Can you Fix a Toxic Culture Without Firing People Case Solution Sample








CFO visits the Arkansas unit to review the financials of the ailing unit, but unfortunately, it turns out to be an ordeal she cannot forget. With the morale of employees at all time low, it’s time for the leadership to rethink and revisit its existing strategy of laying off. CEO while quoting the analysis of CFO would like to layoff the employees; however, CFO and HR head of the company have their reservations on this.


According to Taylor, “Management is the art of knowing what you want to do and then seeing that it is done in the best and cheapest way.” In the case described Noelle Freeman is trying to get conscious that her findings and input is being used to let their employees down.T his relates to what Taylor quoted. He quoted management is an art. Mr. Cam was doing the same. Noelle’s finding was being used by him to justify his actions. I believe Noelle is right in saying “When it comes to culture, no such thing exists,” which is what Mary Parker Follet or “Mother of Modern Management” believed. She rightly believed its highly important for leaders to create more leaders in their organization. (Caramela Sammi, 2018)

However, Noelle was trying her best to explain the employees the financial but I believe it was wrong timing. Their morale was at an all-time low with cuts and layoffs. As rightly quoted, she tried her best to make the employees at Arkansas unit feel happy but “culture was toxic.”

Follet rightly believed that managers & subordinates should work in harmony. And her ideas which were formulated in 3 principles(Marieke Lahaije, 2010), clearly demarcates Noelle from Cam. Noelle is trying to bridge the gap between executives and workforce which explicitly relates to Taylor’s fourth great principles of management. The Taylors fourth principle(Marieke Lahaije, 2010) states that management & workers must work with integration and always collaborate. Noelle was good in patiently listening to all the grievances. Usually a person of that stature CFO is not bound to entertain any sought of misbehavior- Employees coming late for the meeting, No clue about what is the purpose of the meeting, etc. but she maintains calm and composed posture. This relates to Mintzberg – The Disturbance Handler role. That defines how a manager responds to pressure mounting from other side-Workforce and categorically defines managers job into ten management roles. (Mintzberg, 1973) . Noelle very easily was able to follow this role, and it’s normal that coordination problem does exist in such a scenario, but a successful and true leader understands the intricacies. So if we take a view on the qualitative aspects of her nature of work, she was calm, composed, considerate and importantly empathized with Marshall. This should be taken as a positive connotation of her personality. Despite being CFO and her KRA’s being just to maintain the financial health of the company she was getting involved in the HR domain where people were subjecting her to their grievances.

Henri Fayol rightly explained the five key functions of management and Noelle action fit in. First is Forecasting & Planning which is what she does vis-à-vis financials. Secondly, Organising which Noelle attempted to by trying to integrate workforce and empathizing with them. Thirdly, Commanding which is opposite to Noelle’s character. Fourth and fifth comes coordinating and controlling which aptly is portrayed in the case. She not only coordinated the concerns of leadership as well as workforce but also tried to control the situation there in Arkansas unit.

As we see that Max Weber stresses the fact that bureaucracy is the best way of organizing any human activity, Noelle has stepped away from this aspect rather tried to be down to earth in listening what Marshall had to say. This is important as you cannot dictate your terms and expect the employees to fall in line; one needs to be careful about the carrot and stick approach. One needs to learn where to draw the line and how to draw the line. Simply going and bashing at employees is not going to help rather we must try to segregate the moments of strictness as well as empathy carefully.

Mary Follet rightly highlighted that people always respond better to situations than order. When the CFO was at her mission to review financial, and nobody was taking it seriously, she was confident that this is malady is going to stay for a long duration than expected.

It is important to note that Bernard wrote the functions of the executive in 1938 wherein he mentioned one of the roles as managing people and ensuring they do well. However, in this case, Leadership along with Noelle has failed to fulfill this criterion as may be the former part is true but later part is not at all true.


I would suggest using the effective problem-solving skill as well as effective motivation & empowerment of others to fix the toxic culture at the Little Rock Arkansas plant of Franklin Climate Systems. Let’s analyze first why the effective problem-solving skill is important in this situation.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in the 1960s experimented with his colleague Jacob Getzel after recruiting a few artists for his experiment. So here’s what he observed. The first group of artists was trying to solve the problem -How can I produce a good drawing? The second was trying to find a problem-What good drawing can I produce? After the assignment was over, the problem finders work got the award of most creative than problem solvers. (James 2016)

So through this, we can easily conclude that in this case also, Arkansas plant needs the right problem finders. Noelle is doing the right job by providing key insights into the plant. The culture is something which is deeply rooted and has been formed through decades of formative and thoughtful measures. It won’t be an easy task to do so. But then it is imperative to understand the reason how the culture became toxic. Was it after announcing cuts or it was there even before that? Was it due to specific employees or it was the result of constant downgrading of morale of employees?

