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Bears Business Brief – Is your workplace dysfunctional?

By Elizabeth Rozell, Ph.D.

Elizabeth Rozell
Elizabeth Rozell

A manager’s job is to solve problems and create a productive workplace. However, research indicates that at least 70 percent of U.S. employees are not working optimally at their jobs. Leaders and managers sometimes fail in their role as visionaries and facilitators, resulting in a dysfunctional workplace. It is important that such behaviors are dealt with swiftly as dysfunctional behaviors can lead to detrimental consequences. Across industries and organizational types, the signs of a dysfunctional workplace are consistent. So, what does a dysfunctional work environment look like?

  • Unwritten and unspoken rules. Directions are oftentimes ambiguous and rules can be vague or even threatening. Although written rules might state that workers are to deliver superior customer service, the unspoken rules may emphasize one-upmanship.
  • Narcissism. One sure sign of a dysfunctional workplace is a narcissistic manager. Productive managers focus on serving those on the front lines, rather than being obsessed with their individual success.
  • Passive-aggressive behavior. Examples include habitually showing up late for meetings or “forgetting” to share important information. In functional settings, these behaviors are not tolerated.
  • Communication issues. If top management is not aware of critical issues in specific departments, then it is almost certain that dysfunction has invaded the nucleus of the organization. Strong leadership teams communicate regularly. Frequent communication up and down the chain of command (really the lifeblood of organizations) drives performance and knowledge sharing. A dysfunctional workplace discourages communication by limiting access or punishing the messenger.
  • Turnover. The cost to replace an employee is estimated to be between one and two year’s salary and benefits. If your workplace is like a revolving door, then you should take a deeper look. Management dysfunction can be signaled by turnover, either by choice or termination. Although elimination of poor performers is necessary, companies with high turnover rates may point to poor leadership.
  • Lack of delegation. Management gurus strongly recommend delegating decision-making and responsibility to the lowest possible level in the management hierarchy. In a dysfunctional organization, managers do not delegate. Every decision, even small ones, requires review and approval by the one person in charge.

If you find yourself in an organization where dysfunctional behaviors are the norm, take heart. There are managerial strategies that can help you navigate or address the detrimental behaviors:

  • Have a policy or handbook. You must have written rules that explicitly define dysfunctional behaviors and associated consequences for dealing with such behaviors. Make the behavioral expectations impossible to misunderstand.
  • Look for the underlying cause of the behavior. Identify the issues rather than pointing the finger. Labeling the behaviors can depersonalize the problem and help address it.
  • Approach the person directly. Don’t confront the person in public; discuss the behaviors privately.
  • Invoke consequences if necessary. If an employee refuses to comply with the standards of behavior that have been established, then the organization must have firm and systematic consequences in place. Establish a zero-tolerance policy on dysfunctional behaviors.

Remain in control and stay focused. Concentrate on job performance and the issue at hand. Try to stay objective and rationally evaluate the extent to which you observe dysfunctional behaviors. Approach the process as though you were solving a problem. Express your interest in helping to address the issue.

  • Establish clear expectations. This can help workers focus on the shared goal or vision from management.

This article appeared in the January 23, 2015 issue of the Springfield News-Leader.  It is available online here.

Elizabeth Rozell, Ph.D., is a professor of management and associate dean of the College of Business at Missouri State University. Rozell also holds the Kenneth E. Meyer Professorship and is director of the MBA program. Her specialties include organizational behavior, leadership and emotional intelligence. Email: erozell@missouristate.edu.

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Student Success

MSU 2014-2015 Citizen Scholars Selected: Three of the six are COB students

2014 Citizen Scholars
2014 Citizen Scholars

Each year the Missouri State Board of Governors selects six students to be recognized as Citizen Scholars.  These students are selected for their dedication to the public affairs mission of the university through course work, activities and service-learning opportunities.  This year three of the total six students are College of Business majors:

  • Jared Bajkowski, a senior entrepreneurship major from Lee’s Summit, Missouri
  • Brittany Donnellan, a senior international business major with a Spanish minor from Springfield
  • Konnor Temple, a senior international business major with minors in Mandarin Chinese and logistics and supply chain management from Springfield

“Each year, this selection process seems to be more challenging as the students are more and more engaged in breathing life into the public affairs mission,” said Stephen Bough, Board of Governors member who served on the selection committee.

