Reflective Account Of My Thoughts Regarding The TMA Feedback

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I believe I do not have problems understanding the course's content. Similarly, I do not feel I have a problem with academic writing and my tutor's comments seem to validate this. I felt somehow constrained by the word limit and the requests from her to justify a couple of statements made me feel I still have to improve in this aspect.

I found PTSD more interesting and easier than CMC. That is why it took much longer for me to elaborate an answer for the later than for the former. I was then surprised to read my tutor review, who thought my answer to Q1c was just good and not very good (as Q2c/ Q3c), and reading her comments I totally agree. One of the things she pointed out was my lack of commitment choosing an assessment and therapeutic method. I should have applied more critical thinking skills but I did not feel I had enough knowledge to make those choices, although it may also reflect lack of self-confidence or fear of being wrong. I learn from my mistakes, even more than from my successes, so I will try to prevent it from stopping me next time. Applying knowledge after learning can be hard but what a great way to consolidate the learning process.

Ref: your consultation regarding your employee D.R.

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You contacted us regarding your employee, D.R., a bus driver who was involved in a collision with a motorcycle. He has been off work for long periods over the last six months since the event occurred. Your company doctor examined him and suspected post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suggesting for you to contact a psychologist.

The diagnosis of PTSD requires the fulfilment of several diagnostic criteria. These are symptoms the person exhibits after being exposed to a serious traumatic event, lasting over a month and being significantly disruptive. Your description of D.R.'s case appears to be at least, borderline, as he was involved in a serious road traffic accident and relates reliving the event frequently. Additionally he has become withdrawn and has required several sick absences. The duration of his symptoms suggest a chronic ailment. We believe these symptoms warrant assessment. We would suggest the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS), in which we have ample experience. This consists of a structured clinical interview that includes a checklist of symptoms that facilitates the identification of traumatic experiences in patients who may find it hard to name them, and it is a validated assessment tool for PTSD.

If the diagnosis of PTSD is confirmed, the treatment recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) for such cases is psychotherapy. However, there is inconclusive evidence regarding which type of therapy works best. In our experience, Eye Movement and Desensitation and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an effective treatment, with the advantage of its shorter duration over other forms of treatment. EMDR integrates many elements of other therapeutic approaches (exposure, desensitisation, cognitive restructuring and classical conditioning) in combination with eye movements or rhythmical stimulation in an attempt to integrate the traumatic memories into adaptive associations. The success rate of this therapy is over 70%.

Ref: your consultation regarding screening witness statements

You contacted us regarding your concern about false witness statements and the use of non-verbal behaviour during interviews to judge the truthfulness of these witnesses. Non-verbal cues occur due to emotion such as guilt, fear or excitement; cognitive demand, due to the extra work that lying entails; and attempted behavioural control, an effort to suppress real or perceived deceiving clues. Many of such cues have been described: gaze aversion, illustrators, hand movements, stutters or speech fillers; some of them increasing and some decreasing in frequency whilst lying. Some of these have even become behavioural stereotypes for deceit.

Unfortunately, much of the research shows that using nonverbal behaviour to detect deception is not very helpful, mainly because the differences between truth tellers and liars is not very big and there are many confounding variables such as culture, age or individual differences. Regrettably, training fails to improve the lie-detection rate using nonverbal cues and the accuracy rates are barely better than those obtained by chance.

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Some strategies that have proven to be helpful with deception detection include having an officer just observing the interviews and indirectly focusing on the lie. Another good solution would be detecting facial micro-expressions; these are genuine displays of emotion that leak when lying, although you would need high quality video footage of the witness face. Additionally, a strategy that can offer you a good cost-effective alternative would be to publicise that you do have a method for lie-detection (as indeed you may have by applying any of the above). This may deter false witness by the fear of being caught as the effectiveness of any method (including the polygraph, currently used in the UK only for sex offender interviews) depends to a big extent on the subject's belief in the efficacy of the implement.

