Imasco Minerals Inc. is a privately owned Canadian company, which has existed for almost 40 years. As a mining and stucco company they manufacture various calcium carbonate products and dolomites. Assets include 2 manufacturing plants and a network of mineral deposits which supply calcium carbonate, quartzite, and granite. They have mining locations in Creston and Benson Lake and plant locations in Creston and Surrey. Imasco Minerals’ head office is in Port Kells, Surrey with an engineering office in Vancouver. They have over 60 employees including: 2 Vice Presidents, 3 Plant Managers, an Accounting Manager, and a Marketing Manager. Independent sales reps service BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Winnipeg, and Washington state. Imasco produces and sells building materials to dealers and stucco contractors including: aggregates, stucco sands, premix stucco, and acrylic stucco. They also sell fine sands, specialty sands, medium to fine grind flours, soil conditioners, and animal feeds to various industrial and agriculture companies. Imasco Minerals has a functional departmentalization with some divisional departmentalization in the sales department. They have a fairly even staff to line position ration with 15 line positions and 13 staff.
Information and Communication
To achieve maximum interpersonal communication between the source and the receiver and to reduce noise Imasco must follow specific steps of encouraging effective and efficient communication, non-verbal communication and active listening.
Effective and efficient communication are tools that keep communication flowing at a fast rate and limits the resources expended to provide it. Imasco already benefits from relying on memos, posted bulletins, group meetings, e-mail, and voice mail instead of being dependant on personal communication, including non-verbal communication.
Non-verbal communication is the use of facial expressions, body motions, and other physical gestures to relay messages. Imasco has a casual business dress code that helps create a friendly, welcome environment where people can maximize their work effort and feel comfortable. Imasco would benefit from space utilization as an integral part of non-verbal communication. The design of a manager’s office has a psychological impact on the employees and the manager. The design may relay to the employee that the person sitting across from them is either the boss or a regular person like themselves, who just want to talk. It is a recommendation to Imasco to have a private place to speak or deal with the employees that is designed similar to the right hand illustration in Appendix 21.
Active listening is communication that encourages people to say what they really mean. Listening skills are essential for Imasco’s supervisors, as it is helpful in maintaining a positive work attitude and happy employees. Active listening should not be assumed to exist at Imasco, it should be continuously encouraged by management for the employees’ practice. Giving ‘permission to speak freely’ to employees or ‘off the record talks’ at private and group meetings would accomplish this task.
Noise interferes with communication. Physical distractions are noises that alter communication from sources. It is recommended for management at Imasco to deal with one person at a time when dealing with serious employee problems. An office assistant walking in to the office to get something signed, the phone ringing in the middle of someone’s sentence or the e-mail alert on one’s computer chiming away are all common physical distractions that interrupt the manager from the conversation with the employee. Semantic problems, another form of noise, are barriers in communication that arise from the poor usage of words to relay a message. With semantic barriers, management at Imasco need just remember the KISS principle…Keep It Short and Simple.
A mixed message occurs when words say one thing while nonverbal cues say something else. An employee stating yes to a task but with a facial expression of stress is giving a mixed message. The words would indicate agreement but the facial expression may suggest that other important reservations for the employee exist, perhaps in their personal life.
Cultural differences provide barriers when communicating in a multicultural workplace. A translator may be required for language differences. Product language is another issue that can either ‘make or break’ the marketing of new products. Ford’s car the Ka, which meant mosquito in Japanese, was a product language problem. The marketing of a vehicle that has the name of a disease-carrying insect would be difficult in Japan. Language should always be well researched and investigated if barriers arise.
One way communication such as: memos, E-mail, voice mail, and letters result in the barrier of an absence of feedback. It is recommended that Imasco management continually give feedback to employees with information from the questions they asked. One way messages are easy for the sender, but can be frustrating for the receiver. The solution is to simply give direct, specific feedback information either privately or in a group without putting it off.
The final barrier of communication is the status effect, the problems of communication between higher and lower ranks. It is common for people to be reluctant to communicate bad news in a workplace, also called the MUM effect. This effect can be driven by a fear of retribution for bringing bad news, an unwillingness to identify personal mistakes, or just a general desire to please. Imasco management must spend some time out of their office, walking around the workplace. This MBWA, Management By Wandering Around, has a positive psychological effect on employees; seeing their supervisor/manager spending the time to directly communicate with them, greatly reduces the psychological distance between subordinates and management.
