Final Project Synopsis

Module: Career Professional Development 2 (Trimester 2 AY2016/17)

Assignment: Synopsis Draft 3

Prepared for: Mr. Brad Blackstone

Prepared on: 22 March 2017 (Wednesday)

Prepared by: Denise, Edna, Inqa (Thursday Class – Seminar 3)

 

A specific workplace context: SuperGa

This report reviews interpersonal communication problems prevalent in Superga, a local retail footwear store in Singapore. According to The Superga Story (2017) on the company’s website, Superga is a renowned brand established in Italy in 1911. Their primary product features shoes with vulcanized rubber soles to ensure flexibility and durability, widely recognized by its tagline “People’s shoes of Italy”. Superga has continuously expanded to include centrally located stores in Singapore. Their first flagship store opened at Orchard Road, Wheelock Place,  in November 2014 and features unique pieces, along with the largest range of their Classic 2750 pieces. In recent years, the brand has increased their chain with the launch of their second store at Vivo City in 2015. Retailers as exemplified by Superga face mounting pressure when serving customers especially during peak seasons intensified during sale periods in June annually.

The retail industry is often an undermined sector, where most resources go into perfecting the product, and less on customer service. Frontline staff are constantly put in the spotlight where they must perform at consistent levels despite the tough working environment. This includes working for long hours, managing unreasonable customers while being paid minimum wage. These issues justify the need for the team to highlight the importance of establishing a high self-esteem work environment. Self-esteem is important in the workplace because “higher self-esteem improves psychological well-being and produces desirable changes in behavior” (Leary, 1999). This means that poor staff performance can ultimately be improved by raising staffs’ self-esteem in Superga.

 

Thematic focus

The main theme explored in this research is self-esteem in the retail workplace. According to Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger, and Vohs (2003), individuals with high self-esteem claim to be more likable and attractive, to have better relationships and to make better impressions on others than individuals without”. Therefore, the lack of self-esteem can have various repercussions, such as lower motivation in the workplace, reduced productivity and decrease in performance.

In this report, issues such as poor interpersonal communication, conflicts of interests resulting in misunderstanding, lack of teamwork and motivation are also explored. All these underlying themes are either causes or results that stem from the main problem of declining self-esteem.

 

Interpersonal communication problem

The focal issue is on retail employee’s lack of self-esteem, leading to job dissatisfaction and high turnover for the organisation. According to Sarah Wong, a previous employees who worked at Superga, good employee performance often goes unnoticed, especially during periods of seasonal product launches, the weekend period or even during sales. To illustrate, an employee may have spent substantial amount of time to get to know a customer’s needs and to suggest a design that best fits their needs. This ensures that the customer leaves the store feeling grateful for the time spent finding value in their purchases. However, in a busy environment, such performance may go unnoticed by the store managers. A stronger emphasis on the dollar sales is celebrated, rather than the extra lengths of effort taken during staff interaction with customers.

On top of that, when an employee makes a mistake, it is further aggravated especially under stressful work conditions. For an example, staff normally communicate with managers over text messaging. When passing on important messages, including warnings or instructions, such chat groups are utilized. Faced with the immediate pressure of replying in a group with other associates also in the chat, the staff member hesitates to voice his or her opinions freely. Leading on from this tendency, miscommunication and assumptions are often made based on these announcements.

In this condition, Superga employees are left feeling unempowered, and they feel that they are just merely “tools” of the organisation to operationally “sell” the footwear. According to Kai and Snape (2013), with empowerment “employees are thus more likely to have a sense of meaning in their jobs, and to feel capable of implementing job activities on a self-managed basis”. In the case of Superga, employees’ self-esteem takes a hit as they are not empowered to take control of how their store managers decide to manage processes and relay information.

Hence, they decide to stop putting their hearts into service and quit going the extra mile to communicate, engage and retain the customers. Eventually, lesser customers are converted into long-term advocates for Superga, which is detrimental in their finanical sustainability in their business.

 

Nature of project’s professional importance

Self-esteem may be deemed as a personal issue and unimportant in the workplace. However, according to the intellectual and emotional recognition theory proposed by Chan Kim and Mauborgne (1998), regardless of position or power, all employees desire to be valued and treated with dignity and not simply used as labour. Organisation-based self-esteem improves when employees perceive that their colleagues consider them valuable.

As mentioned in the thematic focus, a lack of self-esteem in staff will lead to  many undesirable outcomes. Thus, it is important for Superga store managers and operation managers to be well-educated and aware of the signs of low self-esteem in front line staff and how to create a motivating workplace environment. Once achieved, the desirable results of organisation-based self-esteem will ultimately help improve employee morale, productivity, and performance as suggested the Chan Kim and Mauborgne intellectual and emotional recognition theory.

 

Objective and scope of study

The objective of this research is to explore and better understand self-esteem within the retail environment. It is also to inform and educate future retail operation managers on how to improve self-esteem in the workplace. This also encourages interpersonal communication, fostering cohesiveness and motivating employees. This research will firstly focus on how a complaint received with regards to the inefficiency of their frontline staff, was misappropriately handled by the top management of the company. The lack of communication existing between the upper management and front line staff will also demonstrate the differences of goals between both parties. Additionally, the context of the research will also highlight how the problem was exacerbated by the lack of teamwork and understanding among the front line staff, which affects the self-esteem of the staff involved in the complaint. This problem also spirals to the office of the upper management where this unfavourable situation created tension between the operations manager and the big bosses, resulting to the operations manager calling it quits as she crumbled under pressure from her bosses.

