Ottawa Valley Food Products Case Study

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Ottawa Valley Food Products (OVFP) is a company which manufactures and distributes low calorie and diet food items. The employees at OVFP consist of 100 production workers and 18 management and support staff. R J Jennings is amongst these individuals and has worked for OVFP for 31 years. Even though he is able to retire, Jennings does not wish to do so any time in the near future. Jennings had a previous administrative assistant, Ella Arnold, who worked with him for 10 years. Ella, aged 58, decided to take early retirement due to deterioration in her eyesight.

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As Jennings’ assistant, Ella would work over time sometimes without pay, go above and beyond to make sure her job was done well including breaking previous personal commitments. By Ella doing this in her job, resulted in Jennings feeling she had a ‘sixth sense’ for her job, she even ran errands in her lunch break for him. When Ella retired, the personnel department replaced her with Mary Gregory. Mary Gregory is 24 years old and has qualifications in administration from a local community college as well as a well-known Canadian university. On her first day, Jennings phoned her using the interoffice telephone to ask her to get him a coffee and a newspaper on her way back from her break.

He had asked this every morning for that past ten years before Mary had joined the company. Mary refused stating she was busy. After this, Jennings got his own coffee and newspaper, even though he purposely gave Mary a light workload. From this, Jennings just assumed it was first day nerves. OVFP had an important meeting coming up with agents who did not previously transport OVFP products. The meeting was to talk about and arrange production and shipping schedules before they signed a contract. When Jennings walked into the meeting, he found Mary talking to the agents about her weekend. He had asked Mary to leave the meeting, but she refused explaining to the agents she was not leaving.

After the agents left, Jennings asked Mary to visit his office where he asked for an explanation of her behaviour during the meeting. She replied with an upset comment stating ‘she was not drafted into the army.’ Another incident occurred the next morning when Mary would not file away the reports in Jennings office. Jennings had stated at the end of Mary’s six week probation period she would no longer be needed in the company. Once the news of this was found out, Jennings was later faced with a note, handed to him by Karen Russell. The note stated he had two choices, either change his mind and allow Mary to continue with her job at the end of her probation period or all 10 of OVFP’s administrative assistants would take this further. They would go to Ottawa to state their protest on the CBC show at six o’clock. The administrative assistants were waiting for Jennings response to this in the lounge and gave him 20 minutes in order to make his decision.

Assumptions made based on the report:

▪The organization was structured properly and the business is successful. The business has been running for 30 years and has a large amount of staff and managers.

▪There are different branches or departments that produce specialized products. The different branches manage things such as dairy, vegetables and fruits and meat products ect.

▪Because the company is so successful; all the workers have the values and objectives towards bettering the company. The workers strive toward success in the company.

▪The company’s marketing strategy is to produce low-calorie and diet foods to grocery stores made out of high quality ingredients. Their marketing advantage is that they sell unique healthy foods at a low cost

. ▪The company has monthly goals to attain that include having the correct products ready for certain stores and having them delivered on time to the stores. They finish their work on time frequently because they have a successful business and long term customers.

▪All of the secretaries are female. Women are specifically hired to work as secretaries for Jennings.

▪Since all of the secretaries gathered together to meet with Jennings because they were unhappy so it can be concluded that Jennings treats most of his employees unfairly and expects too much out of them.

▪Jennings asks too much of his employees sometimes. He will ask them to do things that are not in their job descriptions; such as get him coffee and pick up his dry cleaning.

▪Jennings may be too comfortable at his job. He is taking his employees for granted and using them to do personal favours.

Problem Statement:
The senior director of Ottawa Valley Food Products, R.J. Jennings, is having issues with his replacement administrative assistant. His former assistant
was very outgoing and willing to work long hours in order to please her boss and to get the work done in a timely manner. When she took an early retirement, the company hired a replacement assistant for Mr. Jennings. Over her time with the company the new assistant, Mary Gregory, was at times incapable of the workload she had been given, which her predecessor had no trouble with. Not only was Mary incompetent at times, she also seemed to have no sense of proper business etiquette.