Bibliography

  1. Adler, K. (2002) ‘A Social History of Untruth: Lie Detection and Trust in Twentieth-Century America' Representations, Fall, pp.1-33.
  2. Dalgleish, T. (2008). Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In N. Brace, & H. Westcott, (Eds.). DSE232 Applying Psychology. (2nd ed., pp. 57-116). Milton Keynes: The Open University.
  3. Lilienfeld, S.O., & Arkowitz, H. (2007) ‘EMDR: Taking a Closer Look' Scientific America Special Edition, 17, 4, pp.10-11.
  4. NICE guideline (2005) ‘CG 26 Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)' Available at http://guidance.nice.org.uk/CG26/Guidance/pdf/English Accessed October 1st, 12th and 19th.
  5. The polygraph Rules (2009), Statutory Instruments No 619. Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI). Available at: https://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2009/uksi_20090619_en_1 Accessed November 2, 2009.
  6. Vrij, A. (2008). Telling and Detecting Lies. In N. Brace, & H. Westcott, (Eds.). DSE232 Applying Psychology. (2nd ed., pp. 173-233). Milton Keynes: The Open University.
  7. Vrij, A., Akehurst, L., Brown, L. and Mann, S. (2006) ‘Detecting Lies in Young Children, Adolescents and Adults' Applied Cognitive Psychology. 20, 9, pp.1225-1237.
  8. Vrij, A., Kneller, W. and Mann, S. (2000) ‘The Effect of Informing Liars about Criteria-Based Content Analysis on their Ability to deceive CBCA- raters' Legal and Criminological Psychology, 5, pp.57-70.
  9. Vrij, A., & Mann, S. (2001) ‘Telling and Detecting Lies in a High-stake Situation: the Case of a Convicted Murderer' Applied Cognitive Psychology, 15, pp.187-203.

Introduction and background

Department stores are retail establishments that specialise in wide ranges of the consumers' product needs. They usually occupy large buildings and employ a considerable workforce, requiring a complex organisation.

The turn of the twentieth century saw department stores not only as a dominant mode of retailing but key players in the creation of a consumer society. Initially, department stores were ruled rather than managed but later many businesses embraced the principles of scientific management (Jeacle, 2004). Richfield Brothers, established in 1932, was the first scientifically managed store in England, embracing and implementing many of Taylorism management practices.

However, department stores present special demands on the organisation of staff and the creation of a productive workplace. Many scientific practices, apparently rational and logical in character, have become obsolete. Additionally, family firms have unique organisational characteristics due to the inherent embeddedness in family ties (Cater & Schwab, 2008). Family members are managers, owners and relatives.

This report aims to provide a brief review of scientific management, its application to retail and of other management styles, with the intention of providing a business strategy that embraces efficient business growth, whilst creating a supporting culture.

Analysis

Scientific management and its current applicability

Scientific management (SM)/Taylorism, an early 20th century management style, emphasises the importance of maximising the economic returns from labour. It is an authoritarian style that promulgates a strong hierarchy and believes workers can only be motivated by money (Lawthom, 2008). It utilises empirical ways to find a best way to do each task, and a best match of worker to task (Taylor, 1911). The focus is the performance of the individual worker and how to increase this productivity by hiring and training employees based on their unique skills and promoting their growth within a narrowly defined job description.

The application of scientific principles to retail management faced some complications but was exemplified by Dr. Gilbreth's contributions at Macy's (Graham, 2000). One of the main difficulties to the application of SM principles to retail was that customer purchases could not be regulated like an assembly line. Nonetheless, there were a multitude of job descriptions that benefited from time and motion studies.

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Many of the SM principles were revolutionary and expression of the social context and manufacturing industry in which they were theorised (Van Buren, 2008). Some still apply today, i.e. task-oriented optimisation of work, permeating many modern organisations from governmental bureaucracy to the military. Others have been proven to fail in some aspects. SM is a mechanistic approach to organisational performance that eliminates employees as a source of knowledge, ideas and meaningful contributions; viewing them as machine extensions and a threat to an efficient production process (Hoogervorst, Koopman & van der Flier, 2005). Additionally, the extreme division of labour deskills workers and although they may work harder, they become dissatisfied with the work environment (Wagner-Tsukamoto, 2007).

Weaknesses and strengths of current situation

Many of the strengths and weaknesses of the current business strategy are those inherent in the application of Taylorism principles. The current hierarchical structure consists of store owners, management (includes buyers, department and floor managers) and counter assistants. There is centralised decision-making and formal, primarily downward, communication, with no socialising between the ranks. This reflects how SM is driven by the actions of managers; the role of workers is to produce within the system, without influence on the organisation. This ultimately proved one of the main flaws of SM (Van Buren, 2008).

