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CAL Final Report


The objective of this document is to provide a narrative on the progress of the problem that I identified at the beginning of the project. The document also explains the process of dealing with the problem in order to alleviate it. These issues include those that were encountered during the problem management process, steps that were taken to address the problem, ways in which literature informed the entire process, results and conclusions, and a plan for further action. Once a key problem has been identified, it is vital to review its progress and take the appropriate steps at each point. The problem should be dealt with accordingly in order to ensure that it does not recur in the organization. The progress should be effectively monitored with the view of alleviating or even eliminating the problem completely from the organization.

Problem Review

The problem I identified relates to my line manager’s attitude towards me. The working relationship between him and I seems to have fractured. He has persistently undermined my decisions at the department hence compromising my image in the face of the team that I lead. The line manager has no respect for me because he feels he is more powerful and can only lead through autocracy. At some instances, the manager embarrasses me in front of my team by pointing out the flaws in my work. The manager has always felt proud of embarrassing me because he feels that he has more authority and command. He has never appreciated my efforts and my contribution to the department at any instance. In fact, I decided to take extra working hours in order to ensure that my team delivers the best for the organization but the line manager does not appreciate this. I am an experienced and qualified employee who is devoted to the delivery of best services but I feel that the manager is gradually lowering my self-esteem through regular embarrassments. The manager behaves in an unethical manner that is not supportive and hence counter-productive. Other employees are also getting concerned with the behavior of the line manager. This is compromising the level of commitment and devotion to service delivery. According to Willmot (1997, p76) asserts that this case has serious repercussions not only to me, but also to other employees in the department. I feel that it is destabilizing the entire finance department in which I work and could possibly affect the entire organization. Internal instability will affect the overall performance of the organization hence hindering further progress. A perfect starting point for action and learning is to ask a sincere question that asserts, “How can I…” I began the entire process of problem solving by posing the question to myself. Therefore, my first question was, “How can I deal with my manager’s aggressive approach to management?” With this question, I felt I had braced myself fully to tackle the problem to the end.

The action learning set

I first had the opportunity to present all the details relating to my problem at a meeting planned in mid-June. As a set, we agreed to base our discussion on Pedler’s (1996, p 87) problem brief because it could help us think through a suitable problem for consideration. This is because it was significant to consider the problem keenly and ensure that it is adequately discussed by the set.

Some of us were initially skeptical about the production of a real picture, which allowed for what is referred to as the identification of multiple view points in a work situation. Rich pictures are always drawn through interviewing employees about their feelings relating to the working conditions and organizational leadership. I drew up the picture by analyzing the different scenarios and reactions at the workplace in order to get stakeholder views and perceptions. According to Kumar (2000, p 77), this was a crucial starting point for the entire process as it simplified the discussion of my problem. In addition, it helped me think of my line manager’s perspective on the situation and that I needed to understand the underlying issues and implications from a wide range of perspectives other than mine.

The June meeting presented me with a golden opportunity to explore and examine the problem that I had faced in what I knew to be a confidential, supportive, and challenging environment. The meeting was not comfortable at certain instances as my set colleagues posed tough questions pertaining to my contribution towards the problem. I also had to consider the perception of my set colleagues, which made me think about my contribution towards the existence of the problem. The questions I thought about were, “Am I part of the problem...is the problem part of me?” I also had to consider the implications of these recognitions for my scholarly practice and research.

I recorded in my research journal a vivid set discussion on the issue of reflexivity and we particularly discussed Perriton’s (2001) paper. Reflexivity is one of the ways of problematising  what we know and how we have came to know it, as it reveals some of the assumptions on which such knowledge is based such as the author’s particular background (Kelemen and Rumens 2008, p190). It is a way of showing some of the impacts of the researcher on research and those of research on the researcher; thus, making the researcher a significant figure in the success of any research. This averts the passive voice that Perriton (2001) warned about. Parriton asserts “make it seem as if methodology drives the researcher not the other way round and we write our research texts as if choices had not been made in their construction (Perriton, 2001:38).

