to a new mall on credit, and when the mall never opened and its owners went bankrupt, Greenery Plus found itself in deep trouble. The company had virtually no cash and had to pay off the bills for the mall plants, most of which were not even salvageable.
One Friday, Ying called a meeting with her employees and leveled with them: either they would not get paid for a month or Greenery Plus would fold. The news hit the employees hard. Many counted on the Friday paycheck to buy groceries for the week. The local unemployment rate was low, however, and they knew they could find other jobs.
But as they looked around, they wondered whether they could ever find this kind of job. Sure, the pay was not the greatest, but the tears in the eyes of some workers were not over pay or personal hardship; they were for Ying, her dream, and her difficulties. They never thought of her as the boss or called her anything but “Gerry.” And leaving the group would not be just a matter of saying good-bye to fellow employees. If Bernice left, the company softball team would lose its best pitcher, and the Sunday game was the height of everyone’s week. Where else would they find people who spent much of the weekend working on the best puns with which to assail one another on Monday morning? At how many offices would everyone show up twenty minutes before starting time just to catch up with friends on other crews? What other boss would really understand when you simply said, “I don’t have a doctor’s appointment, I just need the afternoon off”?
Ying gave her employees the weekend to think over their decision: whether to take their pay and look for another job or to dig into their savings and go on working. Knowing it would be hard for them to quit, she told them they did not have to face her on Monday; if they did not show up, she would send them their checks. But when she arrived at seven-forty Monday morning, she found the entire group already there, ready to work even harder to pull the company through. They were even trying to top one another with puns about being “mall-contents.”
A. According to our class theories and concepts, how would you describe the organization culture at Greenery Plus?
Organizational culture can be described as a system of shared assumptions, and beliefs that are used by employees to determine what is appropriate and inappropriate (Chatman & Eunyoung, 2003). These values are highly significant on employee behavior and consequently play determine how each individual as well as the organization performs. As Arogyaswamy & Byles (1987) explains, a culture can help in defining the type of relationship that exists between the management and other employees, and between the employees themselves. A strong culture makes it possible to share common goals with the employees, creating a sense of ownership. At Greenery Plus, the employees felt a sense of ownership to the business, brought about by the way of behaving and how things were being handled by the group as one entity rather than individuals. Without a strong organizational culture, this could not be possible. Organizational culture can be subdivided into three levels; artifacts, values and assumptions. Assumptions reflect human nature, values are the shared principles and standards, while the artifacts are the tangible aspects of the organization. Greenery Plus organizational culture can be described as people-oriented as the Ying is much focused on the employee’s welfare more than the organization’s profitability. It is also a team-oriented culture as indicated by the togetherness between the employees in various activities. The culture is also outcome-oriented as evident when all employees decide to work together to help the company move beyond the financial crisis while sacrificing their personal interests. This culture values fairness, supportiveness, and respect for individual rights.
By giving herself free time and other employees to focus on individual matters, Ying proves to the employees that they and their families matter to the business. According to Erdogan, Liden, & Kraimer (2006), an organizational culture that is people-oriented like the Ying makes the employees feel fun to work together, and required in fulfilling the set objectives. In this case, the employees realize that if they don’t turn up for the job, Greenery Plus will definitely be closed. This makes them feel that their effort is much significant in helping Ying move forward with her dream. It displays an aspect of collaborativeness and emphasis on cooperation among the employees. This is shown by their agreement to turn up for the job on Monday, collaborating to move the organization forward. This decision was more of a team decision that of an individual. In team-oriented cultures, the employees usually have a positive relationship with the coworkers and their managers (Erdogan, Liden, & Kraimer, 2006). A culture is deemed strong if is shared by all organizational members (Arogyaswamy & Byles, 1987; Chatman & Eunyoung, 2003). As such, Greenery Plus has a strong culture that works to propel the company forward while focusing on each employee’s personal life.
B. According to our class theories and concepts, how large can such a company get before it needs to change its culture and structure?
It is possible to describe the type of culture at Greenery Plus as a strong culture. Even though strong cultures have many benefits to organizations, there is usually a great risk associated with them. It might make an organization unable to adapt to dynamic environment or change in management when there is such a need. According to Sorensen (2002), in volatile environments the advantages of a culture strength disappear. Among the limitation of such a culture as displayed at Greenery Plus is that it is difficult to change it. For the above case, it would become so hard to change and adopt new set of values, unlearning the old while learning new ones. A strong culture like that of Greenery Plus, can also be a liability during merger as clashes between cultures can make it hard to manage such organizations. As an organization matures, the culture must be changed, either refined or strengthened. To ensure the organization remains successful, it has to ensure it only attracts only the employees that will fit in. Some employees may feel comfortable and prefer to work in a company that focuses on teams, while others may prefer working in innovative cultures. As Greenery Plus grows, it has also to ensure the selection process is carried out in a manner that candidates who do not fit with corporate values are weeded out. The company might also consider using referrals in the recruitment process. The company will also need to remove the employees who do not fit in its values through attrition. Once the organization grows to a level that requires a change in culture, it will eventually need such change. To do so, the six basic steps can be used. These include creating a sense of urgency, changing leaders and other key players especially at the highest managerial level, modelling its roles by helping employees modify their own beliefs and behaviors to reflect the new ones or those of the leader (Kark & Djik, 2008). The fourth step would be training, followed by changing the reward system and finally creating new symbols and stories. In summary, the organization will eventually need to change the culture to reflect the changing conditions in its environment for it to remain competitive and ensure there is no stagnation.
