Ash Mathew
Recruitments, Training`
Rashidmusa
Compensation And Policy
Tajsateesh
Recruitment/talent Acquisition, Career Counselling
Nashbramhall
Learning & Teaching Fellow (retired)
K.Ravi
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Hey one of my friend needs to complete this case study so will require your inputs my cute friends,,, :D

Case: the role of intimacy at work, interaction and relationships in the modern organization.
This case study derives from qualitative research undertaken into two university departments, one large and well established and the other was smaller and newer. The former broadly demonstrates the bureaucratic principle of the exclusion of personalized relationships, the other is a far more intimate and close knit environment. The aim is to illustrate different organizational cultures and offer suggestions as to the effect each might have on individuals and organizational process, for example communications, coordination of different projects and measurement of organizational effectiveness. Intimacy here refers to relationships which revolve around reacting to the other person as an individual rather than an organizational position the continuum of intimacy extends from casual acquaintanceship at one end through to close friendship and romance at the other. Typically intimacy has been characterized as , problematic at work give the lack of objectivity in such relationship implies; one cannot it is argued make viable business decisions concerning; promotions for example if one is personally involved with who will be affected. But it is also possible to argue that a closer, friendlier atmosphere at work allows to a higher level of motivation and improved communications. Recent developments in management theory have addressed the use of culture to avoid improvements like these ; the case can therefore be used to highlight such work.
Background
British academia presently faces a number of important challenges. These include the fact that resources are being continually cut while student numbers at many institutions are rising, the reams it of tenure (lifetime employment) for lectures, and the introduction of quality initiatives in academic teaching. It is also the case that direct competition for students between institutions has intensified due to the old polytechnics achieving university status. The institution cited in the case is certainly facing all of these pressures, which must be assumed to be impacting on the two departments used in the study. Department A is a large, multisite department which dates back to the inception of the university itself. It employs 70 academic staff. The undergraduate course numbers approximately 600 students across 3 years and there are 150 post graduates. Department B is much smaller and operates from a single location. It has relatively recently become a research and training centre on its own right . Department B employs 28 academic staff, 9 researchers and has 160 postgraduate students. The subjects taught and researched in both departments are scientific.
The research conducted in these two departments consisted of semi-structured interviews, designed by the author, which focused on the respondents thoughts concerning the way in which the members of the department communicated and interacted with each other. Interviews were conducted with individual’s at all organizational levels and with both men and women.


THE SITUATION
Department A
The culture in this department was reported as revolving mainly around the work ethic; respondents commented that the feeling was very much one that the staff were here to work and any extraneous contact beyond the demands of a particular project was "just politics"and therefore dangerous, unnecessary and distracting. There is no room for what was dubbed "sentiment". It is also the case that external constraints have impacted on the department, as one man remarked, ‘it is difficult to find 5 minutes to have a chat about weather anymore’. This was attributed to tighter funding and an increasing student roll. Intimacy and friendship then would ‘get in way’ of the tasks at hand; the achievement of departmental research and teaching goals.

It is hardly surprising, given the above findings, that very few of the respondents claimed that they had close friends at work and even those that did said they were by no means as close as those outside of work; other people at work were more usually described as ‘colleagues’ , ‘pals’, ‘working friends’, ‘very close acquaintances’ and so on. Relationships that did existed tended to be between same-status individuals. Interaction was emphasized for the most part to be professional; ‘I would say this is one of the most person respecting net of people I’ve come across’, ‘its very civilized’ , ‘informal but on a professional level’. This was put by some respondents to the fact that it was an academic institution rather than an industrial establishment.

Romance was certainly absent from the agenda. It is felt generally that any particularly ‘inappropriate’ behavior, for example as staff-student liaison, would be dealt with extremely quickly and from a high level. It was also noted that any such arrangements would be highly incongruous; most respondents found it extremely hard to picture any kind of involments (between members of staff or between staff and students) taking place in the department, it simply seemed alien to them, ‘a foreign idea’ . An academic jokingly made reference to the David Lodge novels about academia and wondered what kind of an institution he taught at to find o much romantic intrigue there. A post graduate student further claimed that ‘I can categorically say that we don’t go to the extent of romance’

The distance between colleagues is illustrated by a secretary’s anecdote concerning her boss who is a professor. When he wishes to communicate something to someone he will always give it to her to type up and send as a formal memo; this even happens when it is sent to the academic who occupies the office next door to his. A similar procedure is enacted when he telephones someone; he always requests that his secretary telephone first and ‘announce’ him as it were. Indeed this professor also finds disciplinary matters hard to deal with because they involve interpersonal communication; he will engage his secretary to deal with these as they arise on his behalf. Communication on the whole tends to be work related and formalized. Another secretary commented that "a lot of them here are not very good at communicating ….. you find as if you’re working at having conversations…. talking about thing that’s not to do with work … they don’t seem to be able to approach you"