The Citizen Scholar Award, instituted by the Board of Governors and approved in 2007, recognizes full-time students who have made significant accomplishments while enrolled at one of the campuses at Missouri State University. The award is given to students who have contributed to the university, advanced the university’s public affairs mission and have been significantly engaged in extra-curricular accomplishments and/or in significant service activities in the community.

“These students have already made an impact in the community, and in some cases, globally,” said Bough.” We congratulate these Citizen Scholars on their many achievements and wish them well in their further endeavors. We know they will continue to make Missouri State proud.”

Each student received a crystal globe in recognition of the award and their names have been added to the Citizen Scholar wall in Plaster Student Union.

Congratulations to each of these students on their hard work and dedication during their time at Missouri State and within the College of Business!

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Alumni Spotlight

Karen Vangyia: Excels as First Female Managing Partner at KPMG St. Louis

Karen Vangyia
Karen Vangyia

Karen Vangyia, a 1993 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Missouri State, is also the first female managing partner at KPMG’s offices in St. Louis.  “Certainly as someone who grew up in St. Louis and went to high school and college in Missouri… this is humbling and something that I take tremendous pride in.  I’ve been blessed to work for a great firm in KPMG and to work with incredible professionals who I am proud to call my colleagues and friends,” states Karen.

As managing partner, Karen oversees more than 250 employees in one of KPMG’s fastest growing offices.  She is responsible for setting overall revenue goals for the office as well as working with colleagues around the country.  She also oversees initiatives to improve the work environment for employees, such as KPMG’s Network of Women (KNOW) chapter which helps KPMG women advance through mentoring and other initiatives.

This fall Karen was recognized by the St. Louis Business Journal as one of 2014’s Most Influential Women.  She was recognized for not only her professional achievements, but also her community involvement.  She serves on the boards of the United Way, Regional Business Council,  St. Louis Regional Chamber and CEOs against Cancer. She also has been active with Epworth Children & Family Services and has served on the board of the Family Support Network. “Personally, I love to help others in need,” she said. “It’s rewarding to give back to the community. Being born and raised in St. Louis, I love being part of the community and being able to give back through my job.”

Karen’s advice to current students and recent alumni is all about appreciating where you are and working hard to get where you want to go. “There’s an old expression that the only job where you start at the top is when you are digging a hole. Regardless of your chosen field, you start at the bottom… understand there are no short cuts and there is no substitution for hard work.”

In her spare time Karen enjoys spending time with her husband Michael and two children Madison and Logan.  They are an active family that enjoys golf, tennis, travel, as well as spending time with family and friends.

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Bears Business Brief: POA a document for disaster

By James Philpot, Ph.D.

James Philpot
James Philpot

So, you have a valid last will and testament. Are you also prepared for the possibility that you could be alive, yet unable to manage your assets?

My recent contributions to this column have covered estate planning documents; in this column I will discuss another useful estate planning document, the durable power of attorney for property.

A durable power of attorney for property (POA) is a legal document whereby one person, called an attorney-in-fact, is authorized to act as the agent for another person, called the principal. The agency relationship created via this document allows the attorney-in-fact to buy, sell, and manage property on behalf of the principal. Despite the name, the attorney-in-fact is not required to be a licensed attorney. Most of the time, the attorney-in-fact is a friend, relative, or business partner of the principal.

Durable powers of attorney for property are used to plan for the principal’s incapacity or incapability of managing his or her own affairs. To understand the importance of the POA as an estate planning document, consider this example. Bill and June are married. Bill owns some investments, and his brokerage account lists June as beneficiary (should Bill die before June, she automatically receives the account).

Suppose Bill is seriously injured in a car crash, leaving him alive but incapacitated. Because Bill is still alive, he still owns his investments — they transfer only on Bill’s death — and, not being a co-owner, June has no access to these resources which might be needed for Bill’s care. Had Bill executed a durable POA document when he was capable (the “durable” means the power survives the principal’s incapacity, but not his death), June would have the ability to access his investments without having to resort to a potentially expensive and lengthy legal process.

A POA document will clearly spell out the assets to be controlled by the attorney-in-fact and the powers that the attorney-in-fact has over those assets. The assets in a POA may be limited to specific named assets; for example, a principal might give her business partner POA over the principal’s business assets only. A principal can also define the abilities that an attorney-in-fact has in managing the principal’s assets. A limited power of attorney, as the name implies, places some boundaries on what the attorney-in-fact can do with the POA assets.

