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As the Customer Service Branch Chief, I am devoted to ensuring customer satisfaction standards are met and group cohesion is established within my team. I am aware that customer complaints are on the rise and assure you that action will be taken to rectify the issue. The purpose of this memo is to provide you with my diagnosis identifying the cause of the group dysfunction within the customer service branch and my recommendation of a course of action that would enhance teamwork, performance and increase customer satisfaction.
The customer service satisfaction is gradually decreasing and the number of customer complaints has been increasing in the Customer Service Branch. As you are aware, the Customer Service Branch is composed of a diverse workforce of five customer service representatives (CSR). The individuals range in age, abilities, skills and experience. The group is a heterogeneous group composed of members with different social backgrounds, education, and expertise which can increase productivity, but can also create conflict amongst group members.
One of the main observations is the group's lack of social interaction and communication with each other. The employees do not assist each other with tasks and have minimal collaboration. The group is also made up of multiple generations ranging from retirement ready workers to new college graduates. For example, Jane and Larry are older employees than Ted, Mary and Mamie. The generation and age difference creates conflict in the workplace between the employees. In addition, there appears to be a lot of interpersonal conflict between individuals which also impedes group development. The employees do not relate to each other and have any form of work relationship within the group. This impedes communication and group cohesion. Employees are not comfortable with each other to ask for help or provide support. In his book, "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team", Patrick Lencioni describes the following five dysfunctions in a team which may apply to the CSR's.:
Absence of Trust
Fear of conflict
Lack of commitment
Unwillingness to hold each other accountable.
Inattention to results
The group possesses the majority of these dysfunctions such as lack of trust and commitment for each other. Rather than a team, the staff is a collection of individuals. The group lacks work group socialization since individuals act on their own versus trying to work towards reducing the customer complaints as a team. Champoux states that "high levels of tension during interpersonal interactions, an antagonism between parties are all signs of dysfunctionally high conflict" (Champoux, 2011). The work environment is negative and the individuals do not seem to get along nor have any relationships or sentiments towards each other. The office also lacks group norms that tell the employees what acceptable behavior is. The group also lacks the social structure that identify their respective roles in providing customer service to our customers. In addition, the group is also not a team. There are differences between a group and a team. Some of the differences are in their goal-orientation, their synergy, their accountability, and their skill applications (Week 4 Lecture). Group communications usually revolve around the sharing goals and information to help each other to perform within each one's area of responsibility. Teams, on the other hand, work together as a unit to perform functions usually within various areas of responsibility (week 4), which are all things this group is lacking.
COURSE OF ACTION:
My leadership strategy involves being employee centered and path-goal oriented. My course of action is to provide clear guidance on the organization's vision, mission and values, as well as developing the employees as a team and individually. The first step is identifying to the group PrimeCell's vision statement, mission statement and values and ensuring the group understand them. The vision and mission provide strategic direction and purpose to the organization as well as describing how the organization operates. The organization's goal is to provide exceptional customer service to our customers and increase shareholder profits. In order to do this, customer complaints must decline.
The next step would be identifying the group's organization structure, norms and individual roles. After the group structure is identified, I will meet with each individual to discuss the values and norms established. During this discussion, I will also be evaluating the employees and setting performance standards as well as discussing personal goals and aligning them to the organization's goal of reducing customer complaints. In addition, during this meeting the employees will be made aware of the values and standards of PrimeCell and what is considered appropriate behavior in the workplace and how to behave like a winning team. In addition, to promote group cohesion and teamwork I will realign job duties so individuals rely on each other to complete tasks and provide team building skills training and activities. The group behavior will be monitored to during group stage development to ensure tension, friction and conflict is reduced. An incentives and rewards program will be implemented and positive behavior accomplished as a team will be rewarded to further promote group cohesion and teamwork.
The initial goals are to establish guidelines, trust, communication and support to create an effective team. The establishment of clear guidelines is essential for employees to understand and follow in order to give employees a standard base of operations . Being clear about the group's organizational structure, roles, responsibilities, mission, and goals can make a big difference in how successful a group is (Simon-Brown 1999). A structure exists when the group decides and agrees on the roles and responsibilities of the group members. Therefore, a specific role and additional responsibilities may be given to some of the employees; for example, Larry and Jane will be assigned as Senior Customer Service Representatives or Team Leads. This status structure would help develop the group's communication network and create some interaction within the employees. This will also allow group members to seek additional guidance and assistance out of the norm from within the group. Champoux (2011), states that "a group's structure can affect its members and the performance of the group"; therefore, organizational structure would be beneficial in the Customer Service Branch.
To further increase trust and communication between myself and the employees, as well as with each other, open dialogue and communication will be established within the group. This will allow relationships and sentiments towards each other to form and trust will be established amongst the individuals. Champoux (2011) states that a cohesive group has members who are attracted to the group's task and other members of the group, so the goal will be to provide experiences where the employees are able to connect and develop working relationships with each other. Group cohesion within team results in several positive outcomes such as high performance goals and higher level of cohesiveness which is a winning situation for the organization. According to Wright & Drewery (2002), cohesive groups generally seem to outperform non-cohesive groups. They state that one of the ways in which this occurs is through communication. They found that as group members communicate openly, they make a commitment toward group goals and operate in a flexible and motivating manner, which results in greater cohesion. In addition, the interaction between group members led to a higher level of cohesiveness. As people were engaged in conversation and interacted more frequently they began to become more attracted to each other, finding common interests and developing a deeper level of emotional attachment.
To increase the potential of cohesive group formation, I will restructure job activities to allow interaction among the group members. This will create opportunities of communication and collaboration. Throughout years of study, cohesion has been the most important outcome among small groups (Wright & Drewery, 2002). According to Champoux (2011), "compatibility of group members in both needs and personality can lead to higher group productivity". Therefore, when members are not compatible with each other and do not share the same needs and goals, conflict within a group increases.
A diverse workforce is essential for high performance. Research shows that although compatibility can lead to high performance, groups with members of diverse abilities who apply those abilities to group tasks are also effective (Champoux, 2011). Group behavior research suggests that differences among group members cause individuals to interact in ways that may enhance or weaken group performance. Dissimilarities among members may cause the development of negative attitudes about work groups, leading to dysfunctional performance (Valenti & Rockett, 2008). By meeting with the individuals I will be identifying their specific needs and goals and discussing my performance standards and expectations of teamwork in reducing the customer complaints. The implementation of the incentive program will enable me to use the individual needs to provide intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Teamwork and group cohesion will be enhanced by rewarding positive group behavior.
My employee-centered leadership style will focus on the people, their personal success and will make the employees feel valued. In addition, the path-goal theory would assist employees in reaching the goal of reducing customer complaints. The ultimate goal is to create an autonomous work team that works toward a specific goal, such as reducing customer complaints and increasing customer service, with minimal influence from management. This empowers the employees and allows them to set their goals and be responsible for achieving those goals. In this situation, the team will have more control in establishing internal goals and work practices that guide the direction the team wants to take. The implementation of team building exercises and job activities will encourage more interaction with each other would help with the group formation as well. I will be glad to discuss my course of action with you during our weekly meeting and receive your feedback and recommendations.