Analysing the issues of a Credit Union

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I joined the Legacy Credit Union Contact Centre in mid 2005 and it was rated as the poorest performing section of the Credit Union. After a short time it was very apparent that an urgent shift in culture was required before the extreme option of closing it down and outsourcing the section was tabled before the Board. I was asked to join the Contact Centre to assess the issues and develop a plan to address the changes needed to be put in place which included staffing, resources, hardware, software, systems and business processes.

The Contact Centre received more than sixty thousand calls per month with a drop off rate of over sixty to seventy percent. Customers were constantly directed to call the Contact Centre during and outside of normal business hours by the branch staff and the marketers, but then the Centre did not open outside of normal business hours. The Credit Union has four hundred staff and a client base in excess of a hundred thousand people and few of these had the confidence in the Centre staff being able to assist in their needs or even answer basic questions about their accounts.

The Contact Centre was managed by a small team of individuals who appeared to co-operate on first appearances but upon deeper investigation, they were extremely dysfunctional and would go to great lengths to create complications for each other at every opportunity. The Centre staff were not given any authority to make any decisions that affected clients accounts or were outside of standard operational policy and therefore felt impotent most of the time.

The Senior Management saw little value overall being added to the organisation by the Contact Centre as there were few positive results and therefore paid little attention to it. The availability of resources and staffing was set as a low priority and the Centre and its team were rarely acknowledged as a vital resource to the Credit Union.

The attitude of the team members clearly reflected that of the team leaders. The Manager and the three team leaders were tasked with meeting the needs of any clients unable to reach a branch. Due to their roles not being clearly defined they began to exhibit behaviour which over shadowed any of their previous good work. Over time the team leaders had begun morphing their individual roles by only performing the tasks they wanted to do and not what they were initially assigned.

Performance targets and actual results were only discussed when targets were not reached. What was illogical to this day is that the targets and reports were closely guarded in the Managers office and were not to be divulged to the staff. Results were only released in the Monthly Review but it was always from the broadest perspective of the Centre and no individual knew his/her individual targets/results.

There was little or no diversity within the Centre as the staff of thirty five consisting of:-

approx. 90% female

Approx 50% were single and under the age of twenty five years

Remainder being females 40 years to 55 years of age).

All Australian (white)

No other ethnic backgrounds evident

Considered to be low to medium socio-economic income earners

Low education - little formal tertiary education

There is a large percentage of the team that appears to consist of staff transferred from the branch network or Head Office who have at some stage created an issue for the Credit Union's management.

These people appeared to have then gravitated to the Team Leader they liked based on the personalities involved.

Under these Team Leaders they would only perform a limited number of tasks that were deemed important to the relevant team leader. There was little focus on overall team performance and the working as a team towards the company's mission statement

The behaviour of this work section came to a head where the organisation can no longer ignore the issues at hand and must face the choice of either closure or re-building the Centre from within.

The overall performance of the staff and the Centre was directly attributed to the management team in place at the time. Their performance and attitudes were directly attributed to that of the Centre Manager who is unable to articulate to the team what is required. This would have enabled the team to move forward and to be in a position to deliver what is required to meet the needs of the organisation, its stakeholders and most importantly, its customers.

There was also a complete lack of documented business processes in place. These appeared to have been ignored or dispensed with to avoid any staff taking responsibility when an issue arose. If there were an established set of guidelines that was adhered to, then the staff would not have been able to deny responsibility or claim ignorance.

Weisenfeld & Hewlin (page 36) suggest that "...sets of identities that share attributes and audiences are likely to cluster together.... identities that do not fit within a cluster are eventually sloughed off".

Many staff were randomly moved from section to section within the Centre without warning to fill a gap when another staff member exited or changed roles within the Centre. There was no formal training except some minor explanation and a quick overview. This often differed from person to person depending on the "mentors" own skill level. The new staff member was invariably overwhelmed and could not begin to cope with the intricacies or requirements of the position and the demands of the customers. At the same time knowing full well that the Management team will not support them if something goes wrong.

There was no formal training processes with each staff member being required to be formally accredited at each section before proceeding to the next level. This progression appeared to be more of a popularity contest and was ad-hoc at best.

