Be the Manager Chapter 13

“A Problem in Communication”

Book Contemporary Management 6th edition

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By Gareth R. Jones and Jennifer M. George

Mark Chen supervises support staff for an internet merchandising organization that sells furniture over the internet. Chen has always thought that he should expand his staff. When he was about to approach his boss with such a request, the economy slowed, and other areas of the company experienced layoffs. Thus, Chen’s plans for trying to add to his staff are on indefinite hold.

Chen has noticed a troubling pattern of communication with his staff. Ordinarily, when he wants one of his staff members to work on a task, he emails the pertinent information to that person. For the last few months, his email requests have gone unheeded, and his subordinates comply with his requests only after he visits with them in person and gives them specific deadline. Each time, they apologize for the delay but say that they are so overloaded with requests that they sometimes stop answering their phones. Unless someone asks for something more than once, they feel a request is not particularly urgent and can be put on hold.

Chen thinks this state of affairs is deplorable. He realizes, however, that his subordinates have no way of prioritizing tasks and that is why some very important projects were put on hold until he inquired about them. Knowing that he cannot add to his staff in the short term, Chen has come to you for advice. He wants to develop a system whereby his staff with provide some kind of responses to requests within 24 hours, will be able to prioritize tasks, identifying their relative importance, and will not feel so overloaded that they ignore their boss’s requests and don’t answer their phones.

As an expert in communication, how would you advise Chen?

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