Chapter 8 Case: Whole Foods
Principles of Organizational Behavior
Discuss how the basic interpersonal communication model that is presented in Figure 8.1 can be applied to the impersonal nature of an online forum. The basic interpersonal communication model deals with a communicator and a receiver. The communicator originates the message while the receiver obtains it. Each has their own perpetual screens. These are what each entity uses to interact with one another. They affect the quality, accuracy and clarity of the communication. The message consists of two primary components. The conceptual component deals with the words, ideas, symbols and concepts which are chosen to relay the message. The emotional component deals with the demeanor, force, intensity and often gestures of the communicator. Once the message has been transmitted from communicator to receiver, feedback may occur. This is when the receiver provides the communicator with a response to the initial message. It completes the cycle of two way communication. This model can be applied to the impersonal nature of an online forum. Much like the basic interpersonal communication model, the communicator would originate the message and the receiver would obtain it. The message would still contain the thoughts and feelings that the communicator intends to stimulate in the receiver. However, the communicator must rely heavily upon the conceptual component rather than the emotional component. Since the message is being conveyed electronically, the communicator will not be able to personalize the delivery of it with non verbal actions. Instead, the communicator must set the tone of the message through word selection, punctuation, capitalization and even font. While most may feel that this limits communications to a very cut and dry approach, the possibilities are in fact endless. For example, posting “have a great day” appears to mean so much more when typed “Have a GREAT day! ” Once the communicator has conveyed their message to the receiver, the receiver can either accept the message and act upon it or offer the communicator feedback. While the presentation of a message can have many different appearances, the important factor will always be whether or not the actual message was understood. I believe that a primary reason for online forums to be so impersonal is due to the potential for the receiver to not interpret the communicator’s data and turn it into information effectively. Written words, no matter how presented, are still in fact just written words. Unless the receiver is already in tune with the communicator, the process of identifying and understanding the message and acting upon it will not be as effective nor efficient had the communication taken place in person. I feel that a significant difference between the interpersonal communication model and an online forum lies within the existence of perceptual screens. When communicating through an online forum, aside from relying upon the conceptual component, there are no other options than to just type a question or response. While perceptual screens can either enhance or hinder the communication process, their absence in online forums can be critical. Simple statements, requests or demands can be misconstrued or misunderstood. When a person is communicating face to face, the opportunity to attempt to fully understand the communicator is available. In an online forum, posts may not happen in a timely fashion and it may take much longer than necessary to have the communicator and receiver on the same page. How does defensive communication enter into this case?
Defensive communication exists in both the basic model and in communication through online forums. In interpersonal communication, the communicator can be overly aggressive in delivering their message. The receiver could depict their message as negative, threatening or angry in general. This pertains to the aspect of dominant defensiveness. Due to the fact that interpersonal communication can utilize body language, dominant defensive communication can not only be more apparent but also more severe. The other extreme in dealing with defensive communication pertains to either the communicator or the receiver taking a passive or submissive approach. The individual may have low self esteem and constantly take blame for any issues that may arise. These individuals often feel that others are always right and they are consistently in the wrong. Those that do this do not assert their feelings and thoughts, even if the circumstances are critical. This is called subordinate defensiveness. During communication through online forums, defensive communication can appear in both dominant and subordinate entities. Whereas the tone of a typed statement is detrimental to helping the communicator and receiver interact, the overuse of such can be taken as dominant defensive in its form. Being too short in delivering a message could be perceived as rude or unnecessary. Being too direct could also have the same results. If an individual does not offer feedback or a response other than an overly submissive one, they could be displaying forms of subordinate dominance. While you do not have the luxury of making eye contact with an individual in an online forum, their words can be seen as plain as day. This makes it easy to identify if defensive communication is evident. How is the Internet transforming the way people communicate? The internet is transforming the way that people communicate in both a positive and negative manner. Effective communication exists in a positive fashion due to the Internet. Through emails, webcams, forums and networking sites, individuals are able to communicate at the push of a button. Not only do we have an endless source of information available to us on the Internet, but we are able to search, seize and process this information and send it out almost instantaneously. With the internet, managerial and employee communications can be as concise as possible without losing effectiveness. Tables, charts and graphs can be attached to emails containing directives. There is no longer a need for stacks of wasted paper to compile on an individual’s desk. Organizations can communicate worldwide and do so cost effectively. Decisions that would have taken an extensive amount of time years ago are now made in a fragment of that time due to the internet. The internet has also served as an enabler to those that do not wish to personally interact with others. Companies can in fact operate without face to face meetings. Instead emails, posts and other electronic correspondences replace a board room meeting with salutations, conversations and handshakes. Individuals can also take advantage of the lack of interpersonal nature the internet offers. In some cases, it is much easier to type something to someone and hit the send button than it is to verbally communicate those thoughts or ideas face to face. The internet can act as a buffer between two individuals and in a sense limit the potential for a quality conversation. Discuss the ethical problems that are revealed by examining John Mackey's online postings in relation to the communications provision of the Whole Foods Declaration of Interdependence? Whole Foods is an organic based food operation which was originally based out of Austin, Texas. The company initially began with one location in 1980. It currently boasts over 300 stores in the United States, Canada and United Kingdom. Their company is based on seven core values which deal with high quality natural and organic products, customer satisfaction, team happiness, partnerships, communities, environment and wealth through profit and growth. (www.wholefoodsmarkets.com) In June of 2007, the Federal Trade Commission filed a suit against Whole Foods and cited antitrust violations as the cause. The CEO of the company, John Mackey, was placed under investigation for possible ethical misconduct. He had been posting comments anonymously on Yahoo’s financial forums pertaining to a company that Whole Foods was in the process of purchasing. His statements were accusatory and lewd. He proceeded to do this for about eight years before his identity was discovered. He also sent emails to his company’s board pertaining to the proposed merger, which included statements such as “eliminate a competitor” and “avoid nasty price wars.” (Holman W Jenkins, Jr., Lessons from a food fight) While I feel that his approach was highly unethical, John Mackey argued that his comments were personal and not professional in nature. I believe that it is clear to see his negative intentions initially when considering the fact that he used an anonymous name when making online postings. His attempt was to influence the people’s views and the stock price of the competitor, Wild Oats. If he had any other intentions, I believe that he would not have needed to hide his identity. As the CEO of a competing company, he had no right to attempt to manipulate any aspect of business of his competitors. This is both a conflict of interest and a feeble attempt at manipulation to make his company appear more desirable. I also believe that his unethical intentions are also apparent in the emails he sent to his company’s board. His declaration to eliminate a competitor can only further support the belief that his anonymous postings were of mal intent. The irony of the situation is that John Mackey’s actions make a mockery out of his own company’s Declaration of Interdependence. The declaration contains such detrimental business factors as trust, equality and effective communication. I feel that the approach he took against Wild Oats was not one that contained any of those three factors. I was personally disappointed that Whole Foods was eventually allowed to proceed with its acquisition of Wild Oats. I believe that John Mackey deserved a greater sentence than shame and embarrassment.