To use an analogy, the human body is the organisation and the healthy cells (positive staff) within the body are those that bind tightly together forming stable layers (the Sections/departments) within the body (the Organisation).

"Understanding how cancer cells start to spread is tremendously important for cancer research....It is the ability of tumours to invade into other tissues and spread around the body that makes them so dangerous. (Adapted from

Cancerous cells (negative staff) are the cells that do not bind tightly allowing the spread of tumours (negative attitudes) and contribute to the break-down of the functional parts of the body.

The protein E-cadherin (is the equivalent of a great Manager) helps bind the team together and blocks the action of those cancerous cells and tumours. Without this the cancer would set about breaking down the bodily functions and eventually kill off the body.

Weisenfeld & Hewlin (page 40) hypothesise that "Managers who experience greater identity threat will be less likely to behave in ways that yield synergies across conflicting identities"

Adapted from Wood Et Al (page ..)

Organisational behaviour lists the performance equation as the balance of organisational support, work effort and the attributes of the individual/team on a consistent and ongoing basis. To have one or more of these elements perform poorly will see the overall job performance plummet and in many cases be irrecoverable.

The staff turnover for the Centre was estimated at about sixty percent (60%) per annum. With such a high turnover the team were in a constant state of turmoil and could never be afforded the chance to manage the day to day business, but are also unable to develop professionally with training, updating skills or connect the other sections of the business.

It is at these times, the Senior Management must consider if surgery or a long protracted recovery is in the company's interests.

Motivating & Effecting Cultural Change (Task 2)

To better understand which Motivational theories would best suit these people we need to address the causes of their poor performance. In lay man's terms it is evident that most of these people are displaying various forms of behaviours that would ultimately develop into serious depression.

Each member of the management team has become disenchanted with the business and each has lost their sense of purpose. With the constant negative influences and results, the team leaders are spiralling towards a depressive state.

Figure Adapted from the Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle

Each disappointment precedes yet another point of confirmation in their own minds that the Centre and its team are not worthy on the organisation network.

"Depression could be a response to loss...depression can also be caused by a threatened loss....job loss...marriage..." Cembrowicz & Kingham (pages 60-61)".

Cembrowicz & Kingham (pages 60-61) cite psychologist Seligman's Learned theory "...who found that, if he reared rats that had little or no control over their environment, they are poor at getting out of bad situations - even when given an opportunity to escape, they do not take it. Failure leads to a feeling of helplessness and belief that whatever you do, you will not change anything...."

Cembrowicz & Kingham (pages 60-61) also state in their Cognitive theory that people "...can unknowingly build up a depressive way of dealing with life....leading to a self fulfilling prophecy..."

All organisations have established required behaviours, or rather standards of behaviour that is expected of all staff. This applies to the newest casual to the Chairman of the Board. These behaviours extend to minimum standards applied to work hours, dress code, ethical behaviour, leave requirements, career development, industrial laws, training, etc.

Emergent behaviours are then materialise when the staff members take ownership of their part of the organisation and become self managed. The Emergent behaviour soon becomes the norm and will become a compass for the team members to follow.

Group roles will become established out of the emergent behaviour. People will move into their roles within the group and be supportive of one another. As each role will be inter-dependant, the team must perform their individual tasks in order for the team to succeed. One section cannot fulfil its duties/complete the project unless the other team completes theirs. Therefore they are dependent on each other and will either fail or succeed together.

Once the group norms have been established, the standards of behaviour and professional ethics will ensue. Higher standards of behaviour and performance will become the standard and the overall sense of achievement will increase.

Applying Mazlow's theory to this situation saw the current management team bereft of nearly all sections

Figure Adapted from Wood Et Al - Page 84

To effect a real change in culture and motivation, the most appropriate courses of action are:-


This tool is probably the most powerful tool in a Managers kit. It allows the Manager to delegate tasks and engenders a mutual respect between a Manager and staff. A Manager will begin to sample out small tasks and begin to build the confidence in his/her team that they are capable of making decisions and find solutions for any situation.

Empowerment will recognise that every staff member is a capable, intelligent professional who adds real value to the organisation as opposed to a one who will only do the bare minimum of what he/she is told to avoid responsibility.