On the day of an important meeting Mary decided to entertain the client with stories of her weekend while Jennings was running late. When Jennings arrived in his office he found a less than impressed client and his assistant chatting him up. After Jennings had told her to leave the office so they could commence their meeting, which was already running late, Mary scolded Jennings telling him that it was rude for him to ask her to leave and then continued with her story. After the meeting had concluded Mary was asked into Jennings’s office where he demanded an explanation. Mary protested that the situation was through no fault of her own. Mary was told shortly after the incident that her duties would no longer be needed at the end of her six week probationary period. Mary rebutted this by rallying all the administrative assistants to Mr.Jennings office with demands to be met or they would go to the CBC NEWS in Ottawa to air a piece about their story. Jennings has to make a decision whether or not to disregard these actions. If the piece airs on CBC NEWS, it will be nothing but bad publicity for the company. If he decides to Leave Mary in her position, she could potentially lose clients and disrupt further office interactions.

Internal (Strengths and Weaknesses):
▪The company management is well respected and the company has been running for over 30 years and supplies to grocery store. Jennings is a respected manager and has a good reputation amongst other companies that OVFP have contracts with.

▪The Company has a high rate of employment. OVFP employs 100 production workers and 18 management and support staff. This shows that the company is successful. The company has been able to expand and needed to hire more workers to finish the required tasks on time.

▪The Company achieves corporate objectives as they are successful in obtaining their goals. The company creates all of the goods on time and has the products delivered to certain grocers on the requested date.

▪The company is successful because employees share the same values in the company; aiming toward success. Management ensures the job is done and that it is done with quality. The values of the workers include completing current objectives on time and with good quality.

▪The company’s current marketing objective is to have the goods ready for their clients on time and to have the food delivered on time. This marketing objective is a strength because the employees work hard to finish the jobs. The secretaries mainly finish their assigned jobs with unfortunately some miscommunications but they work hard to finish everything. Weaknesses

▪Structure is clearly not understood by some of the employees, as Mary was not aware of some of the duties she needed to accomplish. Also, Jennings expected a lot out of her, where are she believed that she did not need complete these tasks for him because they were in her job description. Because they did not agree on what each other must do to get the day running smoothly they had a conflict.

▪The other secretaries wanted to meet with him because they were also not happy. Jennings does not treat his secretaries fairly and expects them to work as the pace of Ella. He expects them to answer his personal calls and do other personal favours such as work overtime without pay .

▪ The company does not finish all of their objectives because Mary was not completing all of the tasks Jennings assigned for her. This is why they had a conflict.

▪If Mary could not handle the tasks Jennings was giving her then his expectations were too high. He was asking too much of her. Potentially, he could have asked for her to do simpler tasks until she got used the environment.

▪Jennings did not hire Mary, human resources hired her for him. He did not have a choice therefore he may not get along with her if he doesn’t have a say in who is his secretary. The human resource department did not know what Jennings was looking for.

▪All of the secretaries were female. If they are all only women then they are violating human rights.

▪ Human resources was not able to hire an efficient worker for the company. They did not hire someone fit for the job and made a mistake.

▪Jennings may not be a good manager if he is asking too much from his employees. If they do not understand where he is coming from when he is
asking them to do things for him they might not listen to him. Also, if he is being unreasonable the employees won’t bother doing what they are asked.

▪ Human resources may not be the appropriate people to hire an assistant for Jennings. Jennings should be able to choose his own secretary to avoid further conflict. If he picked someone that he believes would fit the job description better than there would never have been a conflict to resolve.

External Analysis:
•Jennings had informed Mary that she would no longer be employed at the end of her six week probationary period. Mary has no real grounds to protest for her job but the administrative assistant Union is standing up for her. With a union involved, striking is always a possibility. The administrative assistants to a large load of the office work and filing. Without these workers the business will be running far less efficiently. Social

•The way Ottawa Valley Food Products is perceived by the public is directly correlated to its sales. A local news piece that depicts the company in a negative image could have negative repercussions on the success of the company. Sometimes there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but if the company looks like it doesn’t care about its employees, that is tougher for the company to shake. Opportunities

•With the administrative assistants up in arms, an opportunity has arisen to change the current hiring system. To ensure that no incidents happen in the future, it is possible to tweak our hiring techniques to make sure our employees are of a quality caliber and they have solid references. Jennings is however not the root of the problem, Mary is, and management should be looking seriously into this as well. The management of a corporation should not allow an administrative assistant to potentially ruin sales and lose the company money and clients. Threats