Hierarchy is an important element in department culture. A female academic observed that, even though appointments of women to academic positions were on the increase, those in posts had made little real impact because they were not in positions of power. A secretary also made the point that
In a company, apart from the MDs, management and the rest of the staff are more or less equal, they all treat each other the same, but academics and non academics are just completely [unequal] … the academics are very condescending and I mean I’m one of the youngest members of the staff so I’m treated as a baby in some respects which I don’t like at all…. They don’t have much respect… they think a secretary is just going to have a baby and then she gives up.

There is also little communication between the different departmental sites there are four spread across campus and although one could put this down to geographical distance there are ample telephone , internal mail and computer links to enable communication. Furthermore, while it is the case that contact is sought on the basis of shared work interests (members of research groups tend to be familiar with each other) one respondent commented that if two laboratories were engaged in separate work they would be unlikely to communicate at all even if the rooms were next to each other on a corridor. It was further noted that the lack of a communal common room made mingling unlikely and that at the annual Christmas dinner everyone sat together in research groups and very little mixing took place. When asked whether they thought that such an event brought department closer together, some commented that it did, but only in so far as they were gathered in the same room! One respondent commented that this departmental function was always held on campus (which is not true of similar events in other departments) and that had it not been it would perhaps have been more relaxed; ‘once you leave X (workplace) somehow things change’.

Impact of culture on staff

How does this culture of distance, of lack of intimacy, affect those who work within it? The atmosphere in the department was variously characterized by its members. A member of the support staff said that.

I feel that whatever close relationships there at work, whether it be father-son, husband-wife, boyfriend-girlfriend it does to tend to cloud people’s judgements whether they’re having to make judgments about things both from their aspect and also from the aspect of someone who’s trying to either supervise or look after or be responsible for (them). You always have that, however liberal you like to feel… and that’s my basic view of it. I would rather leave relationships away from work.

The feeling among some respondents is that close involvement with colleagues detracts from one’s ability to perform at the optimum level at work.
The felling among some respondents then is that close involvement with colleagues detracts from one’s ability to perfume at the optimum level at work.

The luck of intimacy is also seen as positive for other reasons . Two of the women interviewed had been seriously sexually harassed , both in other university departments. Mary’s reaction was to tell her husband, who subsequently accompanied her to work to discuss the matter with her husband, who subsequently accompanied her to work discuss the matter with her superior. She remarked of her former department that ‘that’s how it had always been- the men accepted it, when you worked in that office that’s just the way it was, You go into somewhere where that isn’t the way…. There’s no one like that here {Department A} now and if someone came in like it would get straightened out.’
That culture had resulted in an unpleasant and uncomfortable situation for the junior women who worked within it; the harassing behavior was certainly ‘nothing personal’ in that it was directed at more than one woman. The more senior woman, interestingly, had not experienced harassment from the man in question.’
The other woman, Brenda, had resigned when the man in question made it physically impossible for her to do her job. Subsequently she had in fact been offered her position back, slightly redefined in order to put a distance between her and the harasser. Brenda’s harasser had also been her senior and again his behavior had not been confined to her although she did comment that she was the target of his most sustained efforts. She also mentioned that the department in which these events occurred was smaller, more comfortable with the impersonal atmosphere of Department A.
But there were also negative evaluations. The formal nature of department culture was seen to hinder communication in such a way that uneasy tolerance characterized most working relationships. One respondent commented that ‘back stabbing’ was rife, because people were unwilling or unable to communicate. Lack of sensitivity was impute to the department by another respondent {a relatively new member staff} who saw file department working environment as ‘very strange…. Very competitive… no tolerance whatsoever’. Indeed this respondent’s dealing with the department thus far had in fact taken the form of a serious disagreement with a superior, the stress resulting from which had led to the respondent becoming ill. The lack of understanding, contact and reciprocity identified by these two respondents in particular and many respondents in general is seen to mitigate against effective departmental operation first and jobs satisfaction second- clearly the two are also connected.

Department B

The other department studied as a part of this programme was much smaller and altogether different. It is single-site which is seen to account for some of the closeness. Lines of communication were universally described as cleaner and less cluttered than some of the larger departments. There is far less emphasis on hierarchy; a technician claimed that in other departments the academics … ‘tend to treat the non academic staff like slaves basically’, but that in this one ‘they muck in’ for the most part.