Empowerment will engender into the team that they are valued and have a very real effect on the organisation and its future achievements.

Empowerment creates a self determining culture to the team members with them becoming self managed as they begin to hold each other to account on their performance, attitudes and commitment to the common goal.

Intrinsic rewards 'vs' Extrinsic rewards

Pride, high self esteem, positive values, honour, self worth, recognition, credibility, knowledge, expertise, experience, reputation, satisfaction and fulfilment are all intangible achievements but are longer lasting than the material rewards as they become the moral tenets that we operate with and that benchmark ourselves against.

The Extrinsic rewards are fleeting at best with pay increases being the most popular demand. Unfortunately in the organisation the results of the Centre is a collective reflection of the individual performance of each and every staff member. Therefore there is little effort by the organisation to entertain rewards for non-performance but the efforts have not been reciprocated to the organisation.

Equity & Expectancy

An example of the Equity theory is represented in this case study as one Team Leader hand picks her team based on her own values. There is no application or interview process. Just simply a tap on the shoulder and the staff member is moved into the section where all other requirements are now void. To all other staff this is extremely unfair and is inequitable as it is based on friendship as opposed to work quality, commitment or skills levels.

Polzer, Et Al (page 97) states "When social categorisation processes undermine trust and cooperation, group members are unlikely to realise the potential value in their diversity for improving group performance."

The Expectancy Theory is applied to every task but has become a "0" in most cases as there is no rewards foreseen whether the task is achieved or not. As each task become less and less important to each member, the "valance" for each task also diminishes.

To change these behaviours, there must be transparency and fair processes where all who wish to, can compete fairly in order to meet their own goals. With this, confidence and trust in a fairer system for advancement, the team members will place a higher value on their daily tasks in order to be the best candidate for the next opportunity.

Content & Process Theories

The theories of Content & Process discussed by Wood Et Al (page 83-84) need to be applied to all aspects of the Centre's operations in particular to the duties of the staff. By beginning with the documenting of every business process the following benefits can be generated:-

Responsibilities can be assigned to the various duties required for the Centre to function efficiently denoting service level agreements, procedures and authority levels.

Policies and processes can be updated to meet current market and legislative requirements

Staff can be trained with a consistent series of procedure manuals which will clearly document the correct processes that are within the framework of the Credit Unions policies.

Staff are required to contribute to these processes so there is ownership by the team in their performance and daily work.

Standards of behaviour are to be established and become part of every staff member's annual staff review and assessment prior to moving to a new position.

Transparency of all reporting and performance targets. All targets to be displayed openly and the Team's performance is to be measured against this weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually

Provide all staff with a career structure mapping out their potential pathways. This career path within the Centre is a "hop on-hop off" structure allowing staff to move forward at their own pace with confidence.


Classical Conditioning relies on creating reactions (stimuli) to behaviour (e.g. a manager frowns/grimaces if a staff member does not perform adequately....therefore the staff member will avoid that behaviour again but will not delve further to get a better understanding of why the Manager frowned). This type of conditioning appears to focus on negative reinforcement and will often lead to the micro management of the staff member.

Operant Conditioning however focuses on encouraging staff members using their initiative and to perform or act in a positive behaviour by ensuring that once that good behaviour has been recognised, the staff member will continue this behaviour without the need for constant re-assurance from the Manager.

Learning Styles

Cognitive learning is often referred to as a "suck it and see" method of learning. If you do this, this is what will/will not happen. People who use only this method of learning will often not develop and can be relied on to only do the bare minimum and requires a high level of management.

Social learning relies on the interaction between people and the sharing of experiences (eg. Corporate team building events employed by many companies to enable the various team members to come together as a team utilising their various skills, attitudes and intelligence to achieve their goals).

Learning 'vs' Teaching Organisations.

The Contact Centre will have to initially be a Learning organisation in order to set the foundations for the Teaching organisation. To further explain this, Wood Et al (Pages 141 -145) describe the subtle yet powerful differences. Learning organisations focus on learning new knowledge and the development of the individual. This by design will engender change in the individual and therefore will extend to the organisation.