This skill is important because to treat the malaise of low employee morals and toxic culture it is important that the leadership has a requisite skill set of problem-solving as well as problem finding. Also, it is not easy to find a solution to a problem which is posed by the culture which is nothing but the beliefs of the employees. So how do a successful leader does that? The leader should possess skills like – Analysing ability, ability to think holistically, non-binary as well as critical thinking and finally ability to take the risk. It is important because often certain problem-solving strategy instead of solving the problem either create more problems or even though solve a problem but give rise to newer ones. Add to it more creative, and out of the box, one can think, better it is.

MIT Professor Edgar Schein defines culture as repeated behavior. And if one wants to change the course of the river-culture, one need dynamite and dams. Dynamite is the set of strategies to obliterate the earlier toxic culture through massive employee faith and trust accumulation. Dams are something that works as a catchment for the river; in the organization it should work as nature or set of behavior we would like to be in the Arkansas unit. (Emerson Tricia, 2018)

I am moving on to the next skill- Effective Motivation & Empowerment of others.

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs clearly states that once basic physiological needs are fulfilled, human being starts fulfilling needs above in hierarchy (Theories of Motivation, n.d.). In this case, also it is evident. Leadership should understand the role of motivation in delivering output. Any job performance is a function of the following equation :

Performance= Motivation*Ability*Environment (Mitchell, T. R. (1982))

Motivation plays a critical role in the success of any organization. It is the key driver for best performance apart from skill set. In the case given this is missing and is evident. Leadership should work upon things to motivate employees and workforce of the Arkansas unit. The employees have been associated with the firms through thick and thin and laying off just to project good numbers in the balance sheet is not a solution. Rather, they should think and devise methods to motivate every employee despite accepting the fact it has cuts. Successful directors set aside the effort to become acquainted with their kin. This region can be an entanglement for business people, who tend to concentrate on the undertaking and not the individual. When you make individuals feel like you care more about the work than you do about them, you make them feel inconsequential.

On the other hand, when a representative feels that his or her supervisor is as worried about their prosperity at work as they are about the activity itself, they are bound to feel the feeling of trust that is basic among high performing groups and associations. However, Taylor stressed the fact that there was unique and one way the right way to do each job and workforce should be motivated to do their task as expected by the manager. It is often the case that money becomes a prime motive for many employees, but the other side of this is employees in the race of earning more money may compromise on their output ability. Hence money as a motivation tool should be used very cautiously. Herzberg, as noted, said that cash is not a rousing element for laborers. He created what is alluded to his inspiration cleanliness hypothesis or double factor theory. Herzberg said his investigation found that factors other than cash are the best sparks for specialists. Things like an accomplishment, acclaim, duty, significant work, and headway are the genuine rousing elements, he contended.

On the other hand, Herzberg arranged things like cash, benefits, protection as “hygiene” factors: things that are important to utilize specialists however that don’t prompt fulfillment. “Hygiene” originates from the thought of fundamental upkeep, things you must have or do to keep up yourself; however that are not persuading factors. You aren’t spurred by brushing your teeth consistently for instance. Often, be that as it may, you’re probably going to encounter torment and numerous exorbitant visits to the dental specialist. Similarly, cleanliness factors in business don’t rouse representatives, yet their nonappearance, could prompt disappointment, Herzberg included.

Notwithstanding making this essential feeling of trust, setting aside the effort to become more acquainted with your kin will give significant understanding into what spurs them. Distinctive individuals are persuaded by various things. While one individual may be stirred to be assigned as undertaking director, another might feel greater accomplishment on the off chance that they get to create the ideal item once it’s resolved how it will be finished.

This examination represents how extraordinary individuals require differing degrees of the structure to be upbeat inside their employment. One approach to asses every individual’s requirement for the structure is to pose to achieve in inquiries their profession. Somebody who has loads of queries needs more structure; the individual who has a few questions needs less structure.

Empowering every employee is also important to make them feel they also own the unit and its success or failure is theirs too. Herzberg’s research reveals that real motivators include achievement, recognition, meaningful work, responsibility, advancement and growth. (Musselwhite Chris, 2007). Fredrick Herzberg is also known as the father of modern motivation. It doesn’t matter what kind of work an employee does; all it matters is how a top leadership ensures that the employee feels comfortable and empowered to deliver the best result. It is important that people realize that rewards and recognition are just part of boosting moral it is not real motivation.

With empowerment comes strength to work hard and achieve results. And with that comes the best result. The best organizations in the world have proven time, and again that once you let an employee know is KRA’s and let him/her decide what is the best course of action, you are always going to get best results. Because the employee is going to leverage his skills and talent to achieve the result, yes sometimes top leaders might have to give away the possession of micromanagement, but it is in the best interest of the firm to let employees motivate and empower themselves. Even the African countries have delivered the results by motivating and empowering their citizens, and many have performed exceptionally well in their endeavors.