Conversely, in a general power of attorney, the principal grants the attorney-in-fact full authority to do anything with the POA assets that the principal could do herself — no limits. This authority can include making gifts of POA assets to third parties or to the attorney-in-fact himself. A general power should be granted only to someone of utmost trustworthiness. Usually general powers are granted to a spouse or adult child.

Another item frequently found in POA documents is a springing provision. The springing provision limits the POA to taking effect only upon the incapacity of the principal. Without the springing provision, the POA takes effect when properly executed and delivered. The springing provision ensures that the POA serves only the purpose of providing for incapacity — defined in the springing provision and usually determined by an attending physician.

When properly discussed with and prepared by a qualified lawyer, the durable power of attorney can solve many problems of incapacity. In future Bears Business Brief columns, I will discuss other key estate planning documents.

This article appeared in the January 17, 2015 issue of the Springfield News-Leader.  It is available online here.

James Philpot, Ph.D., is a Certified Financial Planner and associate professor in finance and general business at Missouri State University. Views expressed in this article reflect those of the author, have been distributed for educational and informational use only, and should not be construed as investment advice or a recommendation of any specific security, strategy, or investment product. Email: jamesphilpot@missouristate.edu.

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Bears Business Brief – How to shield yourself from cyberthreats

Shannon McMurtrey
Shannon McMurtrey

President Obama has been sounding the alarm recently about the threat of cyberterrorism and cyberwarfare. At a recent fundraiser, he said that the White House is bracing for a possible “doomsday scenario” where hackers crash our banking system, wipe out the identities of millions of people through a breach of government systems and disrupt the delivery of power through an attack on our power grid. One can only speculate as to why the president would bring attention to this “doomsday scenario” now, in the midst of headlines filled with news of Ebola, ISIS and tensions in Ukraine and elsewhere, but there is ample evidence that cyberterrorism and cyberwarfare is a current reality, not a future threat. Take the recent attack on J.P. Morgan, for example.

More than 83 million customers of J.P. Morgan had personally identifiable information stolen last summer. The bank has been quick to point out that no account numbers or Social Security numbers were part of the breach and that no accounts have been affected. What this points to are attacks down the road with more malicious goals in mind. We have all probably received “phishing” emails where the bad guys try to get us to click on a link to change our password or divulge sensitive information. The term “phishing” is a play on the word “fishing.” While fishing in the Ozarks might yield a trophy bass for mounting or a good mess of crappie for a fish fry, the goal of “phishing” online is to get the target to click on a link or divulge sensitive information. Phishing scams are becoming more sophisticated all the time. Cybercrooks have moved beyond simple email scams to using text messaging and phone calls to try to deceive their victims. My wife received a call from the “customer service” department of our bank here in the Ozarks, some time back, asking for account information to verify account ownership. Quick thinking on her part (she is a very smart lady), and the sense that something just didn’t feel right about the call, led her to hang up on the caller and immediately call the customer service department of our bank. Sure enough, the bank had been the victim of a “phishing” scheme involving phone calls like the one she described.

In thinking about these attacks and others, we have to remember that the goal of terrorism is not to win a military victory but rather to instill fear (terror) in the lives of those who they perceive to be their enemies. We have been blessed in the United States (and even more so here in the Ozarks) to live lives relatively unscathed by the daily terrors faced by many around the world. The freedom to worship freely, travel relatively worry-free and conduct the business of our daily lives without the fear of attack has become something that many of us take for granted. We can continue to enjoy that quality of life, even in the midst of the global chaos, by being mindful of how we conduct our affairs, especially online. This does not mean that we live in fear, rather that we live with awareness. Monitor your online accounts, particularly your financial accounts. Report suspicious activity immediately, whether it be a “phishing” email as described above, a text message asking you to click on a link or an unexpected phone call asking for personal information.

The simple act of you reporting these incidents provides security teams with the information they need to respond. Security teams are in a steady-state loop of preparing for and identifying the next incident. Once they are able to do that, they can contain the incident, eradicate the threat and move on to recovery and lessons learned. You are a key piece of that puzzle.

This article appeared in the January 2, 2015 issue of the Springfield News-Leader.  It is available online here.

Shannon McMurtrey, Ph.D., is director of Missouri State University’s master’s program in cybersecurity, as well as program director for the master’s in computer information systems in the department of computer information systems. Email: shannonmcmurtrey@missouristate.edu

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