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Interflora is an UK florist trade association. The organization works like a platform which allocates customers to the flower shop and charge the membership fee from florist. At the end of 1980s, some well-known high street brand entered the flower delivery market which made the market become a more competitive market. Interflora was facing with declining sales and difficulty retaining market share within the highly competitive market. The board of Interflora was aware of the crisis and decided to reform their organization. Doug McGrath, a man with rich experience in the morden company, was hired to modernise and commercialise the organization. Doug McGrath believed that the best way to commercialised the Interflora was to convert the company to a plc. In this plan, the company would go public and the shop holder would be staff instead of the owner of the shop. All the membership shops should share the consistent surface, image and uniforms. Interflora will be more efficient and profitable due to the central purchasing of flowers and centralized control of the flower shop. However, change is always a painful journey. Many problems appeared when they tried to implement the plan.
The first problem and the toughest problem faced by Interflora's plan is the cultural crash between family culture and modern culture. Prior to discuss the cultural crash, the article will first analyze what is the "organizational culture". One of the most important frameworks for a successful organization is the organizational culture. "Organizational culture is an idea in the field of organizational studies and management which describes the psychology, attitudes, experiences, beliefs and values (personal and cultural values) of an organization. It has been defined as: the specific collection of values and norms that are shared by people and groups in an organization and that control the way they interact with each other and with stakeholders outside the organization."(Black, 2003) The day to day life of organization and employees all reflect the organization's culture. The cultural difference is the most critical factor which determines organization's structure, behavior, politics, and policies. For example, Loose control culture is an informal culture which determines employees and management tends to be laid back about the work, scheduling, and even costs; while tightly controlled cultures emphasize formality, adherence to standards, punctuality, and so on.( Hofstede, 1997)
Interflora is a cosy family constituted by a group of independent floweriest. Members within the organization are friends to each other and they often have a dinner or coffee together. Its annual general meetings were seaside postcard scenes of egg-and-spoon races and cockney sing-songs. It is belonging of family which gets the floweriest together. Therefore, the family-like organization enjoys a loose control culture. The loose control culture of Interflora determines that members of the organization enjoy sufficient independence. Member shops have all kinds of authority: flower purchasing, independence finance, own image and so on. Interfolra is only a trade association or club for the florists. However, in Dough's plan, a brand new modern culture will be imported into the Interflora to replace the old family culture. It is a tightly controlled culture, and the key word of which is "centralisation". The mission of this culture is to maximum profit and realise the biggest commercial success. Under the direction of modern culture, Interflora will become a tightly controlled commercial organization rather than a big family to florists. In order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Interflora, powers of the organization will be centralised. Florists will only be sales men with no power to make decisions and orders are from the headquarters. All the membership shops should share the consistent surface, image, and uniforms.
Organizational culture is rooted in the shared tacit assumptions of the organization and the majority of culture is below the surface of awareness, therefore it is a difficult and time consuming job to change the organizational culture. Resistance often arises when someone try to change one's culture. It is human's nature to defend the change if they feel their security or status is threatened. "Organizational culture change can generate skepticism and resistance in employees, making it sometimes difficult or impossible to implement organizational improvements" (Folger & Skarlicki ,1999) Resistance is an inevitable response to the cultural change, and there is no exception in the Interflora's case. The new culture of Interfolra is totally opposite to its old culture. Florists are shocked when they find the board try to change their family-like culture and have no idea about what the organization would be. It is hard to make the florists understand the new culture. The crash between modern culture and family culture has been the main reason which leads to the fail of Dough's plan. Some of the florists stand out to resistance the change of the organization. Their resistance has become a political behaviour because they are fighting for their expected outcomes.
