Case Analysis Of Centaur Office Supplies Business Essay


The case study describes a pattern of organisational dysfunction encountered in medium to large organisation today. An individual or group needs to align themselves with his/her organisations goals. Hindrance to this can be explained or demonstrates ineffective leadership from hgis or her manager.

The case study identifies that there is a relationship conflict due to interpersonal incompatibilities between Frank Wilkes and George Bennett. As with all relationship conflict, this one belongs to the dysfunctional type as George has been very assertive and uncooperative with Frank Wilkes.

Problem in this case study arose from Sales Director Frank Wilkes and the Production Director , George Bennett interpersonal conflict, resulting from George refusal to implement a rush job in favor of Frank. In this case their individual goals and ideologies according to Handy (p .301) might be the main cause of their conflict. Clearly Simon Yates at Centaur cannot tolerate this type conflict especially between his directors.

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I n the Short term Frank Wilkes has tendered resignation whereas in the Long term the company faces a competitive turbulent market and its difficulty keeping hold of its regular customers while increasing their customer base.


Handy (1999, pg 299 -300) listed clearly symptons that can be applied to centaur conflict. Lateral and vertical Commincation was poor between sales and production departments. Interpersonal friction existed between Frank and Georg etc. As it further states its possible the there is an inherent competition between both parties.

This case study shows the existence of two types of conflict, intergroup organizational conflicts (work style clashes, seniority/juniority and pay equity conflict, in this case the goal-directed behaiviour of Frank blocks that of George ) and interpersonal conflict (form of conflict for workplace participants in this case between the directors ) (a) .

Organisational behaviour tells us that Power struggle can also be major source of organizational conflict (Buchanan & Huczynski, 1997 Pg 821, fig 24.1).

The destructive nature of this conflict affects morale, productivity and even turnover as in Centaur

Although conflict is often perceived as something negative, research suggests that some conflict can actually improve organizational effectiveness as shown in fig 1.0 at page3.

Handy also stated that organisation conflicts results due to changes in technology, organizational re-structuring, business demands and competitive pressures, Muzafar & Carolyn (1950) stresses the need for organisational structural change when conflict arise. Business demands from its competitive market might have triggered this conflict here..

Personal motivation and power not inclined with organisational needs in the competitive market resulted also in this subordinated conflicts.

Societal Level of Analysis

Centaur is faced with increased competition which should trigger organisational change. Organisation like Centaur with fierce competition are well advised to debureaucratise rather than remain bureaucratic.

Centaur's structure is a 'Tall Organization Structure' (Buchanan & Huczynski, 1997 Pg 452). Tall structures generally implies a high level of bureaucracy with few employees reporting to each director as in this case. So the the span-of-control of each director is thin, small or narrow.

The dynamic nature and changing activities of centaur calls for management action in (Emery-trist) turbulent environment been experienced [2]& [3] .

Theorist Burns and Stalker emphasis the need for organisational structural change for Centaur. Centaur should align it self to fit this turbulent environment. They also implied that bureacracy does not fit an unstable environment. Hence a differentiated structure is needed in accordance with contingency theorist.

A more responsive organisational structure is needed to ensure Centaur survival, Centaur needs to control his environmental uncertainty ( keeping customers and acquring new ones) by maintining customers loyalty etc.

Organisational level of Analysis

Centaur should be operating in a bureaucratic way, opposed to various theories of structure-environment 'fit' (lawrence and Lorsch; Burns and Stalker). This features task specification, a rigid 'top-down' chain of command and communication for example from the case study ' '……dealing with all the Centaur bureaucracy a quote by Frank Wilkes '. Besides the absence of inter-departmental cordinational mechanisims ( a main feature in weekly meeting) might resolve work related issues before the conflict arose.

The turbulent envitronment faced by Centaur requires its flexibility and responsiveness.

Though George Bennett has masterminded the new technology that does not seem to be fully utilised to meet organisation goals. This new technology threatens to erode Wilkes's autonomy and power base complectly '..boasting centaur sales by 20% a year'.

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Buchanan & Huczynski also wrote that power is also an antidote to organisational conflict as said earlier. Evidence that Frank Wilkes has had this confrontation with George Bennett before might indicate this to Simon Yakes. Who took no action to prevent this battle happening again.

Looking at the culture again at Centaur, It is clear that the environment the company is in favours a task culture instead of a role culture ( Handy 1999, chapter 7), which is appropriate for Centaur flexibility and its sensitivity to the market.

For impromptu jobs like the Atlas account a designated team should be form. This would allow centaur to cope with its climate and technology already implemented by George. An introduction of designated teams to address rush jobs like that of atlas might be an innovation needed in Centaur, Handy stated that task culture is suitable for innovative flexible organisation like Centaur. Table 1 below (copied from TMA D solutions) shows that relationship, buttressing the need for a change in culture in favour of Centaur competitive environment.

Centaur management style is still a superior/boss centred and authoritarian , this need also to change to adapt to a team-based and participative management because there is no indication that Simon is aware about the Atlas account until he was told.

