You are a manager of a regional accounting firm. Your firm prides itself in providing more “hometown,” or personalized, customer service, as compared to the major accounting firms. You have a staff of eight junior accountants reporting to you, each of whom engages with clients in the field. You recently received a complaint about one of these individuals from a long-term client. It was clear that the client was dissatisfied with this particular accountant, and she gave some specific examples of missed deadlines and other aspects of faulty performance. Obviously, you are concerned, since you want to retain the client’s business.
The individual accountant in question has been with the firm for a number of years. He specializes in how information systems can be linked to accounting and, in the past, has been very good at his job. He is used to making his own decisions rather than being told what to do. But recently, there has been a big change in his demeanor. While he used to be committed to the firm, now it is not as clear as to the degree that he cares about his work and responsibilities. Indeed, evidently the problem is not just this one client. Not that long ago, another client told you that the individual seemed to be acting strangely and even hinted at possible drinking or substance abuse issues.
Undoubtedly, the individual in question has valuable skills and experience, and it would be very difficult to find a suitable replacement. Your instincts tell you that this person could be helped, and his performance return to what it used to be, but you don’t know what the problem is, nor how to counsel him. Should you just tell him what to do or what needs to be changed? Should you consult with him and then lay down an action plan for how he should proceed? Should you facilitate a discussion with him, whereby you mutually devise an action plan with which you both can live? Should you present your perceptions of the problem to him and then just let him solve the problem on his own?
Apply these instructions for these cases:
1. For each case below, try to determine a first impression or gut-level reaction as to which leadership style that is shown in Figure 5.1 should be used. Then analyze the case using the Vroom/Jago models in the text of this chapter. Determine the prescribed leadership or decision style. Do each in two ways: (a) time driven and (b) development driven. Note that in all decision-making contexts, desirable information is likely to be missing. Nevertheless, enough information is present in each case for you to be able to use the Vroom/Jago models.
2. Does your initial, or gut-level, reaction differ from the ones that would be determined by the Vroom-Jago models? If so, why? Are those models picking up on something that your first impression may be missing?
1. As mentioned earlier in this chapter, consulting-selling is significantly different from facilitating-participating. The degree of power that is shared between leader and follower(s) is the key difference. Consulting is very popular with managers because it is relatively easy, it makes sense in many situations, and provides for employee input while allowing the manager to maintain control of the decision-making process. However, it does not involve true participation, although it may seem that the manager is involving employees in his her decision-making to at least some degree. Maintaining power through the control over the decision is significantly different from sharing the decision-making power, as is the case with the facilitating-participating style.
2. Cases 4 and 5 are individual in nature (i.e., one-on-one between a leader and individual follower), while the others involve the group as a whole. The diagnostic questions in the text of this chapter can be applied to both types of cases.
Here’s a relatively simple example:
· Read Case 1: Office Carpeting below, then return here.
Response: In the time-driven model, one should determine that the significance of the decision is low. All shades of the carpet color are acceptable, and the salespeople will not care very much, since most of their time is spent out of the office. One should also determine that the importance of commitment from the assistant is also low—once installed, the business of the salespeople will be done without further consideration of the carpeting. This leads to only one effective, option—Decide.
In the development-based model, these same determinations lead to the same option—Decide. Thus, for Case 1, the time-driven and the development-driven models lead to the same situational approach to leadership. However, in other instances, the two models will often differ in terms of prescribed options. As a general rule, the time-driven model tends to push the viable options toward the left side of the continuum shown in Figure 5.1. Conversely, the development-driven model pushes the viable options toward the right side of the continuum.
VROOM/JAGO APPROACH TO DECISION-MAKING BASED ON THE SITUATION
While the work of Hersey and Blanchard is useful in an attempt to understand situational approaches to leader decision-making, the situational factor to be considered, follower readiness, is somewhat simplistic or incomplete. There are other factors that come into play, including the significance of the problem or decision at hand, leader expertise to deal with the problem on his or her own, the amount of commitment that is necessary from followers, and followers’ ability to work together as a team to solve a problem (assuming that the problem is team, rather than individual, based). All of these factors are considered simultaneously by an approach to leader decision-making that was authored by Vroom and Jago.6
As shown in Table 5.4, in any given decision-making situation, there are seven questions that are relevant to determining the degree of follower involvement. Depending on the answers to these questions, the leader would be pushed more or less toward follower involvement in the decision-making process. A distinguishing aspect of this process is that the leader follows a decision tree analysis as shown in Figures 5.2 and 5.3. A decision tree allows for branching out in different directions with the different questions that are depicted in Table 5.4. The path that one takes in the decision tree depends on the answer to a prior question in Table 5.4. For instance, in the scheduling problem described above, although the clinic manager had sufficient information to make the decision, she also realized that acceptance among her subordinates would be critical and that they had the skills to come up with a good solution. Using the models depicted in Figures 5.2 and 5.3, these aspects of the situation would push the manager to be either facilitative or delegative.
Table 5.4 Situational Questions and Implications for Follower Involvement
|Situational Questions||Implications for Follower Involvement|
|1. How important is the decision or problem in relation to the effectiveness of the organization?||If the decision lacks importance, then most of the remaining questions will not be relevant. In most instances, the leader should simply make a decision on his or her own. However, if the decision is important, then the remaining questions become more relevant, and different styles may be appropriate, depending on how the remaining questions are answered.|
|2. For implementation purposes, how important is follower commitment to carrying out any decision that is made?||Some decisions can be carried out even if followers are not involved or committed to their implementation. However, if implementation requires follower commitment, a high degree of follower involvement in decision-making is required.|
|3. How much expertise or information does the leader have with regard to the decision or problem at hand?||If the leader’s expertise or information is minimal, he or she should involve followers in the decision-making.|
|4. If the leader was to make the decision alone, would followers just go along with it?||In some contexts, followers are used to leaders simply making decisions on their own, and the followers just go along with those decisions. If that is the case, then follower involvement in the decision-making at hand will be less important.|
|5. To what extent are the followers supportive of organizational goals that are relevant to the decision or problem at hand?||If followers have low support for organizational goals, then their involvement in the decision-making should be minimal.|
|6. What is followers’ level of expertise or information in relation to the decision or problem at hand?||If followers’ expertise or information is extensive, then it makes sense to get them more involved in decision-making.|
|7. How skilled and committed are followers in terms of working together to solve problems?||If followers can work cooperatively with each other, or with the leader, to solve problems, then they should be more involved in decision-making.|
Figure 5.2 Time-Sensitive Model—Appropriate Decision-Making Style
Sources: Adapted from Vroom, V. H., & Jago, A. G. (1988). The New Leadership: Managing Participation in Organizations. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall; and Vroom, V. H. (2000). Leadership and the Decision-Making Process. Organizational Dynamics, 28(4), 82–94.
Two things are of special note in Figures 5.2 and 5.3. First, some questions can be skipped, as shown by dashed lines. The research of Vroom and Jago would suggest that depending on the answer to some of the questions, other questions might be skipped. Second, Figure 5.2 refers to a time-sensitive model, while Figure 5.3 involves a follower development model. Some decision-making that leaders face is very time sensitive in that a decision must be made relatively quickly, which can occur most readily through directive or consultative styles. On the other hand, if a decision is not so pressing, the follower development model might be used. Part of a leader’s responsibility is to develop the abilities of followers, including decision-making and problem-solving abilities. Allowing more involvement in decision-making processes represents a way for leaders to help give followers a better understanding of work and organizational issues, and it may even lead to positive outcomes such as heightened organizational commitment and effort on the part of followers.