Political behaviour began when change proposed. Political behaviours in organizations have been defined as those activities carried out by people to acquire, enhance, and use power and other resources to obtain preferred outcomes in situations where there are uncertainties or disagreements. (Pfeffer, 1981) Political behaviours exist in every organization and it is impossible to eliminate all the political behaviours. Political behaviours in the organization are often connected with words such as: power, struggles, conflicts, influence, and planned and directed attempts to actualise warring interests in the workplace. (Eran, 2003) There are four main reasons which may cause the political behaviour within the organization. First, cultural clash. Cultural clash is often considered to be the main reason which causes political behaviour because of its importance. Culture is the degree to which members have a shared value about how to do things in the best way. The influences of culture clash always show up immediately and the resistance caused by cultural clash is tough. Second, misunderstanding and lack of trust. Resistance can rise if staffs do not understand what the change contain, the necessity of change, and what it is likely to be. Where there is an atmosphere of mistrust between the manager and staffs, management may be reluctant to disseminate information about proposed change. Therefore, the given information may be incomplete or distorted. In this situation, the dissidents may find opportunity to create uncertainty and make some rumours. Third, self-interest. It is important for people to main the status quo because of the benefits associated with it. Change will challenge the present advantages such as, power, status, and influence. Besides, people have already invests a lot on the present jobs or systems, and change is threaten to these investments. These are reasons change is resisted. Forth, opposite assessments. Due to the difference in education and experience, people may have different view on the impact change is going to have. People will have different ideas on advantages and disadvantages to change. This often happens when information about change is inadequate. ( Eugene, 2000)
According to the theory, cultural clash, misunderstanding and lack of trust, self-interest, and opposite assessments are the main reasons which cause the political behaviours. All of these four reasons can be imported to explain the resistance of Interflora's members. Firstly, cultural clash. As it already stated, the clash between modern cultural and family culture is the main reason which arise resistance in the Interflora's case. Secondly, misunderstanding and lack of trust. Idea of the board does not delivery to the members directly. Some florists are confused about the plan and some rumours spread among the people. Misunderstanding gets bigger and stronger, and the members do not trust the board any more. Thirdly, self-interest. In the Dough's plan, all the members should share the consistence surface, image and uniforms. This is a cost and time consuming job and some florists do not want to waste money on it. Fourthly, opposite assessments. Douglas McGrath, former Grand Metropolitan executive, is a man in the business world for a long time; In his view, business means maximum the profits. While the majority of Interflora's members are florists for a life time, and they know little about commercialise and modernisation of the business. Their difference in experience and education has decided their different view on the change of Interflora.
The shape of organizational political behaviours could either be formal or informal. Informal political behaviours refer to behaviours that are not taken place through informal network rather than organizational channel. Formal political behaviours means staffs use the organizational structure and system to solve the problems. (Malhotra, 2009) Both the informal and formal behaviour have a strong influence on the organization. In the Interflora's case, the resistance is informal in the beginning. Members complain with each other through their informal networks family like: having lunch together, and making telephone call. Members are anxious and afraid of what is going to happen. And two of the floweriest: Rose-Marie Watkins and Bev decide to do something to prevent the process of modernization. Writing by hand to all 2,600 Interflorists, the two dissidents campaigned for an Extraordinary General Meeting. At this time, their resistance gets bigger and stronger through the organizational channel. Thanks to the family network has already built an unsatisfactory climate on the modernization plan, their efforts works. The signature gathered by them are enough to force Interflora to hold a special vote, which will take place in Coventry on 11 May at the first EGM ever called by members in Interflora's 74-year history.( )
Organizational politics has a strong influence on the day-to-day life of the organization. Drawbacks of political resistance can be out of people's imagination. Main disadvantages of organizational politics are the following: violate the chain of command, losing control of the company, challenging cherished beliefs and saying no to top management. (Vecchio, 1995) However, what happen in Interflora is more serious. On 11 May, Around 1,500 people attended the five-hour gathering at Warwick University, representing about 1,000 of Interflora's 2,500 voting members. ( ). Not only Rose, Bev and their supporters but also the whole board is shocked by the outcome of the conference that the whole board is dismissed while the action of Interflora's modernization plan is remained.
It can find that the resistance of Interflora's members is unavoidable through analyzing reasons of their political behaviour.
Jyoti Malhotra (08 Jun 209 - last updated) "Power and Politics "
Hofstede, G. (1997). Culture and organizations: Software of the mind. New York: McGraw-Hill
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By Eugene F. McKenna 2000(psychology press New york)
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