Scenario 4: Perceptions & Personality
Kelly Jarvis continued to drum her fingers on her desk. She had a real problem and wasn’t sure what to do next. She had a lot of confidence in Jack Black, but she suspected she was about the last person in the office who did. Perhaps if she ran through the entire story again in her mind she would see the solution.
Kelly had been distribution manager for Jackson Industries for almost twenty years. An early brush with the law and a short stay in prison had made her realize the importance of honesty and hard work. Henry Jackson had given her a chance despite her record, and Kelly had made the most of it. She now was one of the most respected managers in the company. Few people knew her background.
Kelly had hired Jack Black fresh out of prison six months ago. Kelly understood how Jack felt when Jack tried to explain his past and asked for another chance. Kelly decided to give him that chance just as Henry Jackson had given her one. Jack eagerly accepted a job on the loading docks and could soon load a truck as fast as anyone in the crew.
Things had gone well at first. Everyone seemed to like Jack, and he made several new friends. Kelly had been vaguely disturbed about two months ago, however, when another dock worker reported his wallet missing. She confronted Jack about this and was reassured when Jack understood her concern and earnestly but calmly asserted his innocence. Kelly was especially relieved when the wallet was found a few days later.
The events of last week, however, had caused serious trouble. First, a new personnel clerk had come across records about Jack’s past while updating employee files. Assuming that the information was common knowledge, the clerk had mentioned to several employees what a good thing it was to give ex-convicts like Jack a chance. The next day, someone in bookkeeping discovered some money missing from petty cash. Another worker claimed to have seen Jack in the area around the office strongbox, which was open during working hours, earlier that same day.
Most people assumed Jack was the thief. Even the worker whose wallet had been misplaced suggested that perhaps Jack had indeed stolen it but had returned it when questioned. Several employees had approached Kelly and requested that Jack be fired. Meanwhile, when Kelly had discussed the problem with Jack, Jack had been defensive and sullen and said little about the petty-cash situation other than to deny stealing the money.
To her dismay, Kelly found that rethinking the story did little to solve his problem. Should she fire Jack? The evidence, of course, was purely circumstantial, yet everybody else seemed to see things quite clearly. Kelly feared that if she did not fire Jack, she would lose everyone’s trust and that some people might even begin to question her own motives.
A. According to our class theories and concepts, explain the events in this case in terms of perception and attitudes. Does personality play a role?
Employees bring their personality, mental and physical abilities to work. Two significant factors are of key significance in Jack’s case, person-organization fit that refers to the degree to which a person’s values, goals, personality and characteristics. Person-job fit refers to the degree a person’s skills, knowledge, abilities and other characteristics match the demand of the job. Values of other employees at the workplace may impact greatly how they perceive other people or perceive various responsibilities. Personality includes stable feelings, thoughts and behavioral patterns of an individual. These might be making some employees think that their fellow employee Jack, does not match the needed criteria to work with them. In order to effectively manage organizational behavior, it is important for Kelly to understand each employee’s personalities. Behavior in the workplace is somehow dependent on personality. The personality trait evident in this case is neuroticism which refers to being anxious, irritable, temperamental, and moody. This is much clear with the employee’s perception of an ex-convict. If the organization has more negative affective employees, they are more likely to experience negative moods with greater frequency. Kelly should have a proactive personality that means taking an action rather than waiting to be told what to do by the rest of the employees.
B. According to our class theories and concepts, what should Kelly do? Should she fire Jack or give him another chance?
Kelly should go ahead and fire Jack, but the same time, focus on incentives to improve other employees’ perceptions to avoid similar cases in the future. This can help so much assess the situational demands correctly in such instances. Personality is a strong influence on job attitudes but rarely impacts job performance. Selective perception is evident in this case, which is a main cause of the stereotype experienced by Jack. The employees believe that the Jack has the same behavior as what led to the previous imprisonment. Though this might be downplayed by correct management techniques to ensure there is cohesiveness in the team, it can significantly affect the performance at the workplace. The background in this scenario, the expectations of employees and beliefs can help shape the events. The first impression that is formed of an ex-convict can have a lasting impact and once formed, it is very hard to have believe contrary information. According to Ross, Lepper, & Hubbard (1975), once the employee forms the first impression, it becomes independent of the evidence that created such impressions. To help solve the case once and for all and ensure harmony at the workplace, Kelly has to fire the worker by explaining the scenario in full to ensure the employee understands what is at stake. This should be followed with effective management incentives to help deal with negative perceptions.
Arogyaswamy, B., & Byles, C. H. (1987). Organisational culture: Internal and external fits. Journal of Management, 13, 647–658.
Chatman, J. A., & Eunyoung Cha, S. (2003). Leading by leveraging culture. California Management Review, 45, 19–34.
Erdogan, B., Liden, R. C., & Kraimer, M. L. (2006). Justice and leader-member exchange: The moderating role of organisational culture. Academy of Management Journal, 49, 395–406.
Kark, R., & Van Dijk, D. (2007). Motivation to lead, motivation to follow: The role of the self- regulatory focus in leadership processes. Academy of Management Review, 32, 500–528.
Ross, L., Lepper, M. R., & Hubbard, M. (1975). Perseverance in self-perception and social perception: Biased attributional processes in the debriefing paradigm. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 32, 880–892.
Sorensen, J. B. (2002). The strength of corporate culture and the reliability of firm performance. Administrative Science Quarterly, 47, 70–91.

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