There is no evidence also that Simon's has weekly departmental performance meetings. If so these issues would have been tackled in such meetings. While this may be appropriate to track the ongoing performance, and what needs to be done when new account is acquired.

Simon is well aware of the teaming issues between Frank and George in the previous encounter and yet didn't take any action to correct their conflict. His move might give an impression that he is favouring George in his decision making as opposed to Frank.

The case study also shows that Frank Wilkes's has problem with authority and working with cross Functional units directors, The case study also confirms that he thinks too high of himself , his successes undermines the need of the organisation goal or rather he is been motivated by sales. Is it a result of passed untackled conflicts or is his attitude because he brings 20% sales to Centaur I wonder?, Anyway this was not validated in the case.

The implementation of the new automation technology should have triggered a change from bureaucracy. Alvin Toffler(1970) , (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2007 Pg 593) suggested adhocracy as a adaptive flexible organisation style suited for this environment as opposed to Centaur bureaucracy.

Group Level of Analysis

Different work teams are not working towards the organisation goals , possible because they have different motivational benefits.

Different methods of communication are effective and appropriate for different situations and audiences. When faced with conflict Simon method was one of more of authoritative to get the order in . Maybe getting both director on table might resolve it amicably. Assertive communication is the only response expected from Simon which will give him the chance to solve the conflict in a positive manner. He will then have a fruitful result rather than been upset, or bitter and having a passive hostile or violent behaviour from Frank. This approach will even ask George for possible alternatives to get the order in on time.

Also Franks method of communicating with George should be more persuasive (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2007 Pg 186 ,table 6.3) , reasoning with George , or as Simon puts it 'humour him' to get things done rather than been hostile.

In a turbulent market as the one Centaur is in (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2007 Pg 387-389) cross-functional teams (or CFTs) might be useful in improving market and customer focus. I stated earlier that Centaur faces a long term problem of retaining its customers. This team might be vital also in solving the issue of jobs like the Atlas contract and keeping hold to their customers while trying to acquire new ones.

This case study showed no cohesiveness as buttress by Henri Tajfel 's social identity (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2007 Pg 346). This has affected their organisation goals and has lead to internal conflict also.

Work group cohesiveness and perceived task competence would be associated with individual group member's performance and organizational commitment.

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Simon should realise that for a MD, he must realize the paradox that surrounds dispute. The team requires to adopt conflict as a way of bringing forth and assessing ideas. While simultaneously, it must withdraw from it to prevent rage, disappointment, or estrangement. The greatest challenge as the MD is to work out how to balance these two drives.[7]

According to Fiedler's there should have be a match between Simon leadership style and the task culture existing.

Contingency model by Fiedlers emphasis the need for Simon with a strong position power, a high task structured environment but with a poor relationship with his directors to adopt a relationship-oriented style especially with Wilkes.

It seems that Simon Yates leadership style show favouritism for George. Change from (Goleman's leadership style Buchanan & Huczynski, 2007 Pg 715 ) coercive leadership to a more affiliative leadership style might be ideal. Handy ( pg171 & 177) emphasis the need for Simon to adapt his leadership style to the requirements of his subordinates. Simon should deviate from his authoritative , directive role to a more supportive leadership role favouring House's path-goal theory, this would help him to be more involved in e.g. Atlas , consolidated rental and any other production business to date.

As a managing director Simon must take some of the blame for allowing this conflict since it happened before. He has failed to address the issues towards the organisation goals hence facilitating inter-departmental co-operation.Simon's leadership style has been autocratic (Vroom and Yetton's Aii category) instead of been Gii category more suited for centaur.

The way that Simon encourage and support Frank and George in achieving organisational goals has to change in accordance with Vroom's Expectancy Theory. Simon phone call to George does not create satisfaction from his subordinate causing less motivations. There was no evidence showing that he motivates them inclined with their needs and organisation goals as opposed to the path-goal theory.

Individual level of Analysis

There seem to be no specific motivation techniques that provide feedback to enhance performance, this might have avoided this conflict. It seems that bonus is the driving force for both directors, this is not in accordance with Edwin Locke's goal -setting Theory (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2007 Pg 254-6),Hence the differences in the Frank and George's motivation.

Simon's Centaur leadership style should suit centaur environment , theories stress using different styles of leadership appropriate to the needs created by different organizational situations. It opposed Fiedler's contingency theory by not been effective . Moreover Vroom and Yetton's decision participation contingency theory or the Normative decision theory (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2007 chp 21.), with regards to 'the amount of disagreement among subordinates with respect to their preferred alternatives' proved that he should have addressed this conflict when it happened prior to this situation.


Centaur faces problems in both the short and long term. My analysis suggests three key causes of Centaur problems. First there is a mismatch between the organisation cultures and their activities; Secondly subordinate conflicts a result of organisational environmental change has not been tackled and thirdly the managing director has an inappropriate leadership style


As a Manager Simon Yakes's biggest challenge is which way to move forward. He has only very few options but he needs to choose one that will minimize the impact on Centaur Operations. If he accepts Frank Wilkes's resignation that will send a wrong message to remaining team setting a precedent for future subordination. Handy ( pg 322) emphasis the need for multiple managerial roles fitting the situation centaur faces.