The Contact Centre will evolve into a Teaching organisation as the team becomes more developed. It will eventually be seen as an exemplar within the organisation as what is required to achieve high levels of performance in all aspects of its role. Other sections within the organisation, and perhaps the business community will see it as a Business Unit that can teach another what can be achieved if the team remains a high performing one.

Group Dynamics (task 3)

Managing Attitudes & Perceptions

The Senior management had to immediately take into account the following issues within the Contact Centre in order to assess the actual status of the business unit:-


Henry Ford stated "Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success." Adapted from

The self destructive tendencies of this management team is counter-productive but also limits the Centre from reaching its true potential. Constructive Conflict where there is compromise and collaboration is an acceptable norm within a high pressure environment, but it must be managed and dealt with in a professional manner.

The basic building block of good teambuilding is for a leader to promote the feeling that every human being is unique and adds value." - Unknown Adapted from

Managing the Current Management Team.

Staff Member

Current Motivation/s

Action Recommended


Exhibited a strong martyr complex where she feels poorly done by the Credit Union on all issues

Removal as Manager and possibly the organisation.


Running a small business using the Centre facilities and staff for deliveries.

Dismissal due to behaviour that would be tantamount to theft of resources of the business.


Established a "Friends club"where entry to was by invitation only. All staff("club members") seen regularly exiting for two hour lunches with no one left to run the section

Retention of staff member who requires clear operating guidelines and authority levels. Staff member is to adhere to new standards of behaviour and operational requirements.


Is extremely uncomfortable in dealing with staff and avoids conflict. Is exceptional on mapping and planning but is unable to translate this to into action.

Retention of staff member who requires clear operating guidelines and authority levels. Staff member is to adhere to new standards of behaviour and operational requirements.


"We are most effect as a team when we compliment each other without embarrassment and disagree without fear." - Unknown" Adapted from

Breaking cycles of bad behaviour

The attitudes, performance and ethos of the Centre will not change until the people driving these poor habits change or are removed from the area.

The current management team are determined to continue on with their poor behaviour and indoctrinate all new staff into their ways. This further continues the cycle of negativity and becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

The way forward is to remove these "teachers of bad habits" and establish the required behaviours at the start (i.e. Staff Induction and Training). Once the ethos has been established and the staff are held to these new standards, they will have no option but to comply or move on. It is too late trying to change attitudes months after the staff member has started and they have been inducted into the negativity and poor performance.

Improving the Group Dynamic

Diversity- Workforce Diversity

Age, gender, race, demographics, geographic, physical abilities, etc all contribute to the balance of a positive, focussed, goal orientated team of people. With a strong diversity of people with different abilities, backgrounds, qualifications, skill sets and needs will utilise the varied experience, qualifications, knowledge and skills available in a diverse group.

Polzer, Et al (page 94) states that "When establishing a group it is wise to designate as precisely as possible what types of diversity will maximise the group's performance potential based on the particular complexities of the group task."

Stages of the group

Figure Adapted from Wood Et Al Page

Intergroup dependencies will become standardised as each section specialises in a set of processes within the Centre. The workflow interdependency will then become integral to the success/failure of each transaction as the task moves through each section until the client is completely satisfied.

Areas of Concern

Current Status

Recommended Action

Task Performance

No evidence as such

Assess each members skill levels in their current roles and determine what support and training each needs in order to meet the standards required.

Human Resources

Large number of issues outstanding with little effort in resolving them.

Review each staff member and establish a set of standards that will be adhered to by the team member. All must agree and also establish regular periods of review to determine progress.


No evidence as such

Establish targets for the individual, Section &Centre using the Credit Union's targets.

Quality of Work life

No evidence as such

Establish a series of circuit breakers and work life measures to ensure that staff do not burn out. Stress relief measures could be as simple as ordering coffees to having activities outside of the workplace to engender team bonding in a social atmosphere.

Material Resources

Poor -little light, dim and all furniture in poor condition

Ensure the work environment is user friendly by making it compliant with Workplace Health and Safety. Install colour, light, even music to create a positively charged environment


No evidence as such

Encourage people from different cultures and backgrounds to join the team via the networks and linked businesses.

Job Design

No evidence as such

Evaluate the current roles and determine if they are relevant in today's market. Slight amendments or radical changes may be required.


