Essay: Business Communication Analyze a Bona Fide Communication Problem

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Communication Problem and Analysis

In contemporary business management, communication problems lie at the root of many problems within business organizations. That is equally true within Human Resource Management (HRM) functions (Shadovitz, 2011). Two of the most common types of problems that typically arise within business units or departments have to do with culturally-based differences (Charvatova & van der Veer, 2006) and the degree to which the individuals within the team feel safe expressing concerns or disagreements, especially when those concerns represent potential conflicts with team leaders or with anybody perceived as being in a position of relative authority (Shadovitz, 2011). Our team experienced precisely this type of problem.

Background of the Case Study

Our team comprised eight individuals representing several different cultural, ethnic, and national backgrounds. Two American-born males asserted their de-facto leadership during our very first organizational meeting. They suggested a team vote for the position of Team Leader and one of them was elected by a unanimous informal vote. Immediately thereafter, the official leader and his unofficial co-leader began making most of the decisions for the team, based more on the strength of personality and dominant demeanor. The more they spoke, the less that some other team members contributed to the discussions; and the rest of the team seemed to just follow along in whatever direction the team leader and his colleague led the team.

This interpersonal dynamic led to a significant mistake in judgment that could have been avoided if the other team members had been able to assert themselves more effectively during group meetings. One source of this problem was the fact that some of the team members were from cultural backgrounds that emphasize male domination, especially in business. However, in many respects, that issue only arose because the two team leaders (the official leader and his unofficial co-leader) established an organizational culture in which speaking up to call attention to their mistakes or to disagree with them was strongly discouraged.

As a result, the climate that evolved was one in which the two team leaders, in effect, made almost all of the decisions for the team. If someone disagreed with their analyses or strategies, the two leaders typically overcame those objections by making it clear in various ways that they did not appreciate the input and that life within the team would be more difficult for anybody who disagreed with them or who tried to call attention to their mistakes or oversights.

One of our first assignments as a HRM team consisted of tasks relating to recruitment of prospective employees for the firm. During our team meetings, the team leaders proposed various ways of advertising the positional openings. Two of the female team members did suggest that the team change the way that they described the positions in advertisements, but the team leaders ridiculed them and suggested in somewhat impolite rhetoric that those team members were not in position to question the way that the team leaders phrased the position announcements, since English was the natural language of the team leaders and the two female members of the team who had criticized their choice of phrasing both spoke English as a foreign language. Since that exchange, those two female team members all but stopped contributing to the team discussions altogether and simply looked at one another quietly when they disagreed with the statements made by the team leaders. Generally, they had decided that the interpersonal consequences of disagreeing with the team leaders were worse than the consequences to the team of simply allowing the leaders to dictate how the team went about the business of recruitment.

Similarity to a Real Communications Problem in Contemporary Business

In Aril of 2010, a deepwater oil-drilling platform operated in the Gulf of Mexico by British Petroleum (BP) about 40 nautical miles from Louisiana experienced a catastrophic explosion, killing eleven crew members, injuring seventeen others, and releasing millions of barrels of crude oil into the ecologically-delicate Gulf of Mexico (Foley, 2011). The oil rig, Deepwater Horizon, had been licensed by BP from Transocean Limited and another two companies, Cameron International and Halliburton, provided safety equipment to prevent a blowout in the event of a failure and cement casings used for that purpose, respectively (Foley, 2011).

Prior to the explosion and the resulting environmental catastrophe, risk managers inspecting the Deepwater Horizon had voiced concerns about the need to shut down the operation to investigate the cause of suspicious material that had been coming up with the oil (Barsa & Dana, 2011). That material turned out to be pieces of rubber from the blowout preventer two miles below the surface. The risk managers wanted to shut down the operation to repair or replace the safety equipment but they were immediately overruled by senior management and it was made very clear to them in indirect ways that if they persisted with their objections, they would suffer the consequences. Management chose to disregard their concerns primarily because of the direct cost of the recommended repairs and the lost revenue from temporarily suspending drilling operations to make the necessary repairs (Barsa & Dana, 2011; Foley, 2011). Because the concerns of the risk management professionals were completely disregarded and because they were discouraged from further pursuing a resolution, the harm that resulted was precisely the harm that their recommendations would have prevented had the organizational management listened to them.

Similarly, when our team leaders chose to respond to well-meaning suggestions from two team members by bullying them instead of allowing them equal opportunity to express their concerns and make appropriate recommendations, the team suffered precisely the harm that those two team members had in mind. Specifically, when the team leaders proposed their wording of the advertisement announcing the positional opening, the two female team members responded initially that the wording of the advertisement failed to clearly express the knowledge, skills, and abilities required of viable candidates.

The position in question related to the analysis and management of securities. When the advertisement was originally proposed, one of the female members suggested that the advertisement required additional clarification to avoid confusion, since the term "securities" could be understood more than one way. She and the other female team member both wanted to specify that the ideal candidates for the position had formal degrees in business or in accounting and that the phrase "securities and stock portfolios" be used instead of just "securities." Without taking a team vote, the official team leader and his unofficial co-leader simply ridiculed their suggestion, making reference to their own native-language English fluency, and they suggested that they were operating on a tight budget and, therefore, there was no reason to waste more money making their job announcement advertisement any longer than it was already.

When the first set of responses to the advertisement came in, almost all of them were from business security professionals such as retired police officers and other experts and consultants in providing or improving the security of business organizations against threats to the organization. Only a few responses were from professionals in the field of securities and stock portfolio analysis. This was exactly what the two female members of the team had been concerned about when they tried to object to the wording of the advertisement composed by the two team leaders.

Conclusion

Because the concerns of the two females on the team were not taken seriously and because the individuals in relative (or, in our case, perceived positions of power), they were able to discourage dissenting views or opinions from other well-meaning members of their team. Had they listened to their objections, the team leaders would have recognized that the concerns being expressed were completely valid and that the relatively small cost of adding a few more words to the advertisement announcing the job opening was well worth… [END OF PREVIEW]

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