Class ‘wrap’

I was pleasantly surprised by this class because my previous experiences with management courses have been with organizational behaviour, which I personally believe is a pseudo-science at best and a ‘re-branding’ of common sense practices at worst. However, in this class we learnt about management theories and styles and it mixed well with practical guest lectures so I could see how they worked in the real world. I enjoyed it as I enjoyed a class during my Library and Information Technology Diploma called Library Philosophy and Functions, which meshed the history of libraries and books with trends and issues in libraries. In that class we also had a charismatic teacher who taught using personal experiences as examples.

I’ve already used something that we learnt our first class. When you start a new job, always be suspicious of the person who’s overly friendly and welcoming, because they’re the person everyone learns to avoid. When I moved into my current residence I was welcomed enthusiastically by the room mate who turned out to be quite emotionally unstable, but I knew right away. It’s possible I knew this through previous experience, but that small nugget of information that we’d learned in class that week was swimming around my brain.

Of course we’ve learned more academic things, like flat versus hierarchical management and what makes the culture of an organisation, but one thing I thought we’d have an entire module on, rather than just two weeks, was finances and budgeting. My observations while working in libraries have led me to believe that librarians spend much of their time balancing budgets and working with funding, but a lot of what we’ve learned in our first semester has been research-based, not only in this class, but in our other modules as well. However, that’s feedback for the entire program, and not one single course.

I believe that my thinking has changed and I’ve become a lot more analytical about my relationships with other people when I work with them on a project or event, which may or may not be a good thing. People don’t like to be catered to or catered for, even in the name of diplomacy, but if you’re open about it, especially for a class assignment or project at work, then it can be appreciated.

The Middle Man

This week we were given four case studies to choose from and I chose, ‘The False Promise of Organizational Culture Change: A Case Study of Middle Managers in Grocery Retailing’ by Emmanuel Ogbonna and Barry Wilkinson because I worked in a grocery store for two years and had some interesting experiences with managers there. I read, ‘A student’s guide to analysing case studies’ in preparation, but found it was pretty common sense; there was a tantalizing mention of various theoretical tools and methods, but no explanation of them. The third reading, ‘God – and the devil – are in the details’ by Glen Holt was very interesting to me because it addressed the management style I’m hoping to use for my Individual Focus Study.Leadership Committee

The chain of grocery stores that I worked for is called Save-on-Foods and it’s parent company is owned and operated by the local billionaire Jimmy Pattison. Save-On has a culture of inclusiveness; one of its values is employing persons with disabilities. This is something that has been there since Jimmy Pattison (He’s always ‘Jimmy Pattison’ – ‘Jimmy’ would be creepy and totalitarian and ‘Mr. Pattison’ would just be weird) started the company be he feels strongly about it. As such, I never witnessed an attempted change of culture there. As strange as it sounds, (because the chain is so widespread in my home province) Save-On never seems big enough to attempt that sort of project. Sure, it has cheesy ad campaigns, but no matter my jobs ups and downs I never felt like the company would get so big for their boots that they would think they could change the values of their employees. Perhaps this is why, unlike the (humorously accurate) description of floor workers in the Ogbonna and Wilkinson article, many floor workers at Save-On work there for life, and why it becomes the centre of their personal lives.

Ultimately, I think that changing the values of middle managers is just as disastrous a concept as changing the values of floor workers. One thing that Ogbonna and Wilkinson come close to stating, but never do, is that (a) employees always know when upper management is trying to change their ‘values’, (b) they resent it, and (c) just who does upper management think they are anyway?

The nerve.

References

A Student’s Guide to Analysing Case Studies

Heathfield, S. M. (July 15th, 2013). 10 reasons why your employees hate you. Human Resources Guide, , September 29, 2013.

Holt (2002). God – and the devil – are in the details. The Bottom Line, 15(4), 174-175. Retrieved September 9, 2011, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 274375901)

Ogbonna, E., & Wilkinson, B. (2003). The False Promise of Organizational Culture Change: A Case Study of Middle Managers in Grocery Retailing. Journal Of Management Studies, 40(5), 1151-1178. doi:10.1111/1467-6486.00375