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Moreover, they treat the employees with a tremendous amount of respect and look for their input. "Participative leaders allow employees to have input into the organization's decision-making processes" (Ryckman, 2011). Liza and Samuel treat all of their employees as if they are valued. However, the one area where Sammy's Sammies may need to improve in the participative leadership arena is in the treatment of the child-employees. While other employees' are valued for their input, both Liza and Samuel may be quicker to dismiss their children's input than the input from other employees. There is some blurring of the parent/boss line that is probably inevitable in a family-owned business and which, at this time, is not really detrimental to the business. However, one can see the possibility of this becoming a problem in the future as the children age and are less under the control of their parents.
Sammy's Sammies excels at promoting fairness and ethics. The employees have very few complaints about decisions being unfair. The owners genuinely care about every one of their employees, so they try to treat them fairly. In fact, it is a testament to their ability to do so that none of the employees seemed to think that the family employees were treated any better than the non-family employees. It seems like the owners are simply fair people, which makes it easy for them to engage in fair behavior. "Managers who cultivate a culture of fairness, honesty and sound ethics will have employees who are more likely to identify with the organization, even when an unpopular decision is made (Ryckman, 2011). The one area where there may be a perception of unfairness is that the child-employees do try to avoid some of the less pleasant tasks, such as cleaning the bathroom. If their parents are out of the restaurant, they are more likely to engage in that type of behavior. However, the employees all feel comfortable telling them to do their jobs.
Furthermore, Sammy's Sammies has done a very good job at designing a competitive compensation system. During the lunch and dinner hours, all of the employees work very, very hard. This level of work could be lessened if the restaurant hired an additional employee, but all of the current employees make significantly more than minimum wage. The decision to work harder and make more per hour rather than hire an additional employee was the result of an employee meeting. When the employees begin to feel overwhelmed with the amount of work they have to do, they help determine when to hire another employee.
One of the other interesting factors about the restaurant is that it promotes the idea of individuality in its employees. Though it is a family restaurant with a very family-vibe, one of the employees has visible tattoos on her face, and another employee has bright-pink hair. These looks might be discouraged in some family restaurant environments. However, this is an important way of promoting organizational identification. "If people can express their personality in their work, and they believe that the work is important in the organization, they may be likely to have a significant sense of organizational identification" (Bell, unk.).
One of the interesting facets about organizational culture is that researchers have found differences in organizational culture in regards to employee status and student status (Buckingham, unk.). However, Sammy's Sammies does not seem to have a problem making all of its employees feel like parts of the organization. This may have to do with the fact that the family itself spans multiple generations and the child employees are also students. This may explain why the other part-time student employees feel like part of the organization as well. "Organizational identification is a level of commitment that even part-time employees can achieve," a fact that one can see at the sandwich shop (Buckingham, unk.)
Because the restaurant is such a small company, its organizational communication structure if fairly simple. However, it would be a mistake to confuse the fact that its communications are simple with the idea that communications are somehow unimportant to the business. "All organizations, not just business organizations, have communication needs and challenges" (Baker, 2002). Understanding these communication challenges, both the internal ones and the external ones, is critical to the success of the company. Sammy's Sammies does a great job at internal communications but does not perform as well with external communications. At this point in time, the owners have no plans to grow the business; therefore they are not really focusing on external communication efforts. However, if they ever seek to expand their business, they will have to expand communications beyond the group of core customers that they already have.
The restaurant's internal communications are all in-person, and, given the size of the organization, that communication structure works. These internal communications provide "employees with important information about their jobs, organization, environment and each other. Communication can help motivate, build trust, create shared identity and spur engagement; it provides a way for individuals to express emotions, share hopes and ambitions and celebrate and remember accomplishments. Communication is the basis for individuals and groups to make sense of their organization, what it is and what it means" (Berger, 2008). All employees interact with ownership during virtually every shift that they work. It is impossible for employees to avoid direct communication with ownership and management. Moreover, the employees all communicate with one another. In a larger organization there might be a legitimate need for a more formalized set of written communications, but those would simply be unnecessary in this small restaurant environment.
One of the central ideas in internal organization communication is that "HR leaders who promote thoughtful communication strategies encourage employee engagement and keep the workforce energized, focused and productive. To recharge employee morale, and support the organization's objectives, HR can foster an environment for engagement by developing a targeted, proactive strategic communication plan. This communication strategy can focus on organizational goals and determine methods of communication and information points for different audiences (e.g., employees vs. media)" (HR Magazine, 2008). The HR department at Sammy's Sammies is Samuel and Liza; however, when one looks at how they have engaged their staff in the work environment it becomes clear that they both have an intuitive understanding of workplace communication strategies. They have sought to make their employees invested in the workplace, so that everyone is working towards a common goal. Moreover, they have successfully instilled a feeling of mutual respect in the workplace.
One potential problem with the organizational communication is that there is no differentiation between internal and external communications. On one hand, it is critical for a business's communications to have consistency in its internal and external messages. On the other hand, it may be important for different people to have different levels of information. There is some degree of separation in the communications. For example, the employees all have access to the secret recipe for the sauce that makes the sub-sandwiches taste so distinctive. However, the company makes no real effort to advertise to attain new customers. There does not seem to be any real effort to even have overt external communications.
That said, it is important to realize how much of the restaurant's success is connected to the open, friendly manner of Samuel. The shop is named for him and he personally interacts with his customers. A repeat customer would find it impossible to avoid an interaction with Samuel. He always has a kind word for customers, but his nonverbal communication is what really sets him apart as a proprietor. His tone of voice, loudness, pitch, and nonverbal cues such as eye contact, facial expression, posture, and gestures are consistently friendly and inviting (Mind Tools, 2011). In other words, he really does want people to feel at home in his restaurant, and he shows it with his actions. That may be the most important element of external communication.
While Sammy's Sammies does a very good job with its internal communications, there are things that any restaurant can do to improve its organizational identification. Jagg Xaxx identifies several things that a restaurant can do to help a restaurant strengthen its organizational culture, such as having staff meetings, recipe contests, annual parties, uniforms, and profit sharing (2011). One of the things that seemed clear is that the restaurant does not actually devote any time to regular staff meetings, because it is such a small staff and all employees tend to overlap with one another. While communications are still transmitted to all employees, this can result in some lag time in communication. Holding a mandatory staff meeting biweekly would allow staff to share information and probably ease the scheduling burden. For example, Liza reported feeling stressed about ensuring all shifts were adequately covered during finals because the student workers wanted time off to study, but only asked a few days in advance, and Samuel's parents, who…[continue]
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