The system of complementing salaries with commissions also befits the principles of SM as, according to Taylor, each individual was to be paid according to their output, rather than the output of the group, as this led to systematic soldiering, i.e. control of the output by the group (Taylor, 1911). Unfortunately, in Richfield Brothers, commissions are many times snapped up by department managers, a case of managerial opportunism - managers confiscating gains for themselves instead of distributing them as mutual profit-, a circumstance that was already predicted by Taylor (Wagner-Tsukamoto, 2008). The sparse promotion opportunities, lack of participation of workers in decision-making and constant monitoring result in alienation, boredom, isolation and decreased motivation; justifying high staff turnover and sickness (Herndon, 1997).

Some of the advantages of SM are studying each job to determine how it can be most efficiently performed and selecting workers with the abilities to execute each job well, benefiting the organisation and workers alike (Van Buren, 2008). Additionally, training, uniform application of rules and regulations and optimisation of tasks to reduce fatigue, including breaks and schedule optimisation, are hallmarks of SM that were introduced in the retail industry (Graham, 2000). Furthermore, buyers, previously utilising haphazard methods of purchasing merchandise, were instructed to use scientific indicators, such as sales figures, moving towards a more rational system (Jeacle, 2004).

Alternative management styles: People-centred approaches

The recognition of the intangible, psychological rewards that a worker receives from work gave way to the emergence of the human relations school of thought. It showed that the embeddedness in a social group might profoundly affect efficiency and morale and demonstrated that informal leadership exists within groups (Lawthom, 2008).

Originating at the Tavistock Institute, by Trist and Bamforth, Sociotechnical systems (STS) is an approach to complex organizational work design that recognizes the interaction between people and technology in workplaces, emphasising interdependence and equifinality; and draws attention to the quality of working life (Herndon, 1997). STS focuses on empowering autonomous work teams (Manz & Stewart, 1997) giving employees flexibility and latitude to control their own behaviour.

Teamwork. The creation of teams appears to improve organisational performance and employee satisfaction, especially in uncertain economic environments (Applebaum & Batt, 1994 & Cordery, Mueller & Smith, 1991, as cited in Lawthom, 2008). Effective teams have distinct individual compositions (Belbin, 1981, as cited in Lawthom, 2008) although training to work in teams maybe an important although under-researched area (Lawthom, 2008).

Total Quality Management core principles are customer focus, continuous improvement and teamwork/employee involvement (Dean & Bowen, 1994). Organisational governance is done through leadership at every level of the organisation (Hoogervorst et al., 2005).

Management versus leadership. Research into organisations has shown that they need not only to execute business as effectively as possible but also need to devise new directions for future success instigating change and envisioning future (Lawthom, 2008). Improved organisational performance can be expected with some form of non-authoritarian leadership style (Blake & McCanse, 1991, as cited in Lawthom, 2008), whilst maintaining employee trust and commitment. Contingency models suggest that the behaviour of leaders depends on situational variables (Field, 1982 & Vroom & Yetton, 1973, as cited in Lawthom, 2008). Furthermore, transformational leadership emphasises leaders who create change in deep structures, major processes or overall culture (Bass, 1985 & Meindl, 1992 as cited in Lawthom, 2008).

Additional concepts

Customer base. It costs five times less to keep existing customers than to recruit new ones (Eikenhout & Austin, 2005) so any retail business strategy should start by retaining current customers, followed by the identification and targeting of future ones.

The Sears business model. During the mid-1990s, the US company Sears made a radical turnaround from losses to profits by changing the organisational culture. The employee-customer-profit model implemented relies on data obtained using total performance indicators, a set of measures that show how well the firm is doing with customers, employees, and investors and proving the cause and effect relationship between employee behaviour and customer satisfaction (Rucci, Kirn & Quinn, 1998). The success of this model was warranted by full implementation through education and engagement of the whole workforce and by a change in leadership.

A fundamental part of this turnaround strategy was an employee survey including questions about attitude to the job and toward the company. Rucci et al. (1998) believe this had a greater impact on employee loyalty and behaviour towards customers than other approaches, demonstrating the impact of internal communication on business results.