Here it was the presence (rather than the absence) of communication and closeness which was identified as the glue which maintained the effectiveness of the workplace. As one respondent put it, "its like a family you know families, I mean, I’ve got three sisters and we’re always falling out… but eventually it all gets back on an even keel" she described a ‘blazing row’ she’d had with a senior academic – hierarchically very much her superior – the previous week, saying that it had all been ‘forgiven and forgotten’. This department is very much where the participant, ‘can say what you feel without there being repercussions’. Another respondent commented that disagreements which do occur are typically smother ever at departmental social events which are frequent (‘any opportunity for a celebration there is a party here’). There is also a great deal of out of work socializing, which does not necessarily observe hierarchy – a secretary said that she would invite a professor to her house should she give a dinner party and a technician described her and her husband’s friendship with another professor who lives near them.

The continuum of interaction in the department also extends to the romantic. Mutual romance is frequent and accepted even adulterous romance. There have been several staff-student liaisons for example, including one which resulted in divorce when husband and wife both worked in the department. However, it seems that this has actually caused very little trouble, it was only pointed out that the academic and the student in question were asked not to attend the Christmas party that year in order not to disrupt the celebrations. In fact most regulation in the department does seem to take place at this informal level; as a senior academic put it, ‘ one would hope there’s not a reason to mention it’. Relationships are tolerated and for most part do not create problems. As one respondent said, "it works quite well.. if people are professional about it and don’t let it interfere with their working life". Two other departmental members have also been married to each other and subsequently divorced during their careers in the department and still continue to work together amicably.

Romance is an everyday part of working life for this particular department, but it is generally expected that people will regulate their involvements themselves, and ‘regulate’ is the keyword. One or two members were identified as not being able to undertake this and were castigated for their poor handling of the situations that resulted. Those examples which follow were referred to by several respondents. One individual (who admitted flirting all year) had to fight a co-worker off at a departmental social event. Another had naively encouraged an academic’s attention and had experienced substantial difficulty in deterring him as a result, and a further woman had reputedly ‘come on’ to various members of the department (both men and women) to the extent that she was practically assaulting them at work. Intimacy here then it is seen to co-exist with departmental operations, and even enhance them, but only if carefully controlled.

Furthermore the informality and cohesiveness within the department is not always seen to be positive. Two respondents mentioned occasions when the police arguably should have been alerted to events, but were not called due to unwillingness to, as one put it, ‘wash the dirty linen in public’. One incident in fact constituted a serious assault and yet was ‘hushed up’. It is also possible to comment that the kind of incidents described above eg. the problem experienced at the departmental social event – are at least partially generated by the highly sexualized atmosphere of this particular working environment. One’s fellow employee is certainly likely to be a friend and possibly a partner, unlike in the larger department.

It is ironic also that in the intimacy within the department seems to generate ‘bitchiness’, just as lack of communication does in department A. Two respondents described themselves as good friends in two separate interviews and then went on heartily to criticize each other; one saying the other was an over breeding contempt. It should also be pointed out that any such remarks made in the other department (A) were a good deal more reticent and also tended to be generalizations rather than referring to specific individuals. Department B was further described by a postgraduate student as extremely ‘gossipy’; colleagues continually ‘fished’ for personal information about each other which then spread very quickly round the grapevine. As a result this student never discussed anything personal with other members of the department. Perhaps, then the closeness which the department values is also to certain extent counter-productive, in terms of relationships and of departmental achievement.

It is also the case that the veneer of mutual respect sometimes slips; as in the anecdote related by a secretary, who had been given a report to write by an academic and upon submission received the somewhat backhanded compliment, ‘ I didn’t know you could write- this is very good’. It was similarly pointed out that freedom of information was restricted by the senior academics discussing important departmental matters over lunch at the somewhat exclusive staff centre. Again the intimacy of interaction does not impact significantly on the ‘real’ business of the department, which is conducted for the most part as the formal structure dictates.