To conclude, once the employer-employee bond is fostered, it is important to nurture it through the vital ingredients of perseverance, honesty, and integrity. Without these, the bond is sure to break, and dire consequences might be awaiting the organization.

Ans 3) I would always go for culture change instead of layoffs. Layoffs are going to create a sense of job insecurity among existing employees as well as prospective. On the other hand, if culture is molded in a way it spreads positivity to all employees, it is not only going to help them deliver best results, but word of mouth is going to attract the best talent. No denying the fact that changing an organizations culture is the most arduous task because it is a blend of roles, vision & mission statements, attitudes and assumptions. These elements are truly blended in a way that they prevent any attempt to modify or change them. Hence it is important to understand hidden intricacies before attempting the revamp of culture. It is often observed especially in an organization where toxic culture has been prevalent from quite a while, that implementing new frameworks like- Lean, Agile, or Scrum face the humungous task of challenging status quo prevalent since decades. All hands on deck strategy are what would be required if culture change is what we are looking at. ( Denning Steve,2011)

To begin with, we need to deconstruct the culture and then analyze piece by piece which one is faulty and need repair or replacement — no denying the fact that one can easily assume a culture to be equivalent to an iceberg. Usually, leadership with myopic perception see the only tip of the iceberg and try to make a decision based on that whereas; the real problem lies beneath. This requires massive overhaul at belief level which is far more challenging than any new business idea implementation. Most of the C-suite executive doesn’t have much authority to take stock of culture dysfunctionality beyond their functional area of expertise. And this often hinders the process of culture change. To change it we have first to diagnose then reframe then convey and finally implement the change. This may sound easy; however, the steps are demanding and would require a contribution from every employee.

While the CEO must own the entire culture change process, but frankly speaking it is the duty of entire c-suite executives to meet the task and help the CEO in changing the culture. We have seen umpteen time that it is the culture that affects the whole system as a whole and once that improves and is healthy, we can contribute to many success stories. Presidents and the remainder of the C-suite generally have excellent jobs in catalyzing society change. Presidents need to claim the story and be the hero and patron of extensive culture change. Others in the C-suite, while for the most part constrained in the degree to lead a culture change in their very own zones of obligation, must help the CEO to execute great culture change. In my progress labs, I am regularly struck by h ow frequently culture is distinguished as a vexing issue affecting corporate execution, and, in spite of this, the absence of a foundational meaning of culture, alluring qualities, and ways to deal with change culture. Regularly, there isn’t even an orderly exchange among the initiative group. The results, practices, and convictions examination can be one method for guessing critical components of culture. Today, organizations can go past the investigation above to utilize an assortment of methodologies from worker overviews, normal language preparing of client audits, and other Internet wellsprings of information on the organization to triangulate on and approve theories about organization culture crosswise over critical partners.

Usually, it’s during the transition when budding leaders must diagnose the existing culture and strategize accordingly. There can be multiple strategies to drive culture change, but it’s essential to ensure that it prevails or we deploy guardians to guard the transition. It is often a case that once the shift has occurred it takes a lot of time to be acceptable and usually employees take things for granted due to which the whole process of transient or culture change goes for a toss.( Ajit Kambil,2016)


Lastly, the word of advice as goes is that one need to understand culture dysfunctionality earlier in the course as later it is diagnosed more costly the treatment would be not just in terms of monetary but performance and prestige too. And no one would deny the fact once the word spreads about the toxic culture in an organization, it is going to take a heavy toll on leadership abilities to revamp it, the same could have been used to improve the business and generate revenue.


  1. Caramela Sammi, 2018, The Management Theory of Mary Parker Follet, Viewed 1 April 2019

  1. Marieke Lahaije,2010,Ideas on Management, Mary Parker Follett (1868-1933),blog post, 1 June, Viewed 1 April 2019

  1. Marieke Lahaije,2010,Ideas on Management, F.W. Taylor(1856-1915),blog post, 1 June, Viewed 1 April 2019

  1. Mintzberg, 1973, Mintzberg Model: 10 Different Roles of a Successful Manager,, Taskworld, 2016, Viewed 1 April 2019

  1. James ,2016,Are you solving the problem right?, blog post, n.d. , Viewed 1 April 2019

  1. Emerson Tricia, 2018, ‘How to Change a Toxic Culture’, Forbes, 29 April , Viewed 1 April 2019

  1. Theories of Motivation, n.d. , Viewed 1 April 2019

  1. Mitchell T.R. , 1982, Motivation: New directions for theory, research, and practice. Academy of Management Review, 7, p80–p88
  2. Musselwhite Chris, 2007, Motivation=Empowerment, INC, 1 August, Viewed 1 April 2019

10. Denning Steve, 2011, How Do You Change An Organizational Culture?, Forbes, 23 July, Viewed 1 April 2019

11. Ajit Kambil, 2016, Catalyzing organizational culture change, Deloitte Insights, 03 June, Viewed 1 April 2019


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