In exercising reflexivity we should seek to give the researcher a voice without silencing or lessening the voices of others in the research. This was a vital point in our discussions as I realized that my perception of the problem was different to the views of others. Some may view a manager’s actions as aggressive while others will regard the individual as being merely forthright, direct, and a strong willed leader in a complex situation. The part that emotions play in the situation was also discussed at length, drawing in particularly upon Vince’s (2008) paper, which sought to advance the theory and practice of critical action learning by examining questions of learning-in-action and learning inaction.

Literature Review

I explored two streams of relevant literature in order to begin the process of examining the problem. I first explored the literature on bullying at the workplace then I proceeded to critical action learning. I perceive these as the potential means of highlighting power relations and inequalities at the workplace, which may contribute to the existence of such problems.

The issue of bullying at the workplace is not new. There has been intense research into bullying at the workplace over the past 15 years in the US and Europe. The growing attention in these matters can be partly explained by the changing global economic and social conditions and the relevant labor laws. According to Rayner, Hoel, and Cooper (2002, p 77), there is no exact definitive list of bullying behaviors. A major assumption emanating from the literature is that the bullying of women at the workplace emanates from cultural and religious beliefs in society. Thus, there are strongly established attitudes and beliefs that hinder the development of women in society. All these make women to be left out of the vital economic contributions in society, as their impact is not felt at any point. Another vital assumption of the literature was that gender stereotypes should be solely described as the elimination of women from vital economic activities. This is because it is only women who are exposed to such situations in society.

According to the literature, women have been denied the opportunity to move from one point to another, which denies them the opportunity to grow intellectually. In addition, most women lack education and appropriate skills hence worsening bullying at the places of work. Most of them fear defending themselves against undesirable situations hence aggravating the consequences. The lack of education among most women contributes to the lack of confidence hence high levels of stereotyping.

The key area of contention in the literature was the determination of situations that could be referred to as stereotypes. Researchers do not readily agree on what should be treated as stereotyping because of the different levels in which it exists. I also discovered that the literature had a divergent issue. The issue pertains to the origin of stereotyping, which amounts to bullying. The literature points out that stereotyping emanates from unfair cultures and traditions instead of the opposite gender. My aim is to establish the relationship between bullying at the workplace and action learning. This will help me determine the effects of bullying to the organization and ultimately find solutions to the problem. The literature asserts that one of the key solutions is educating women in society as this will help boost their confidence (Gold et.al 2002).

In questioning about the problem, my action learning set members have encouraged me to think about the wider organizational effects of bullying. Two questions posed by one of my fellow set members gave me considerable cause to reflect on this. These questions were what impact has this behavior had on the wider organization in which it has occurred? What part might the practice of critical action learning have to play in explaining the problem? This second question led me to look more closely at the literature on critical action learning and its implications.

Critical Action Learning

It is essential to note that action learning process plays a vital point in examining the organizational life. This is alluded to the hidden aspects that exist within the organization. Thus, it is recommended that managers indulge in the action learning process as it plays a vital role in establishing the role that each employee play in the organization towards coming up with a viable solution to a problem. The action learning process is also significant for eliminating bias that exists in the decision making process and ensures that everybody in an organization are satisfied with the decision arrived at without any feelings of impartiality.

Thus, from the above points, a person can recognize that there is a distinction between the embodied insights and theoretical contributions arrived at through action learning, which in action learning are not sufficient. Bourner et.al (2005, p 140) asserts that this is because socio-political insights and differences in power do not contribute fully to what action learning aims to achieve; thus, the need to try and come up with ways that will ensure the institutionalization of oppression through established ideologies and practices.

