Why Aren’t They Listening Case Study


After each of the elements of the rubric guidelines have been addressed, take the information and put it into a cohesive narrative that will end up being the deliverable for this project.

Elements of the Rubric Guidelines to Address:

  1. Define and describe the problem(s) or issue(s) that should be the focus of your analysis.

  2. Note any relevant quantitative or qualitative data and/or evidence that is pertinent to the case.

  3. Describe the results of your analysis and share your thoughts as they pertain to what some of the possible actions might be.

  4. Share what you believe the preferred action plan should be.


 Why Aren’t They Listening Case Study

Problem(s) and Issues that should be the Focus of this Analysis

The problem of major concern in the case study is lack of commitment to training by the middle level managers. Most managers felt that the training sessions did not add any significant value to their line of work. As some of them said, “Here we go again: a fancy in-house training program from which we will gain nothing”, indicating that they expected to gain little or nothing from participating in the seminar. The focus of Jim Anderson was teaching listening and communication skills and making the seminar as interesting as possible. However, this did not seem to fit well with the middle level managers. Another issue relates to the content of the training program. It is possible that that middle level managers were highly competent in the area of listening and communication skills. In addition, past training programs may have focused on this area. As such, providing training in this area did not add any key benefits or value to the middle level managers.

The delivery of the program could be an issue, and specifically the manner in which Jim conducts the seminars. Jim does not create any rules for the training session, but rather lets the managers decide on their own whether to attend the sessions. Jim seems to have introduced the laissez-faire style of leadership, which is not effective in this case. Another problem is that there is no reward system in place to motivate the middle level managers. Jim should introduce a reward system to ensure that managers feel motivated to attend all the sessions. Introducing a reward system could help in increasing the motivation levels and thus optimize attendance levels.

Relevant Quantitative or Qualitative Data and/or Evidence

One of the quantitative aspects is that the training program runs for 6 weeks. This seems to be a lot of time considering the fact that nearly all of the managers hold advanced degrees. Jim could design a shorter training program to ensure that the group remains focused throughout the program. The training program comprises of about 25 middle level managers. A class size of 25 individuals seems appropriate for a communication and listening training program. It is worth noting that the larger the group, the more time it may take to complete training. A key qualitative aspect is that previous training programs had not been effective in delivering new knowledge or skills required by the middle level managers. This is a major reason why the middle level managers did not see the need to participate in the program. Another qualitative aspect is that the training sessions were lengthy; taking an entire day and hence leading to boredom. Shorter training sessions could have been more appropriate in this case.

Results of the Analysis

This analysis indicates that the main problem was a mismatch between the training program and the specific needs of the middle level managers, leading to a lack of commitment. As Northouse (2013) asserts, “effective leaders are those who can recognize what employees need and then adapt their own style to meet those needs” (p.100). Jim Anderson did not clearly understand the specific needs of the middle level managers. Thus, even when designing the program he did not have the specific needs of the managers in mind. This led to lack of commitment among the middle level managers who saw the program as a waste of time. In order to avoid this problem, Jim Anderson should have consulted with the middle level managers in order to learn about their specific needs. This would enable him to tailor the program to address the specific needs of the middle level managers.

Another issue regards the design of the program. Jim Anderson should have focused on introducing punishments and rewards. During the third session, attendance dropped to about 15 managers, meaning that as time went by, more managers dropped out. In addition, more managers were skipping the afternoon session. If the managers were interested in learning, they could not miss classes. Jim should have ensured that there is some form of rewards and punishment to keep the managers interested. Leaders have an obligation to ensure that those in lower levels are motivated (Wächter, Lungu, Liu, Willingham, & Ashe, 2009). This can be accomplished by rewarding desired behavior.

Preferred Action

Jim Anderson should understand the specific needs of the managers. He can achieve this by obtaining feedback from the managers about the training program as well as the previous training programs. Obtaining feedback from the managers will help Anderson to recognize what the managers need and modify his teaching methods to cater to those needs. The situational leadership model holds the premise that leaders should adapt their style to match different situations. A leader should examine the competency level of the employees or those under him. This can in turn help in developing the content and in choosing an appropriate leadership style. For instance, the leader may choose between a directive and a supportive style depending on the circumstances. Jim Anderson failed to assess the current situation during the training program. This resulted in a substantial number of managers quitting the training program or showing low enthusiasm by reporting late.

Questions at the end of the case

  1. What style of leadership is Jim Anderson using to run the seminars?

Jim Anderson is using a supportive style of leadership. Supportive leadership focuses on relationship behaviors. The key is to make the group members experience comfort with regard to the situation and the coworkers. In developing supportive relationships, the leader ensures that there is open communication with those in lower levels. The leader also ensures that there is a strong social and emotional support among all individuals in the group. Jim Anderson employs supportive style of leadership since his training design encompasses various elements of supportive leadership. For instance, he encourages socializing and networking, listening, problem solving, and other elements.

  1. At what level are the managers?

The managers are at a delegating level, contrary to Jim who seems to be in the extreme opposite end. The delegating level is one of the highest levels in the organization. At this level, the leaders provide little direct input. The leaders have less involvement in planning and control, instead leaving the employees to plan and set their own goals. At this stage, the leaders act as consultants. The leader monitors the team’s success, making sure that there are no signs of regression. The managers at this stage are responsible for developing strong inter-organizational relationships. For instance, the managers continue to solicit for more stakeholders who may be of benefit to the organization. Lastly, managers at this level are involved in seeking necessary resources that the team requires in order to fulfill the business goals.

  1. From a leadership perspective, what is Jim doing wrong?

Jim’s failure stems from the fact that he has not established any authority by allowing workers to arrive at their own time. Jim should set some rules to ensure that managers respect the training program. Jim should introduce punishments to those who report late as a way of deterring lateness. As a trainer and a leader in the training program, Jim should display his leadership skills, such as establishing rules. As the trainer, Jim should set the tone for the entire training program. He should make the managers aware that coming to the program late is wrong. Although Jim is clearly in a lower position compared to the managers, he should show confidence by setting rules rather than expecting the managers to arrive at any time of their discretion.

  1. What specific changes could Jim implement to improve the seminars?

Jim can improve the seminars by introducing a punishment/reward system. Punishment and reward system are fundamental in the motivation process (Wächter et al., 2009). Although they are considered external motivating factors, they are still crucial in the motivation process. Punishment should be introduced to those who report late during the training program. They can serve as important deterrents to lateness. Punishments should not be severe as this can lead to low attendance rates. Rewards should serve to encourage positive behavior. Rewards have a positive influence on behavior, while punishments can be used to discourage the occurrence of particular behavior.


Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and practice. Thousand Oaks: SAGE.

Wächter, T., Lungu, O. V., Liu, T., Willingham, D. T., & Ashe, J. (2009). Differential Effect of   Reward and Punishment on Procedural Learning. The Journal of Neuroscience : The     Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience29(2), 436–443.           http://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4132-08.2009