Case Study of Donaldson Family Foods Company

The case study is about an ambitious, highly educated young woman named Kate who is out to build her career and become one of the youngest brand managers in the country by the time she 28 years old. She is hired by the Donaldson Family foods company, and from her conversation with the C.E.O. of the company Mr. Jeff Donaldson, she is convinced that she has landed a golden opportunity to grow and demonstrate what she is made of. However she begins to feel that she is in unfamiliar territory after she learns that it’s against the code of conduct to correct the mistakes of fellow workers. She gets more surpriseddue to lack of a hardworking culture in that the workers barely reach the 70 hour work week.

What upsets her most is the frustration that the management causes, especially the SMART team led by Mr. Donaldson himself, by delaying to make crucial decisions which would have seen the business grow in leaps and bounds thus making it stagnate in the miasmaof mediocre performance.

Organization Culture and socialization

The Donaldson Family Foods Company is a privately owned family business, “that had been canning food since 1899.” In this company they have adopted a humanistic approach in organization communication. A lot of focus is given on employee satisfaction and efficiency and effectiveness is expected to crop up from motivated workers. Some of the privileges given to them include; no one is expected to meet the 70 hour workweek threshold. Similarly the business remained closed on Sundays and during major holidays to enable the workers to be with their families. This is in line with the founding father’s ideals that the company was ‘neighbors working together to make better lives for themselves.The workers are very friendly with each other and we see ‘someone from the main office dropping by Kate’s office nearly every day to chat and welcome her aboard’

In addition, it a worker is allowed to correct or point out a mistake by a fellow worker. Kate finds herself in trouble by ‘offering a problem solving remark’ and is termed by others as ‘too aggressive.’ This makes her immediate supervisor Rick Clark remind her of a few ground rules; “Now Kate, that might be how you talked to others in your last employment, but around here we do not attack each other in staff meetings.”

In terms of the hierarchy in the company, any new ideas, projects or proposals had to pass through the Senior Management Action Review Team (SMART) for them to be approved. However due to their inefficiency the SMART team had earned the name ‘Black hole’due to their constant frustration of new ideas and delays in making crucial decisions.

Conflict Handling

According to O’Hair & Wiemann, a conflict is “A negative interaction between two or more interdependent people, rooted in some actual or perceived disagreement” (2009). It is a struggle between the parties and hinders achievement of a particular goal. In this case study, there is a conflict between Kate and the senior management. Kate is young, ambitious and energetic and she is very good at working with deadlines. However, the management has the last word and makes the final decision on her projects and proposal. The SMART, or senior management delays their decisions and end up frustrating Kate and her plans. This is evident when she is undertaking the cooking bag project. Kate learns that she is not the only victim as Tom Kadzinsky had also been frustrated two years ago to the point that he got used to the inefficientway of operation of the company.

One of the best ways of handling a conflict is avoiding it altogether. In this company, the Senior Management Action Review Team is best placed to avoid conflicts by making their decisions on the proposals handed over to them by their workers in good time. This will also help to avoid conflicts with their partners in the business.

Verbal and Nonverbal communication

At the Donaldson Family Foods business, the people there are too polite with each other to the point that it is almost impossible to correct someone or to point out their mistakes in staff meetings. Kate finds herself in trouble after she points out a fellow worker’s mistake in a staff meeting to the point where her immediate supervisor warns her. “Now Kate, that might be how you talked to others in your last employment, but around here we do not attack each other in staff meetings.” This lack of appraisal causes the company to continue performing in a mediocre way.

Similarly, the senior management is responsible for the minimal growth in the company due to their lack of full commitment to the business. They delay making important decisions affecting the company until they become irrelevant with regard to the aspect of time. There is a breakdown in communication to the senior management in that we see Angie, the C.E.O’s secretary unable to deliver an urgent message from Kate. Thus the verbal communication in the company is failing in its duty to contribute to the growth of the company.

On the other hand there is a lot of warmth in the company arising from the friendliness of the staff. For instance, Kate is impressed by Donaldson’s Charisma. This is supposed to influence the growth of the company positively but we find it working against the growth of the company as the manager is too lenient.  The friendly atmosphere in the company is good for the satisfaction of the workers and the employees but then again, employee satisfaction does not necessarily amount to productivity and efficiency.

Suggestions and Recommendations

One of the areas that Donaldson needs to address in the family company is the organizational communication structure and the organizational culture. Organizational communicationis the interaction necessary to direct an organization toward multiple sets of goals” (O’Hair & Wiemann, 2009). It is responsible for the communication that takes place within an organization and how that organization communicates with individuals and groups outside the organization. The staff appraisal should be conducted and mistakes be corrected. Similarly Jeff Donaldson and the senior management review action team should cease from delaying the decision-making process unnecessarily. Thisin turn will see to it quick implementation of projects and proposals. It will also enhance the partnerships with other stakeholders in the business which is a positive pointer towards the growth of the business.

One of the things that were hindering the growth of the business was lack of competition. If he is to respond to competition, this will see him harness the young and ambitious talents like Kate as well as Tom. Similarly, for a business to grow, people must work hard. This means that the 70 hour workweek threshold should not be compromised. As much as family is important some sacrifices have to be made in order to achieve substantial growth.

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