Organization communication is the process by which information is exchanged in the workplace, via formal and informal channels, direction of flow, and different networks. Formal channels follow the official chain of command, where as informal channels are those that are a more network like style where everyone communicates with everyone, such as the ‘grapevine’. Imasco follows the formal and informal channels by communicating upward, downward, and laterally across ranks. Imasco management must always communicate downward because it reminds employees of policies, strategies, objectives, and technological developments. Communication helps minimize the spread of rumors and creates a sense of security and involvement among receivers. It is recommended that Imasco practice all three directional communication techniques for what Appendix 22 depicts each direction to do. Communication networks also play a key part in the way groups function and the performance results they achieve. The network types help describe the advantages to a decentralized/centralized network and the disadvantage of a restricted communication network. Imasco follows the network styles well and benefits from the use of the centralized and decentralized methods.
Organizations have advanced to the realm of voice mail, e-mail, fax transmissions, computer mediated conferencing and the Internet. Adapting to these changes correctly can help Imasco become more productive. Potential disadvantages that accompany the technological advances are impersonal factors. Imasco should be cautious when communicating in this new way, because the electronic medium can influence emotional aspects of a message. An example is that it is far easier to be blunt, overly critical, and insensitive when communicating electronically rather than face to face. Imasco should also be careful to avoid information overload, the massing of information on the networks at too high of a rate for the computers to handle. This can lead to a frustrating job of sorting for the individual user.
Other than a formal education most of Imasco’s salary workers do not have proper training in conflict recognition, management, and resolution. An understanding of conflict would improve interpersonal relationships, productivity, and how stressful and complicated situations are handled throughout the organization.
Training will have to begin at the top of the organization with the management and supervisors. A specialist on conflict in organizations will have to be contracted to speak to the salary workers of the organization. Judy Hutfelter the Accounting Manager and Human Resource Representative has been to a conflict resolution seminar and may be able to find a speaker. Imasco management needs to learn the basics of conflict, which are type of conflict, substantive or emotional, and the difference between functional and dysfunctional conflict. Where functional conflict results in positive benefits to the group or organization and dysfunctional conflict results in destruction and hurt to the organization or group. Most importantly Imasco employees will benefit from training in conflict management.
Conflict management training has to begin with lessons on the stages of conflict so that management can identify and work through the stages to resolve the conflict.
Antecedent Conditions, establish conditions from which conflict may develop
1. Perceived conflict, where substantive or emotional differences are sensed
Felt conflict, where tension motivates action
2. Manifest conflict, where conflict is openly expressed
3. Conflict resolution or suppression, where conflict is resolved or suppressed
4. Conflict aftermath.
Presently, Imasco’s dominant conflict management approach is hierarchical referral therefore problems go up the chain of command. This approach does not need to be changed, but other approaches need to be brought in to accompany it. Suggested indirect approaches are appeals to common goals and altering scripts and myths. Imasco managers and supervisors also need to be knowledgeable in direct approaches to be able to use the appropriate approach in the right situation. Direct approaches to be used are: accommodation, avoidance, collaboration and problem solving, competition and authoritative command, and compromise.
Although the conflicts in the Imasco plants are minimal plant managers and supervisors need to be aware that a multicultural plant already has antecedent conditions and that perceived conflict and felt conflict are already happening because of cultural differences. The geographic differences of the plant employees will also set antecedent conditions. Plant managers and supervisors only need to observe and listen to employees to determine if the conflict will manifest. Racial slurs, defensive body language, and lack of teamwork are all signs of manifesting conflict. A management approach that will help stop multicultural and geographic conflict and focus the employees is an appeal to common goals. Employees will realize their interdependence in achieving goals and put petty differences aside. To enforce an appeal to common goals management approach plant managers and supervisors need to express and promote interdependence, teamwork, and open discussion on how to achieve goals and improve performance. The direct conflict management approach plant managers and supervisors use will depend on the unique situation. The best approach is collaboration and problem solving however not all situations need to be worked through extensively nor do all situations need to take up time to solve. On the other hand if plant managers use avoidance when problem solving is needed, because of long term relationships, the conflict will go underground and the aftermath may result in future episodes. Proper training will give plant managers and supervisors the education to make the right decision. Plant managers may also want to contract out a cultural advisor to assist in educating plant employees on different cultures therefore correcting antecedent conditions through knowledge.