Some researches in this field view the above recommendation as been shallow. Thus, they took the aforementioned recommendation further by suggesting that there are inherent political and emotional issues that exist in the schemes that individual managers utilize in a given action learning set. The researches recommend that these should not be assumed as individual problems.

Myriad problems were explored and among them included ways of improving communication between the senior managers and their juniors, means of penetrating through problems of a top team that does not deliver, and the ways of ensuring that a person is a leader, but one is cherished by all the organization. According to Coghlan et.al(2006, p 33), the changing of power relations and asking questions plays a significant role in the action learning process.

Thus, research resonates that much is gained from engaging in critical action learning especially in work environments as it plays a significant role in challenging the existing power relations and questions the existing practice. This explains why some scholars in the critical learning field are of the opinion that the theory in the field easily works in the understanding process and retuning of institutional and the practices among individuals. The scholars advance an example that concerns dealing with male employees that insubordinate a female manager (Gregory 2003, p 55). Therefore, from the above example, it can be concluded that critical action learning avails a means of exploiting the conflicts and tensions that exist in a working environment. The only problem that exists with the approach is that it poses a threat to challengers especially when questioning political insights and power differences.

Steps taken to address the problem and outcomes  

The discussion that I had with the set contributed significantly to my decision making. This follows the fact that some of the set members were well versed in the HR department and advised me to ensure that I do not severe the relationship between me and the manager. Thus, this made me to factor in my individual and the departmental consequences that will emerge from the decision that I will settle for. Notably, my decision was not supposed to antagonize my relationship with the manager, but at the same time it was supposed to benefit the team that worked with me.

Thus, from a personal level, I factored lessons from Pedler & Project (1996), which inspired my actions to be reflective of a manager at a work place. The teachings from Pedler & Project (1996) enabled me to restrict my behavior to merit my line manager’s requirement and to be in tandem with the staff in my department. This meant that trust is a key issue in getting a goal accomplished, and also in motivating the workers to deliver within the set time. Thus, communication was a key issue in this matter in that its effectiveness ensured that there is a smooth working environment between me and the staff, and between me and my senior manager.

At the organization level, I was motivated to introduce respect at the work environment as I factored it was a key issue that people in the organization lacked significantly.  This forced me to do research on the matter in collaboration with the HR officer and we came up with strategic policies aimed at improving respect between individuals at the work place. However, this posed a new challenge as we were faced with the test of implementing the new policies that we came up with to govern the relationship at the workplace.

Concluding Reflections

The problem that I brought before the set has not been completely resolved. There have been satisfactory efforts from set members to come to the root of the problem and I appreciate their dedication and commitment to help me resolve the problem. I understand that action learning is not concerned with puzzles that have easier solutions. Kambel (2004, p30) asserts that every problem presents an opportunity for in depth research and consistent sharing of ideas. This brings to the light diverse perspectives that help in the ultimate solution of the problem. Action learning has been a vital tool for the identification of the key problem facing my department and has helped me accommodate different views from various individuals, which have kept me going. I believe that action learning has given me the resilience that everyone needs when faced with tough situations in life. I am still able to work even with the intimidation that I am exposed to by my line manager. With this I believe that I would be able to succeed in my vision of ensuring that the department performs at its best. Through action learning, I have also discovered the key factors that contribute to the bullying of individuals, especially women at the workplace. The strong cultural and religious beliefs that retard the development of women in society have taken over and most women are not enjoying working in different organizations. Action learning has given satisfactory explanations of these issues hence making it easier for individuals to understand the origin of bullying. This has also given me a clue to understanding my line manager’s aggressive attitude towards me. I have also understood how to tackle the problems facing women at their workplaces. Education and constitutional advocation of women’s’ rights would help alleviate the problem. Women should also gain the required level of confidence in order to be able to fight the problems that they face at their workplaces. I have also learnt about my values and qualities as a manager and vital issues that matter to me. I have also realized that I have to be selective in the organizations that I am supposed to work for in order to succeed in my career.

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