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Electronic communication is convenient and reliable, especially for managers who are rarely in the office. As a manager of a team, Craig was not prepared for a work environment that required the use of telecommunication, hence the challenge of easily resolving problems that arose among off-site workers. In fact, the conflicts between off-site workers escalated so quickly that it got out of control. This is because Craig did not demonstrate competence and knowledge as a team leader and manager. The effectiveness of off-site teams depends on adequate and reliable communication between the manager and the team.
Craig made mistakes in his managerial style since the attention given to off-site staff was inconsistent. He failed to realize the need to alter his behavior to meet the standards of managing and understanding groups and teams. Working off-site implies that the team members and the manager do not meet and interact through face-to-face (Maruca, 1998). Craig did not understand this owing to his reluctance to respond to the E-mails from off-site workers. There was a combination of communication as off-site workers used email, voice mail, and even met Craig in person. Also, Craig's weak approach towards team leadership caused Allison's bitterness and rendered Penny as the target despite her unawareness of hostility in the team. A flexible working environment as depicted in the case study requires formal organizations that are developed in the context of responsibility and authority (Stevenson & Weis McGrath, 2004). Craig's method of managing teams did not entail a consistent meeting-up and exchanging information with team members in the office. Clearly, this indicates poor management that resulted in the conflict between Allison and Penny. Further, Craig's reaction to the conflict was too slow despite the urgency that was required to address the problem. Allison's bitterness in terms of the allocated duties among the team and the procedures involved resulted in a series of emails and request for in-person meetings with Craig (Maruca, 1998). Craig failed when he responded to the emails he received because he could have had regular meetings with all the team members to establish the source of conflict.
Craig should prioritize communication to remedy the mistakes. Regular scheduled videoconferencing or conference calls should be combined with setting goals and following up. This will allow Craig to understand the problems of the team members considering that they are working away from the office (Frisch & Chandler, 2006). Notably, companies are increasingly balancing between employee activity and performance. Hence, the location should not be a hindrance to meeting with remote staff regularly and even communicating with them. As a team manager, Craig should be updated on what is happening off-site, what has happened, and what is likely to happen (Ware & Grantham, 2010). Team members such as Penny and Allison should be assured that they can contact their manager whenever and get a response immediately. Craig should also set up an email or phone policy to allow communication with off-site team members when necessary, even if they are not working at that time (Frisch et al. 2006). However, there should be no substitute for face-to-face interactions on an occasional basis. Telecommuting is effective when the manager, in this case, Craig, trusts off-site workers and addresses the concerns immediately to facilitate coexistence at work (Crossman & Lee-Kelley, 2004).
The conflict in the case study is not about the employees but rather Craig's management approach. Managing teams, especially those that work away from the office, requires managers to be attentive to issues that are ignored on-site. Craig should not have developed teams and then assign them tasks devoid of clear procedures of team chain of command (Maruca, 1998). Therefore, the conflicts off-site were motivated by a lack of contact person since the presence of a team leader would ensure that everyone is aware of his or her duties. Allison and Penny were constantly in conflict because they did not know how they are supposed to work together. If Craig sought to develop teams without a leader, he should have organized regular meetings with all team members and not individually. His request for a face-to-face meeting with Penelope Ryan for a discussion of a progress report is an indication of favored treatment of staff (Maruca, 1998). Craig discussed with Penny the issues he should have discussed with the whole team, hence giving her the information meant for the team.
Craig and Maggie should resolve the conflict between Allison and Penny because both are valued employees. They should act fast to address the conflict so that the two can coexist just as they were working in the office. However, they should exercise caution in their counseling such that they successfully mediate the discussion between the two of them. Craig and Maggie need to determine whether the team is organized in an appropriate manner so that they understand the work they should do (Maruca, 1998). Failure to address this large issue, they will have a challenge preventing smaller conflicts that happen in the future in the team. The issue will allow Maggie and Craig to understand management needs and team requirements since the organization entails telecommuters and those working based on flexibility. Maggie and Craig should assess the development needs and strengths of their telecommuters so that their work arrangements are reconsidered (Ware et al. 2010). They could advocate for job sharing and part-time working schedules so that they work effectively as a team on current projects.
The off-site team is ineffective because its managers are not well-trained in dealing with telecommuters. The managers did not communicate and establish clear, realistic expectations and objectives. This off-site team did not have a clear guideline about how work should be done. They also lacked a reporting mechanism to their managers, which caused inconsistencies in team leadership along with conflicts among team members (Maruca, 1998). The off-site team did not know how to give specific and clear feedback regarding ongoing projects. The employees do not get regular feedback from their team manager, hence their difficulty in understanding what needs to be done. The off-site team is ineffective due to their lack of knowledge about demonstrating loyalty and openness along with a lack of motivation as self-starters. The ineffectiveness emanates from the inconsistency in communication that renders work inefficient away from the office.
Craig does not have to ignore all the hard work of his team because they have contributed to the telecommunication culture in the company (Maruca, 1998). Instead, he should improve their effectiveness by ensuring their performance is based on comfort and awareness rather than suffering. The team is hardworking and intelligent since they know more about the problems in the teams compared to Craig, hence their ability to offer solutions. The team members should be asked to contribute to questions regarding team leadership and conflicts. They should suggest the right reporting procedure and the distribution of the workload (Crossman et al. 2004). The managers, Craig and Maggie, should enhance team effectiveness by solving larger problems so that the rift between Allison and Penny is mended. Craig should conduct follow-up meetings between Allison and Penny besides that which involves the whole team. In so doing, work conflict will be addressed, and employee morale will be improved. Craig may not be the right person as a team manager because he is likely to take blame and responsibility for arising problems. Maggie's presence during conflict resolution will reinforce the process and strengthen working relationships among employees.
Companies that have clear guidelines and policies along with training programs are likely to thrive in off-site working environments. The ineffectiveness of the team is attributed to work arrangements that derailed the morale and productivity of the employees. Team building and building rapport between the team and the managers should also occur regularly, regardless of meeting face-to-face. Managing off-site teams requires competent and aggressive team managers who can expedite responses to emerging crises so as to avert conflicts at work.
Crossman, A. and Lee‐Kelley, L., 2004. Trust, commitment and team working: the paradox of virtual organizations. Global networks, 4(4), pp.375-390.
Frisch, B. and Chandler, L., 2006. Off-sites that work. Harvard business review, 84(6), pp.117-126.
Maruca, F.S. 1998. How Do You Manage an Off-Site Team? Harvard Business Review.
Stevenson, W. and Weis McGrath, E., 2004. Differences between on-site and off-site teams: manager perceptions. Team Performance Management: An International Journal, 10(5/6), pp.127-132.
Ware, J. and Grantham, C., 2010. Managing a remote workforce: Proven practices from successful leaders. The Work Design Collaborative, 151, pp.7-20.
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