26th March 2009 From India, Pune
hello people, I need some inputs from your side before i can conclude my thinking, so please do try to help me by giving your opinion.. :(
28th March 2009 From India, Pune
Dear Ravi, I sincerely would like to say here that this case study is so lengthy you will hardly find any response. Because its too much lengthy and time consuming to analyse. badlu
29th March 2009 From Saudi Arabia
yaar koi to care karo to reply,, pls yaar reply karo thoda to try karo mere HR gurus,,, :mad::mad:
7th April 2009 From India, Pune
HR Gurus..pls reply Well, talking abt HRs like me (the little ones) - its really lengthy. :-( I shall read it at home and see what it is abt..
7th April 2009 From India, Madras
plz do it asha,, its important yaar and even for me its too long to analyze and write it,, :razz:
7th April 2009 From India, Pune
Hello Ravi,
I can only help those who help themselves first. Instead of posing a long case study and looking for answers, what I would appreciate more is when a student does the work and sends her/his analysis and asks whether (s)he is on the right lines.
Have a nice day.
Simhan
A retired academic in UK
7th April 2009 From United Kingdom


Hi Ravi,

By the way wat is ur conclusion abt the "case study"???

Hey I read it and found that -the "initimacy part" has been exaggerated in both the departments. In department A - its lack of closeness, in dept B its just the opposite. (both at extremes)

Let me tell you what I feel abt it:

Department A ; Is probably aware that intimacy will not lead to productivity. But in the name of intimacy/romance, there seems to be a complete hindrance to “Effective communication”
Like the professor using the service of the secretary to communicate – is really an exaggerated case. In this way – the department is only focusing on removing romance and high level of involvement in relationship. But are they also looking at the productivity/betterment part? No. They are not

Rather they should concentrate of communicating for professional betterment, but also make sure that any advancement made by them do not send the wrong signals. The very fact that the professor ./ or any one – shows a complet disagreement for any discussion (which they think may lead to intimate relationship) is very boring. It will not be a productive place!

Department B:

Too much of everything other than productivity. Let me tell you – there is a famous saying “Never marry the person whom u work with or your dance partner”. Its true. Neither will u have a happy work life or a happy married life.
This would definitely deviate the “purpose of working” notion.
Under such situations there are possibilities of making decisions in the favour of ones latest crush / love / interest… and not for the “benefit of the organization”

This applies to any educational or non-educational Organizations too.

What I would say is – depending abt the type of Organization and its structure, communication must be transparent and must have a free flow. Lengthy commute of communication will only lead to issues within the organization and a tense work situation.
The essentials of business communication has be stressed upon.
If it’s a question of sexual harassment, I guess there are policies against the same. But it all depends on how the victim handles it. If you give in way for someone to behave that way, there is no point ion shouting at the policy!
Professional communication and involvement must be encouraged. Acts of intimate closeness can be avoided or requested to be avoided.

So I would say – Professional intimacy J is fine.
But Romance – sexual intimacy at work, will never lead anyone anywhere – but yes into trouble.
And – if in the name of “avoiding romance and sexual intimacy” people avoid communicating effectively – even that is a like a slow poison.




7th April 2009 From India, Madras
Wah...kya baath hai Asha.
I couldn't have said better....except the quote/saying you used for the analysis of Dept B.
Just as there are exceptions to every rule, so too for this aspect. I know of good companies where the couple work together in the same company [One of the Top-5 IT companies] with the hubby being the HR Head [until a couple of yrs ago...now he heads the Global Mktg function]. The key is to find the right balance...as long as the understanding is clear, it would be one of the best combinations. Especially if they couple happen to own the company/business.
Rgds,
TS
7th April 2009 From India, Hyderabad
Sure TS I agree when it comes to owning the business.. But otherwise... I have not seen the couple continuing in the organization for a long time. Either they break up or one of them quits the job...
7th April 2009 From India, Madras
The example I gave Asha wasn't about the owners of the company-both ARE still employees and I have known them to work with same companies since over 20 yrs [I think 3 so far-with the present in the company that's been in the news for all the wrong reasons]..So like I said-there are exceptions to every rule.
Rgds,
TS
7th April 2009 From India, Hyderabad
Yes Asha,

you are correct, we can compare the two departments on different styles of working, on one side there is department A where the employees are totally professional and the relation towards their colleagues is very formal while on the other side the relations between colleagues in Department B is very casual.

Also we need to consider the environments , Department A is multi site whereas Department B is very small and newly established, so the employees working in Department B are less Autocratic ( i dont know if I am using right word or not). whereas the example of the professor telling his secretary to type a memo is not of using her, but it indicates the level of professionalism in communication, I mean the employees inspite of working within a very close / near physical distance are totally aloof from each other,, the professor cant even trust that a verbal communication will do, and goes on to dictate a memo to his secretary and the employees dont believe in breaking the chain,, the professor wants everything to go by rule, even if sometimes it may mean that it is too government organinsation type,, too lenghty process..

Other main point is the treating of non academic staff by academic staff,, in Department A , they treated non academic staff as slaves, too low, whereas in Department B ,, it was mentioned that they were more of a family, i.e close knit.