Recommendations

Richfield Brothers needs a turnaround to avoid bankruptcy and make profits. Changes should occur at all levels: individual, group and organisational. Leadership, teamwork and retailing is an area relatively under-researched, hence, seeking academic support would be advisable as it may bring additional expertise.

Recommendation 1 Management change/leadership. In organisational crisis and when a cultural and structural change is needed, research supports top-management change, either by internal promotion or by external appointment, but in any case, bringing additional external management expertise is recommended (Cater & Schwab, 2008). Studies also support people-centred approaches to management over mechanistic, and transformational over transactional leaders, especially when radical changes are needed (Hoogervorst et al., 2005). The Sears employee-customer-profit model can be used for benchmarking.

Recommendation 2 Staff support and empowerment. This should start by making most intended management changes transparent to all staff, encouraging their feedback (Rucci et al., 1998). Additionally, employee surveys are an excellent way of engaging the workforce in the change needed as internal communication improves business results. Investing in the skills of employees is sustainable and results in the identification and promotion of leadership (Miller, 2006). Fuller commitment of staff also requires trust and psychological contracts (Anderson & Schalk, 1998) as part of intra-organisational relationships.

Recommendation 3 Team formation. Strongly linked with the above, team building interventions can be facilitated by occupational psychologists. Research evidence supports the use of tools such as Belbin's Team Role Self Perception Inventory (TRSPI) (Aritzeta, Swailes & Senior 2007) in the creation of effective teams. Team roles are related to leadership styles. Organisations in need of change may emphasise teams led by employees/managers that display certain role characteristics over others (i.e., Plant, Shaper or Resource Investigator in TRSPI).

Recommendation 4 Consolidate and expand current customer base. Customer and employee satisfaction are intrinsically connected. New customers will follow satisfied ones (Rucci et al., 1998). Additionally, customer surveys may help determine their needs and expectations.

References

  1. Anderson, N. & Schalk, R. (1998) ‘The psychological contract in retrospect and prospect' Journal of Organizational Behavior, 19, pp. 637-647.
  2. Aritzeta, A., Swailes, S. & Senior, B. (2009) ‘Belbin's Team Role Model: Development, Validity and Applications for Team Building' Journal of Management Studies, 44, 1, pp. 96-118.
  3. Cater, J. & Schwab, A. (2008) ‘Turnaround Strategies in Established Small Family Firms' Family Business Review, XXI, 1, pp. 31-50.
  4. Dean, J. W., Bowen, D.E. (1994) ‘Management Theory and Total Quality: Improving Research and Practice through Theory Development' Academy of Management Review, 19, 3, pp. 392-418.
  5. Eikenhout, N. & Austin, J. (2005) ‘Using Goals, Feedback, Reinforcement and a Performance Matrix to Improve Customer Service in a Large Department Store' Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, 24, 3, pp. 27-62.
  6. Graham, L. (2000) ‘Lillian Gilbreth and the Mental Revolution at Macy's, 1925-1928' Journal of Management History, 6, 7, pp. 285-305.
  7. Herndon, S.L. (1997) ‘Theory and Practice: Implications for the Implementation of Communication Technology in Organizations' The Journal of Business Communication, 34, 1, pp.121-129.
  8. Hoogervorst, J.A. P., Koopman, P.L. & van der Flier, H. (2005) ‘Total Quality Management. The Need for an Employee-centred Coherent Approach' The TQM Magazine, 17, 1, pp. 92-106.
  9. Jeacle, I. (2004) ‘Emporium of Glamour and Sanctum of Scientific Management. The Early Twentieth Century Department Store' Journal of Management History, 42, 9, pp. 1162-1177.
  10. Lawthom, R. (2008) Relationships at work. In N. Brace, & H. Westcott, (Eds.). DSE232 Applying Psychology. (2nd ed., pp. 309-362). Milton Keynes: The Open University.
  11. Manz, C.C. & Stewart, G.L. (1997) ‘Attaining Flexible Stability by Integrating Total Quality Management and Socio-Technical Systems Theory' Organizational Science, 8, 1, pp. 59-70.
  12. Miller, D. (2006) ‘Strategic Human Resource Management in Department Stores: An Historical Perspective' Journal of Retailing and Customer Services, 13, pp. 99-109.
  13. Rucci, A.J., Kirn, S.P. & Quinn, R.T. (1998) ‘The employee-customer-profit chain at Sears' Harvard Business Review, 76, 1, pp. 82-98.
  14. Taylor, F. W. (1911) The Principles of Scientific Management, Harper, New York, NY. Available at http://melbecon.unimelb.edu.au/het/taylor/sciman.htm, accessed November 2th, 5th, 6th, 12th, 13th.
  15. Van Buren III, H.,J. (2007) ‘Fairness and the Main Management Theories of the Twentieth Century: A Historical Review, 1900-1965' Journal of Business Ethics, 82, pp. 633-644.
  16. Wagner-Tsukamoto, S. (2007) ‘An Iinstitutional Economic Reconstruction of Scientific Management: On the Lost Theoretical Logic of Taylorism' Academy of Management Review, 32, 1, pp.105-117.
  17. Wagner-Tsukamoto, S. (2008) ‘Scientific Management Revisited, Did Taylorism fail because of a too positive image of human nature?' Journal of Management History, 14, 4, pp. 348-372.

