Quiz 17: Managing Communication


National sales manager C was frustrated with the delayed delivery schedule of a new toy from the Mexican subsidiary, and is concerned that the ordered quantity won't be available in time to meet the demand for the upcoming holiday season. He sent an email to the subsidiary and received a brief response from the plant manager's secretary. In frustration, he forwarded this email on to his boss, and it eventually was forwarded back to the plant manager from his boss. The plant manager C was extremely upset, and told him if this message was critical; he would expect it to be delivered via phone, not email. Based on the response to the email, it is clear that there are differences between Mexico and the U.S. in terms of appropriate communication channels. The U.S. based manager felt that delivering an important message via email was appropriate and hence spent time making sure the message in the email was clear and appropriate. The Mexican manager assumed that important communications would be discussed via telephone, and did not give the email much consideration. At this point, the Mexican manager was angry with the U.S. manager and the U.S. manager still had no understanding of whether the products would be available on time. Understanding the differences in communication preferences between countries would have made a huge difference in this situation, and clearly they are important to understand in order to ensure smooth communication in the future.

Company W uses a web site to respond to employee questions. Specifically, employees may post questions which are screened by public relations. Questions that need to be addressed by senior management are then passed on, and the senior manager dictates his response for posting on the site. Some advantages of this method include: • All employees have potential access to senior management of the corporation for resolution to problems. • Senior management receives input from staff through the types of questions asked, and gains an understanding of current concerns of employees. Some potential problems with this method include: • Senior management is only seeing a sub-set of employee concerns, since public relations reviews all issues and determines which should be sent forward. This means that the senior management representative may not understand the primary concerns of the staff. • This method is "hands-off", and many nuances that could be observed during face to face communication will not be available via email. This limits the amount of information received by senior management about the issue in question.

Partner B hired foreign-born employee F as an accountant in spite of the language difficulties. According to his immediate supervisor, F's work is top-notch but his language skills are impairing his ability to do his job, and the supervisor would like to let him go. The supervisor also showed a low level of tolerance for F's communication abilities in the discussion, and displayed some negative attitudes toward those born in other countries. Partner B should address the situation with employee F via option 2. The first step would involve transferring F to work for another manager who shows more tolerance for his emerging English skills, and who could take advantage of his high technical abilities. F should also begin attending English as a Second language courses at the employers' expense, so that he has an avenue to begin improving his communication skills. In addition, Partner B should send the supervisor to a diversity training course, with the hope of improving her willingness to deal with differences among people in a positive manner.