•The threat of a unionized support staff is always looming. If the administrative assistants form a union it will be nearly impossible to fire unruly staff. Also unions usually bargain for more money, which would result in more overhead for the company. Ultimately a union would limit the amount of work that the assistants do, and give them more money. If the Assistants were to form a union, it could have direct correlation with the production of the company. •A new hiring standard is in desperate need at Ottawa Valley Food Products. Otherwise they run the risk of hiring more staff that could become problematic. If they continue to hire these types of staff, it could have detrimental effects on the productivity of the company.

Alternatives courses of Action:
Alternative #1
R.J can do nothing and continue to end Mary’s employment after the six – week probation period. This will force the 10 OVFP executive assistants to publicize their complaint on CBC. R.J. Jennings is a senior manager at OVFP who has been working with them for 31 years and Mary Gregory should treat him with respect and honor his requests. Advantages

•R.J. Jennings has been employed at OVFP for 31 years and deserves a better administrative assistant. By continuing to terminate Mary’s employment he may be assigned an assistant that better meets his needs. •The cost of finding and training new employees with work equipment can end up being expensive but Mary wasn’t able to handle the duties necessary to be a successful assistant. The potential employees applying for the job can be strategically chosen through interviews so that time and money is not wasted if they hire a new assistant with extensive experience that can adapt to the new job easily and not require lots of training. •This option is easy to put into practice because nothing is required other than to document Mary Gregory’s progress until the six – week probation period has ended. During this period R.J. also is given enough time to search for and hire a new assistant that may better meet his needs. •By executing this option R.J. is also able to demonstrate his expectations to other coworkers. In future situations his coworkers will know what R.J. expects from his assistants. Disadvantages

•By continuing to terminate Mary’s employment he will lose his assistant as well as having the potential to lose the other 10 executive assistants that
are protesting this. As these other assistants do not agree with R.J.’s decision they may willingly quit. As well, by going public with this protest they can bring negative media attention to R.J. and OVFP, as thus may ruin future business deals or current business commitments. •The approach of doing nothing and continuing to end Mary’s employment after the six – week probation period could negatively affect the company. The company will now have to go through the trouble of hiring and training a new assistant, rather than to address and try to fix the problem with Mary. If R.J. does need to replace Mary and possibly other executive assistants, he may replace them with new employees that might not work out and in fact be worse than his current employees. •If R.J. does terminate Mary’s employment, lose other executive assistance and bring negative media attention to OVFP he also has the potential of losing his job. Other senior management might view him as harmful to the company and may look into putting him on a probationary period or ultimately terminating his position.

Alternative #2
R.J. Jennings could bring Mary Gregory into his office and have a discussion about the situation and address the problems that he has with Mary. Allow Mary to see what Ella Arnold successfully did and how she completed her tasks for R.J. daily. R.J. also clearly needs to express his expectations for his assistant so Mary is able to understand what is required of her. R.J. can allow Mary to move forward from this point and demonstrate how she is qualified for this job. If she is given another chance she may meet his standards and adjust to being a successful assistant. R.J. may also be given the opportunity to see his demands from Mary’s perspective. Because Ella did tasks for R.J that was not in her job description, R.J. has come to expect this. Mary can be given the chance to explain that she is not there to bring R.J. his coffee and newspaper and how she felt at some of his requests. Advantages

•The actual problem can be addressed and Mary can see what Ella Arnold did as R.J.’s assistant. Mary will be given a list of expectations that she must meet in order to continue her employment at OVFP. If Mary clearly knows what is expected of her she may be able to carry out her daily tasks
successfully. If Mary does not agree with what is expected of her in this role or does not feel she can complete such tasks she may willing leave her position, without spurring the negative media attention. •R.J. is also given the opportunity to see how much more Ella did for him that was required. Mary may have a different work style than Ella and does not feel like she should have to be taken advantage of or do tasks that R.J. can carry out himself, such as getting R.J. his coffee. •This alternative allows the problem to be addressed between both parties. It can also promote further open communication between coworkers as R.J. is setting a positive example to address a problem. •Negative media attention can be avoided as the executive assistants will not be on the CBC newscast. Disadvantages

•Mary Gregory might become defensive once in R.J.’s office. After R.J. addresses the problem with Mary she might have a different perspective on the situation and feel she isn’t in the wrong. R.J. may feel he has wasted time and effort trying to fix the problem with Mary. •If Mary does not agree with R.J. she might notify the other 10 OVFP executive assistants about the meeting she had and continue with the CBC newscast. If Mary does not agree with the discussion she had with R.J. it could fuel further negative comments being made during the newscast. •Mary might feel she is underappreciated because she’s always being compared to Ella.