If Simon decides not to entertain Frank's request, which is mostly likely to happen, then this dysfunctional conflict may have a bigger impact on Centaur group's cohesiveness. As with any dysfunctional conflict, this needs to be monitored and managed carefully until it is fully resolved.

I expect the MD Simon Yakes to make a (according to Aroba 1978) a logical decision. As an MD there is no evidence that shows he knew day to day running in the business . possible need for a regular meeting with the HOD'S


It's not an option as it will lead to negativity. this option was taken in the last conflict , Where Simon showed his annoyance, and Wilkes calming down. But this time he has offered his resignation. Hence this action was and now a very risky.

OPTION 2a: Short term: Convincing Wilkes not to go

This can be tempted as a quick fix or work around which avoids the issue but allow work to continue, The problem here is that it impose restrictions the behaviour of the teams and individual and ends up been a less efficient way of addressing the root cause of the problem

OPTION 2b: Short term : Accepting Wilkes resignation

Accepting Wilkes resignation would be detrimental temporarily to the growth of centaur as there would be a possibility of losing some of their contracts and sales margin drop. Though it might improve morale as no one is dispensable but that action might lead to others members resigning. Beside it will cost Centaur more to recruit another suitable Sales Director who might face the same problem Wilkes faced.

OPTION 2c: Short term : Remove George permanently or move him to a new role

Though this might alleviate the conflict temporarily, it would increase Wilkes power. But will cause discord across the organisation hierarchy. Also the underlying problem created by Simon's bureaucracy still exist, possibly for the new production director.

OPTION 3a: Long term : Organisation Restructuring

Integrate both sales and production department with a Senior Manager as firm becomes more competitive Ref: work of Hickson et al , 1986. By examining the organisational structure as a way of managing high levels of inter group conflicts.

This move might remove further conflict as the Senior manager will be in tuned with whatever orders/ account received and how they are to be tackled avoiding conflict escalation in future but it will improve cross departmental and interpersonal relation ( non existent between Frank and George). Furthermore this change has to be gradual , But would the chairman want it to be debureaucratise?

OPTION 3b: Change in Bureaucratic leadership style

The change in organisational environment to a turbulent one which is in line with a task culture does not favour Simon Yates Bureaucracy. If it does not change we will end up with organisational behaviour that end up as we seen that matches psychological dysfunction that arises from individuals operating in conflicting goals.

As the case study shows Simon leadership style is not suited for a task oriented culture. He might be sent on a training course in an effort to help him change his style. This drastic change might mot be accepted resulting in Simon decision to quit or to be suspicious of the intent.

OPTION 3c: Long term :Conflicts resolution /management strategy

Handy (pg 309) advised turning conflicts into a more meaningful competition and finally controlling it. Here is a summary of the various step-by-step procedure, I found in my research:


Environment setup for goal resolution.

Be certain that all parties are interest to solve this conflict.

All parties should be aware it's a mutual problem- not win/lose

Find the root cause of the conflict.

Create with participation from the group solution options

Discuss the best possible agreeable solution with all parties involved.

Selected solution implementation.

Is the solution a success/failure.

Rejoice or go back to 6

OPTION 3d: Long term : Team Member Workshops

Workshop possible outline:

Action 1 - conflict resolution awareness- summary, examples, Reason to learn and change.

Action 2 - conflict resolution training- managing situations of conflict by workshops skills and techniques.

Action 3 - mediation training- for the directors to become certified mediators, and provide future support.

Action 4 - reinforcement workshops- informal sessions to reinforce key concepts and continue to improve participant awareness and ability to handle conflict.

Action 5 - institutionalization of the program- assign on-going support, maintenance, and mediation services to specific group.

OPTION 4: Long term : Holding Weekly and Monthly meetings

Handy (pg 300) stressed the importance of meetings to improve communications. It can also be used to review the overall condition of Centaur and review recent successes


Whatever else is done, this conflict has to be avoided in future. In the short term allowing Wilkes(option 2b) to go would hit the company's profit though will bring an end to the conflict and increase George's power. But Simon leadership style would again cause conflict with Wilkes' replacement and other departmental directors.

Since Simon leadership style according to (Heller and Yukl) reflects the organisation culture, the conflict existing result from working in an impersonal, rule-bound bureaucratic environment.

For a long term view I would recommend a combination of Options 3. We should convinced Wilkes to stay and the company should initiate a process of changing the bureaucratic culture to a more supportive style and to heal the wound between Wilkes and George by courses improving the relationships such as team workshops (option 3d) and strategy to resolve the conflict (option 3c).


I would opt for an reorganization of Centaur. Changing to an organizational task structure would require sensitive handling. Getting Simon to change his leadership style might prove problematic. As a neutral consultant I would call for a meeting or team building workshop with the directors explaining my findings and make necessary solutions as outline above.

All short term options should be carried immediately whereas the long term solution will be give 3-6 months to be carried out. It will also be necessary I come back for re-evaluation when completed.