Sexual harassment occured in both Departments but it was all hushed up in Department B and not given much importance,, as the whole atmosphere was sexualised..

Also the employees in Department A were not concerned i mean were introverts ,, concerned with their own work whereas those working in department B were friendly with other employees even if their work did not involve interaction with the other employee.

And much more to write, but it will be better if it could be structured properly and as case study is too long,, dont know how to put it..
7th April 2009 From India, Pune
Good observation... you are right Ravi. Dept A leads to an autocratic leadership.

And another point to note as u mentioned is - irrespective of whether the dept is aware of the intimate relationship, or whether there are strict rules restricting the involvement of any relationship - sexual harrasment and other such related romatic intimacy does exist everywhere. Correct?

So the romantic intimacy / or covering the reality part of it - has nothing to do with productivity...

Dept A professor is very particular abt verbal communication's accuracy. . . . but how sure is he that the written memo conveys the actual message?

How sure can one be that the other person has "effectively" understood the message, and thus reduce possibility of communication error?

Dept B - I agree its a small environment and the chances of interacting with one another is very high - but the advantage is, there is a transparency in communication...but lack in work culture.

As you said, The case study can be made really short...by explaining just the work culture of Dept A and Dept B and the good and bad effects of the same.. This may help in having additional input from our readers.
8th April 2009 From India, Madras
yes true but here the professor of department A is not concerned about effectiveness of communication, if you except HR people no one bothers about communication and his effectiveness , all think that my work is done, the other person understood it or not is not my part, so the professor is of view I have a very strong proof that the information was communicated to the other person, as its written and is on paper, so the professor inspite of knowing that verbal communication can be used deliberately uses written communication to save himself,,
well thanks now will forward this all to my friend, and let him do the rest,,
8th April 2009 From India, Pune
I think all respondents who has analyse this case study are romantic people. I appreciate their capability.. Rashid
8th April 2009 From Saudi Arabia
Thanks Rashid. Its a well known fact by ourselves whether we are romantioc or not.. I dont understand whats there to appreciate in it.. u mean to say ppl who are not romantic are jealous here...????
ooops sometimes my thoughts are so loud!
No offense!
8th April 2009 From India, Madras
Rashid:
It shows ignorance on ones part to comment witout reading.. I suggest u read the case study... and then dont feel humiliated by urself for posting such a response..
But I feel elevated - someone is jealous! :lol:
8th April 2009 From India, Madras
Hi Ravi,
I do not know how to send an attachment to a private message. I have attached an incomplete framework to use while preparing for a case study examination. As we do not know the exact questions that would appear on the paper, it is advisable to extract as much info as possible and in ones own word too. Also, one should take some notes about related theories. I have given links to couple of articles on websites.
I hope your friend finds these useful for preparing.
9th April 2009 From United Kingdom

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You are welcome Asha. I do visit Coimbatore and conduct seminars on "" How to Publish in Scholarly journals" and on Research Methodology. I have visited GRDIM, SVPITM and PSGIM in 2007. Missed out in 2008.
May be I will visit later this year.
Narasimhan
9th April 2009 From United Kingdom
Sir, thats Great news. Could you please post me a message the next time you visit Coimbatore? I’d be glad to attend the seminar. I am sure many of us would benefit. Thank you!
9th April 2009 From India, Madras
Hai friends
i my view initiation and relation are different aspects. In combined families the relation will exists in some times the the initiation is not works to go things smoothly. In the distant education there will be no relation between the teacher and student but course will be completed as having the interest of student and reaches the target. In the olden days also ikalavya improved the skill without the guru as equally arujuna. The kawrasa ruined with having like mindedness and huge relations. In any target or purpose of action there should win and win situation. In win and loose situation one will ruinous in the games. Hence in all situation balance should be maintained for prosperous of human kind
22nd December 2012 From India, Visakhapatnam
Dear Ravi,
There has to be a balance. Organisation should provide avenues of effective communication. You can have variuos formal informal communication channels for that. Eg formal..monthly meets etc. informal common - tea breaks. At the end employees are social biengs.
But the problem begins when employees starts blurring limits and engage in casual/amorous relationships in office. Or may be some employees kind of become a "gang" of friends. In that case they think alike, they act alike. They then start challanging the systems. Thier behaviour sometime can be disturbing for people who are not part of the Gang. They will have thier group specific issues, which might become headache for HR/ Org.
This off limit behaviour should be curtailed by Mangment/HR positive interventions at regular intervals.
Thanks
Yogita
19th February 2013 From India, Chandigarh
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