Alternative #3
Terminate Mary Gregory from OVFP as an assistant immediately without reason and without allowing the six-week probation period to expire. Mary has been given enough chances to complete what is required of her and if she still continues to struggle with the everyday tasks that R.J. assigns then she is not the right person for the assistant position. Advantages

•Mary Gregory is no longer an employee for OVFP so they can start to find a replacement assistant immediately that can be beneficial to the company. •It will be easier to release Mary as an employee because she’s still on probation. •R.J. Jennings can get back to being an efficient, hardworking employee with no distractions to affect his work. He can find a new assistant that meets his needs and will allow him to continue to be a
dedicated employee. •Because Mary was new to the company she does not get paid benefits or other possible layoff payments that a fulltime life employee would receive. Disadvantages

•Employees that formed a bond or friendship with Mary might disagree with OVFP’s choice to terminate her during the probation period. These employees might show their disagreement with the company’s choice by slowing work efficiency and motivation towards their job. •The assistants that have threatened to appear on CBC will still do so if Mary is immediately terminated. The immediate termination may infuriate them further if Mary is fired without being given any explanation or chance to further prove her work ethic. •Employees might take the message in a different manner and think there not being treated fairly for the work they give to the company. The employees might think that the company feels they are replaceable and aren’t an asset towards the company’s success when that isn’t the case. This could lead to further problems such as strikes or searching for other employment. •Time and money will be spent during the process of finding a new assistant.

Alternative #4
Allow the option to release Mary Gregory from OVFP as an assistant with reason. Again, Mary has been given ample opportunities to turn her work ethic around but has failed to do so. R.J could have a meeting and tell Mary she is no longer employed at OVFP as well as notify her of the reasons why she’s being let go. This can allow R.J. to clearly express his reasoning for the decision as well as allow Mary to express how she is feeling Advantages

•R.J. would no longer have to work with an assistant he feels does not meet up to his standards. •By having a meeting and clearly explaining the reason for her termination it may diffuse the situation. Mary can be given the opportunity to see R.J.’s reasoning and may agree with some of the issues he has raised. It can also be a learning experience for Mary as she looks for new jobs she may know what is expected of her in an administrative position. •Mary can be given the opportunity for a fresh start at a new company.

She may also be able to use R.J. as a reference or connection toother jobs. Although her job was terminated R.J. may want to help her future search and just cite the termination as a clash of personalities or Mary not being the right fit for the job. R.J. is also able to have a fresh start with a new assistant and may be more aware of how to express his expectations. •R.J.’s executive assistants will not go on CBC if Mary has been treated with respect and had the opportunity to have a discussion with R.J. Disadvantages

•Negative publicity can still arise if Mary still feels she wasn’t treated equally and was terminated without given a fair chance. The other assistants may feel that it is still necessary to make this issue aware to the public by being on CBC. •Legal issues may be a possibility. Even though she’s a new employee she could address the situation with the labor board or human resources to see if there are any options regarding her termination (i.e. severance pay). •Disagreement with the decision to terminate Mary’s position by other employees might cause work ethic and efficiency to drop or other possibilities such as a strike or employees quitting.

Recommendations and Plan of Action:
The alternative chosen to resolve the problem statement is option four which is allowing the option to release Mary Gregory from OVFP as an assistant with reason. This alternative is favourable as Mary has been given numerous amounts of opportunities to adjust her work attitude, still chooses not to do so. By choosing this alternative, Jennings could have a meeting with Mary and explain to her why she is no longer an employee of OVFP.

