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The Road to Hell Case Study

Essay by   •  October 18, 2017  •  Case Study  •  2,380 Words (10 Pages)  •  2,426 Views

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Background Information

The case "The Road to Hell" mainly focused on two characters from two different backgrounds and personalities. The first character is John Baker. John Baker is the chief engineer of the Caribbean Bauxite Company of Barracania in the West Indies. John Baker is a 45-year-old English expatriate who has served 23 years with the Continental Ore in East Asia, several African countries, Europe, and for the last years, the West Indies. Through his many years working overseas he believed that he developed “an innate knack” of dealing with the natives in developing countries.   The second character is Matthew Rennalls who is the assistance engineer of the Caribbean Bauxite Company of Barracania in the West Indies. He is 35 years old and has Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering from the University of London. He is considered a great asset for the company and he is the likely replacement for John Baker. Baker mentors and trains young is the mentor and training manager for Matthew Rennalls. Glenda Hutchins is the production manager who explained to John Baker the importance of grooming Rennalls for the Chief Engineer position. Glenda Hutchins informed John Baker of the importance of Rennalls’ political pull from his families’ background. All of these factors lead to the conflict between Baker and Rennalls. Baker decided to have one final interview with Rennalls before he left to see if he could correct Rennalls’ behavior towards the expraites in the company. While discussing both the positive and negative aspects of Rennalls’ performance, Baker touched the topic of Rennalls not getting along well with the expatriates in the company by referencing a complaint from Mr. Jackson in which he said it was not the first time Rennalls was rude to him. Rennalls assured Baker that the treatment had nothing to do with the colour of his skin and that he had treated him no differently than he would have any other employee. Baker then congratulated Rennalls on his ability to overcome the challenge of facing a developing and revolutionary economic environment. He went on to state that he was impressed with the progress the Barracanians had made when adjusting to a world of commerce that they have only experienced over the last 50 years vs. the expatriates having been brought up in it for 200 to 300 years. The following morning Rennalls submitted a letter of resignation expressing fury over the insults on the Barracanians.

 Problem Statement

The main problem of the case is the company’s organizational structure. Organizational culture is a system of shared assumptions, values and beliefs, which governs how people behave in organizations. These shared values have a strong influence on the people in the organization and dictate how they act and perform their jobs. In relation to the case, John Baker who was European and Matthew Rennalls was a Barracanian couldn’t quite seem to understand each other’s culture. Seeing that the two were both from different backgrounds they both failed to understand each other’s points of view. This resulted in their final judgements of each other’s words to being over shadowed by their opinions of each other. Because of their very different cultures, Rennalls was lead to interpret Baker’s comments in a negative way although they had good intentions. This case is a prime example of how people from different backgrounds and cultures fail to take diversity into consideration and instead allow their perceptions to get in the way. Miscommunication and misinterpretation caused severe consequences that will now negatively impact the business in this case.

Analysis of Problems

Communication

Communication is defined simply as the act of transferring information from one person to another. However, it is about more than just exchanging information. Effective communication involves understanding the emotion and intentions behind the information. The first function is control and this is where guidelines and appropriate behaviour are formally set out for employees to follow. According to Robbins and Judge organizations have hierarchies and when employees have any problems there are to report it to their immediate boss, comply with company policy and follow their job description (Stephen P. Robbins, 2013). When these things occur, communication is said to be acting as a control function. Informal control is when the achievements of one employee affects the others’ behaviour. They would react differently towards the over achiever and this is informally communicating and controlling that particular employee’s behaviour.  It goes two ways not only is it about how you convey a message so that it is received and understood by someone in the way you wished-for for the message to be understood, but also how you listen to gain full meaning of what is being said. With effective communication persons create a stronger trust and respect for each other. However, in the case of Baker and Rennalls there were some forms miscommunication. “Intercultural miscommunication occurs when there is a breakdown in communication between speakers of two different cultures and languages due to cultural differences and/or sociolinguistic transfer,” (Huang, et al., 2012). Due to their intercultural miscommunication Baker and Rennalls failed to communicate efficiently because of the cultural barriers which obstructed their judgement.

Perception

Perception is an intellectual process of transforming sensory stimuli to meaningful information. Laurie Mullins in Management & Organisational Behaviour states that “the process of perception explains the manner in which information (stimuli) from the environment around us is selected and organized to provide meaning for the individual” (Mullins, 2010). It is the process of interpreting something that we see or hear in our mind and use it later to judge and give a verdict on a situation, person, group etc. When a message is misperceived it therefore is taken into the wrong context by the receiver. There was a breakdown in both Rennalls and Baker’s perception of each other’s behaviours and this lead to misinterpretation of certain situations. By not being aware of the fact that intercultural communication was taking place, both Rennalls and Baker neglected to take the full scenario into perspective. In the case Baker claimed to have an “innate knack” for getting along with regional people yet he demonstrated he did not fully know how to work in an environment with different cultures.  If he did he would have chosen his words carefully during his interview with Rennalls and knew phrases such as “people like you” and “you and your forebears” would been seen as offensive. He failed to recognize that his words could be taken the wrong way or interpreted as insulting, despite his intention of giving a compliment. On the other hand, Rennalls failed to take into consideration where Baker might have been coming from and the fact that he was trying to applaud Rennalls for his amazing achievements despite his background.

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