 

Proposed data collection/research method

The research for this report entailed the contribution of primary and secondary research. A group member, Inqa, used to be a sales associate between July to September 2015. While she worked there across the span of three months, she personally experienced the interpersonal communication problems highlighted in the objectives of the report. Thus, she would be a representative of the workplace to detail how problems surfaced accurately. Aside from that, the team spoke with two other ex-colleagues whom she worked closely with and faced the same problems. All data and research was collected through an unstructured interview and was recorded down for the purpose of understanding the root problem of the communication breakdown.

 

Potential solutions/implementation for problem resolution

According to the Gibbs category of defensive and supportive communication behaviours, a defensive stance is by going ahead and imposing solutions without regard to the needs or input of others in the team. A supportive action should rather be collaboration on a solution that is satisfactory to both, such as through the usage of win-win supportive language.

According to McGrath (2016), the first step to improving employees’ self-esteem is to ensure that top management builds a relationship based on respect with the front line staff. This includes having a proper two-way communication channel with these staff, best if face to face. Applying the concepts learnt from class, direct communication reduces the potential for misunderstandings. Body language, tone and facial expressions can be observed when such direct communication is executed, where if a top management staff relays a new instruction, the immediate reaction can be received. Should there be any disagreement, it can be raised and negotiated quickly. Also, to improve staff morale, group meetings should be conducted for feedback and review.

Offering hints of encouragement in the workplace environment will also encourage positivity at work, such as putting up sticky notes on mirrors with words like “I am important, and I’ll do great at work today!”, which will send a positive message as they refer to it while getting ready for their shift. Aside from that, encouragement cards, welfare packs, team bonding sessions and premium gifts for exceptional staff will boost team morale.  

Instead of having a stress inducing noticeboard with statistics showing daily sales results, it should be replaced with quotes and pictures from team building, positive word of encouragements from upper management.

Such potential implementations can lead to benefits which will be discussed in the next section.

 

Benefits to the workplace

This research benefits not only future retail operation managers but also upper management and front line staff.

Midline Operation Managers → Managers can learn how to identify interpersonal communication issues in the workplace, properly analyse the situation and know how to solve the problems before they worsen. They can also learn how to prevent such future problems from occurring by implementing various measures in the workplace that enforce teamwork, motivation and self-esteem continuously.

Frontline Staff → It is important for frontline staff to have enough self-awareness and confidence in serving customers, as they are the first line of contact customers have. It takes just the first five seconds for a customer to not only form a first impression of you as a staff but also of the store, management or even the brand. This makes frontline staff extremely important, yet vulnerable when it comes to serving customers. They require self-esteem and confidence to approach and serve customers, as well as self-awareness to assess the situation in order to communicate effectively with customers. Communicating effectively not only applies to customers but the staff’s co-workers and bosses. Furthermore, frontline staff are put even more in a spot, when they have to not only provide great service to customers but also hit sales targets and explain to their supervisors.

 

Concluding thoughts (Application to MICE)

When it comes to serving the customer as a primary role, it is always important that a customer-service focused retail workplace establishes a culture promoting high self-esteem among its employees. This is because self-esteem and confidence are required when interacting with customers, as opposed to a desk-bound job. The suggestions aimed to overcome this particular situation can also be applied to any organisational setting, not just in the retail outlet as communication takes place almost anywhere. In general, the suggestions from the research can also be applied in the hospitality sector such as the MICE industry. For instance, servicing clients for an event requires high levels of interpersonal communication. Clients will definitely have many requests, last minute changes, special arrangements and enquiries. There will be some requests that we will not be able to accede to, and this needs to be communicated to the client in a formal, personal manner. Just like in a retail context shown in assimilated through this study, communicating announcements via text is not a good form of interpersonal communication.

In conclusion, when proper communication channels are established in an organisation, it will help to enhance operations and create a more conducive and friendly environment for employees to work in, encouraging everyone to work towards achieving similar goals.

 

References

McGrath. E. (2001, June 9). Self-Esteem at Work. Retrieved March 06, 2017, from https://www.psycho2logytoday.com/articles/200110/self-esteem-work

The Superga Story. (2017). Retrieved March 13, 2017, from https://www.superga.co.uk/about

Fong, K. H., & Snape, E. (2013). Empowering Leadership, Psychological Empowerment and Employee Outcomes: Testing a Multi-level Mediating Model. British Journal of Management,26(1), 126-138. doi:10.1111/1467-8551.12048

Leary, M. R. (1999). The social and psychological importance of self-esteem. The social psychology of emotional and behavioral problems: Interfaces of social and clinical psychology., 197-221. doi:10.1037/10320-007

Baumeister, R. F., Campbell, J. D., Krueger, J. I., & Vohs, K. D. (2003). Does High Self-Esteem Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness, or Healthier Lifestyles? Psychological Science in the Public Interest,4(1), 1-44. doi:10.1111/1529-1006.01431

Chen, M., Ho, C., Lin, C., Chung, M., Chao, W., Chou, H., & Li, C. (2015). Organisation-based self-esteem mediates the effects of social support and job satisfaction on intention to stay in nurses. Journal of Nursing Management,24(1), 88-96. doi:10.1111/jonm.12276

 

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