At this meeting, he is able to discuss the reasons to why she is being fired. Jennings will be able to justify his decision and let Mary express her feelings about the situation. By using this alternative Jennings will no longer have to work with Mary as he feels her work ethics are not to his standards of being his assistant. As a result of having this meeting, it can calm the situation as Mary is able to understand Jennings’ reasoning and may even agree with some of the issues he states. This could also allow Mary to learn from this when she looks for future jobs as she may have a better understanding of what is expected of her in an administrative assistant’s role. As a result of Mary’s termination this will allow her to have a new start with a different company. Finally, if Mary is treated with respect and given justification to her termination, the executive assistants may change their mind and withdraw from appearing on CBC.

There were a number of different alternatives decided upon as well when analysing Mary Gregory’s position at OVFP. The first alternative for Jennings to do nothing and to continue to end Mary’s employment after her six weeks probation period would not be suitable. This is due to ten other OVFP executive assistants stating they would also leave the company if Mary was not employed after her probation period.

They also stated they would publicise their complaint on CBC. This could result in bringing negative publicity to OVFP, which could potentially cause problems with future business deals or current business relationships. Also, by terminating Mary’s employment the company would have to go through the process of finding a new assistant for Jennings and then having to train them. By doing this, OVFP may find these new employees to not be as efficient as their previous executive assistants. Finally, Jennings may lose his own job by bringing negative media attention to the business from firing Mary and the other assistants going to CBC with their disagreements. OVFP senior management team may find this damaging to the company and its image, therefore possibly putting him on a probationary period or terminating his position altogether.

The second alternative, Jennings bringing Mary into his office to discuss the situation and address any problems is also not suitable for resolving this issue. This is could result in Mary becoming defensive once Jennings begins to discuss issues with her. She might feel she is not in the wrong and have a different outlook on the situation at hand. As a result of this, Jennings may feel he has wasted his time trying to resolve the problems with Mary and her work attitude. Also, Mary might speak with other assistants once she finishes talking with Jennings and explain to them what happened. After this, they may still continue with the broadcast with CBC and if Mary does not agree with Jennings and his opinions then this could result in even more negative comments said during the newscast, again bringing destructive media attention to OVFP. Also, by Jennings doing this Mary feel unappreciated as he is always comparing her to his previous assistant, Ella Arnold. This could demotivate her to completing her job to the best of her ability and carrying out everyday tasks Ella used to do for Jennings.

Finally, the third alternative is terminating Mary from OVFP as an assistant without reason and terminating her position once her six week probation period has finished. This, again, would not be appropriate for resolving the situation as employees who have formed a working or friendly relationship with Mary might disagree with OVFP’s decision. By showing their support towards Mary, they may decide to show lack of care within their working attitudes and not complete their own jobs properly.

This could bring a long, tiring issue for OVFP if their employees are not motivated to work and complete their jobs on time or to the highest of standards. Also, the assistants who mentioned they would appear on CBC will continue to do so if Mary is fired from her position. They may do this as they will be upset by Mary being terminated without any justification to why she is no longer needed at OVFP. Also, from this alternative employees may feel they are not being treated fairly for the work they contribute towards the company, therefore they may feel they are replaceable. As a result of this, employees will not feel an asset to the company or feel they are appreciated when the company achieves goals. Employees could strike due to this or seek employment in a different company. Finally, precious time and money will be wasted on finding new assistants to replace Mary and the ten executive assistants if they decide to leave OVFP.

The response that Mary’s and the other executive assistants gave when they
hear the news that Mary is being let go after her probation period may seem like the major key component in this case. But as stated is this report there are many other factors that play into this company problem. Mary may response in an understandings way when Jennings explains his reasoning for letting her go from OVFP or she may not. Either way OVFP must realise they need to make changes in the company to prevent a situation like this from happening in the future. Reorganizing the human resources hiring process is a great start. Job posting that clearly state what the employee duties are within the company, will avoid confuse among Mangers and assistants. Also having Managers involved in the hiring of their assistants with make sure that Managers are paired with assistants that meet there individual needs. Having Human Recourse make these changes, it will over all avoid future problems like this from arising, and will create happier for efficient, and loyal employees. Which will over all benefits the company with loyal employees more efficient employees the company will save money and put this money in things such as expanding or improving other components.