Provide a short reflective account of two of the following activities:

b/ using course quizzes to check your understanding

I usually like doing quizzes but I was surprised by the level of depth and detailed knowledge required to answer the quizzes in this course. It made me feel like I had not fully comprehended the chapters and made me re-read them three or four times. The method I used was I would attempt a quiz, responding to all the questions I could. When I got to a question I could not answer, I would read the chapter again, before continuing with the rest of the quiz. It still meant not having a perfect score, but I think this system worked nicely in making me study each chapter in depth. I felt the questions that required more than one answer were particularly challenging.

I also found it very difficult to follow the advice of not repeating the test until getting a perfect score. I think I only achieved that in one occasion. I felt a bit childish, but there was this need in me to get as good a score as possible, even though taking the quiz straight after doing it once meant I could actually remember or deduct some of the corrected answers. So it felt a bit like cheating, although the positive side is that I actually think repeating the test helped consolidating my knowledge as well. To check if this learning method has worked, I retook the stress test whilst preparing the answer for this reflective activity. I was surprised to score higher than the first time I completed the test six weeks ago, so I am very pleased with the overall results.

d/ using a wiki to share and collaborate.

This is the first time I have helped in the creation of a wiki. I am a regular user of “Wikipedia”, the online free encyclopaedia. Although I find this web based tool very helpful and quite reliable as a source of information, I have never participated in its construction. To my surprise, I have found the information technology skills involved in this activity really easy as I though the process would be more daunting. During the first wiki trial for the course, I doubted the efficacy of this method as a learning tool. However, participating in the making of a collaborative website for this course has been not only enjoyable but quite empowering. I have enjoyed and participated in all, including the search activity for PTSD, the based evaluation of CMC and the CMC in education. I felt people got more confident with the tool and participation increased in the later.

At first, I was worried of correcting the grammar or spelling mistakes of my peer's contributions, as I thought they may be offended. But I finally understood that the purpose of the wikis is precisely this. Material can be double checked, corrected or removed by the user community to improve the quality of the final result. I ended up not only learning from it but using some of the information from the wiki in my TMA. I wish more OU psychology courses would offer this facility. I feel it is a fast, clean and reliable way of sharing knowledge, certainly easier and more pleasant that going through the forum posts.

Provide a reflective account of you overall learning on the course.

Largely, I have enjoyed DSE232 although at times I felt the course material and its practical application was better suited for students above level 2 studies. I kept on wondering if I would have enjoyed this course more had I taken it at the end of my studies, as a bridge towards the real practical application of psychology as a career.

I have mixed feelings about the degree of CMC involved in this course. I have enjoyed the wikis but found the forums exhausting at times, with over 100 messages to read if I had missed logging a couple of days. I could have participated more actively in the forum but I was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of messages to read from others. Conversely, that made me more conscious about doing the course work regularly than for other longer courses.

This course has proven that I can end up liking a subject that appears very detached and uninteresting at first. The CMC chapter require a big effort but at the end of TMA, the subject had become interesting enough to tackle the occupational scenario for the ECA.

Also this course has required more reflective accounts than the previous courses I have done and this makes me realise that reflective practices are an important part of the learning experience.