No evidence as such

Establish a period for rotation within the Centre to ensure that all staff are multi-skilled in all facets of the Centre and it's various roles.

Work Arrangements

No evidence as such

Discuss and action where possible flexible work arrangements to ensure that every staff member is able to contribute to the fullest. Parents, Carers, Disabled person, and people affected by various complaints all need to be accommodated for but on a win/win basis with the business.


No evidence as such

Forward planning needs to be established in order for the business to grow. Does the Centre have enough work stations for the staff? Does the Centre have enough staff to achieve it's goals? What are the times lines and measures put in place to ensure progress is being made.


No evidence as such

Manager and Team Leaders need to lead by example. The attitudes, behaviour and performance of the staff is a clear reflection of the management and it's standards


No evidence as such

A set of protocols and auditing measures need to be established to ensure that all staff are compliant. The internal audit measures are

Ethical Behaviour

A selective few are taking advantage of the poor management and using it to their personal advantage.

All staff are to be advised of the current policies of the Credit Union and what is acceptable behaviour. Anyone found to have deliberately breached these policies may face severe penalties.


No evidence as such

A set of Values is to be established and documented. All staff are to contribute and then agree to adhere to them. The team members will then hold each other accountable to those values to ensure there is no backsliding into old habits.

Training and development

No evidence as such

A standardised Induction and Training plan for all staff is to be established. This training plan will then create a career path within the Centre allowing each staff member to move through the various sections based on their performance and attitude.

Proposed new Structure for the Centre.

Haridimos Tsoukas (page 204) lists amongst various other strategies, the "Consensus Strategy is where many members come together naturally converge on the same theme, or pattern, so that it becomes pervasive in the organisation, without the need for any central direction or control."

By adopting the structure below it ensures that each section is inter-dependant on each other for the Centre's overall success. It also provides career pathways for each section as each requires a Team leader to manage the team of specialists for each of the core sections dealt with by the Centre. Each team member will be rotated through each section over a period of time, and only when they have met the desired standards for each section.

The leadership of the Centre will then become distributed amongst the Team Leaders for each of the sections. Although it may at first appear to be top heavy with management, each specialised section must have a leader who is responsible for his/her section's daily performance.

The Team Leader of each section is then responsible for the task activities of each of his/her team. The Team Leader is also responsible for the maintenance activities designed to motivate, co-ordinate and maintain the stability of his/her section.

Maintaining the cohesiveness of the team (in each section and overall) will be a major task to ensure that in the high volume, stressful and time poor environment, people remain focussed on the task at hand and do not let petty misgivings cloud the mission at hand.

"A group becomes a team when each member is sure enough of himself and his contribution to praise the skill of the others." - Norman Shidle Adapted from

Reflection (Task 4)

Completing this task has allowed me to reflect on how I also developed within the Centre during my time there. Prior to joining this group I had never been exposed to a large group of staff and certainly never with such an imbedded negative undercurrent to almost every aspect of their day to day work life.

By analysing and breaking down the components to this workplace, I could in retrospect see how the Centre operated and even some aspects that I was oblivious to at the time.

To take a strategic overview and see the Centre for what it really was compared to what the Credit Union wanted from it - they were polar opposites (some would say bi-polar....)

What I am surprised about is that without any formal qualifications at the time, I managed to opt for many more positive choices than negative ones. Whether this was by intuition or from applying what I learned in smaller teams and then applying to the larger forum I was thankful for the opportunity.

I have learned that at times there will be some hard choices to make but to make them and stand by them is certainly character building. During my working life I have seen many people make unpopular decisions without taking any responsibility, but then are expectant of others to carry them out and manage the complaints.

If you're going to lead, then lead from the front. As opposed to criticising your subordinates for not succeeding because the leader did not articulate their wishes clearly or did not support them when required to in times of opposition.

Managing people and organisations is a lifestyle choice. At times it feels as if you are living and breathing the role and this can be a short term high, but a long term low. With all projects, as with life, things change. People move on and the dynamics change.

With change, comes the reference to Kubrick's grief cycle where people will adapt more readily than others. What makes us different is how we handle these changes, why they are occurring and how they are all managed through to a point where people are accepting of them.