How can a manager ensure a positive organizational culture?

For this paper, your task is to seek out and interview a manager and prepare a paper based on what you learn. The manager should not be an immediate family member. It can be your own manager. It does not have to be your own manager. The reason we suggest you do not interview an immediate family member is because part of the point of the assignment is to help you make professional connections. Many students who are already employed might find that this assignment gives them a nice excuse to get to know their own manager better and the way she or he views the organization, which could ultimately help the student’s career and development. It is also important that you go into the interview making very few assumptions, which could be difficult when you have a close personal relationship with the interviewee. Start thinking about who you might interview right away and reach out as soon as you can to potential interviewees so that you give yourself plenty of time to conduct the interview and write up the paper. If you are struggling to find an interviewee, please email the lead instructor or your section instructor right away.

Don’t be afraid to “cold call” a stranger! You could ask the manager of your favorite coffee shop for an interview, for example. Most people love to talk about themselves and share their opinions. You can sweeten the deal by thanking them for their time with an offer to take them for a coffee while you conduct the interview, or sending them an Amazon e-gift card if conducting the interview virtually. It’s also important that you practice putting yourself out there, even if it feels uncomfortable initially. Learning to be assertive and ask for what you need is essential to both your career advancement and building healthy relationships. 

The first step in this assignment is to create a broad question derived from a topic in the textbook that interests you. Given that the paper is due mid-way through this 7-week course (see the Course Schedule for the due date), you might need to read ahead a bit to locate and learn about a topic that is of particular interest to you. Skimming the textbook’s table of contents can help to initially direct you to a topic of interest. Here are some examples of broad questions:

How can a manager ensure a positive organizational culture?

How can a manager keep employees motivated?

How can a manager promote ethical behavior in the workplace?

How can a manager break down resistance to organizational change?

Next, prepare an interview protocol consisting of 5-10 smaller questions that address and help you answer this broader question (see below for examples). Use your interview protocol in an hour-long interview with a manager and prepare a paper based on what you have learned through the interview with the manager, in terms of your topic of interest. Your paper should be 6-7 pages (1-inch margins, double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font). You can use whichever other formatting you choose, as long as it meets these specifications.

(1) Start your paper by naming and very briefly describing the manager you interviewed in a few sentences.

(2) State the broad interview question.

(3) Compare what you have learned through your interview to what you have learned in the course/textbook. Directly reference and relate course concepts.

(4) The manager you interview will likely bring up problems they regularly experience. Think upon those problems and indicate in your paper how, if you were a management consultant, you might draw from the course material to suggest potential solutions. 

(5) Include your 5-10 question interview protocol, as well as the contact information for the manager, at the end of the paper in a single Appendix. The Appendix does not contribute toward your page limit. No special formatting is required for the Appendix – please keep font size and spacing and margins consistent with what is listed above. Simply put the title ‘Appendix’ at the top center of the page.

Do not waste space within the actual paper repeating your 5-10 interview questions – this should not read like a Q&A. If you need to give context by referencing an interview question, you might wish to number your interview questions in your Appendix and then reference the question number in the text of your paper.

When referencing concepts in the textbook, you can simply say “In the textbook, we learn that…” or “Williams says that…” (Williams is the textbook author). You do not need to provide citations for the textbook.

Since you only need to relate your interview content to the textbook content, a bibliography (references section) is not required. If you wish to relate to outside sources (this is not required), please cite those in text and append a bibliography to your paper [citations and bibliography in the consistent style/format (e.g., APA, MLA) of your choosing]. This bibliography does not count toward the page limit.

A highly-graded paper will:

(1) Provide an appropriate, broad question that is inspired by the textbook material and that serves as the theme for the interview.

(2) Contain well-designed interview questions that effectively address this broader question. Well-designed questions are concise, easy to understand, and address a single issue at a time. Some example questions that would help get at the first broader question (about org. culture) given as an example above: “What does a positive organizational culture look like, in your view?”; “In your experience, which elements facilitate a workplace in which employees genuinely respect and cooperate with one another?”; “Are there structural factors (e.g., commission structures) that you feel detract from a positive organizational culture?”

(3) Draw explicit connections between the course material and the responses provided by the manager. Does the manager provide answers that confirm what you’ve learned in this course or do they challenge what you’ve been learning? If it’s the latter, why do you think that might be? Be specific here. Name the textbook concepts/constructs that you are comparing the manager’s responses to. So, going back to the example I’ve been using, you might compare the manager’s responses about positive organizational culture to the concepts of adaptability, employee involvement, clear mission, and consistency from Chapter 3.

(4) If applicable, make suggestions – using course concepts – to problems that the manager being interviewed discloses. This might not be applicable if the manager does not disclose any struggles when they’re providing answers to your questions. But I expect that they will. I do not expect you to give these suggestions directly to the manager (though of course you’re free to!), but you would simply include them in your paper. Going back to the example I’ve been using, this might look something like this: “Melissa indicated limited success in creating a positive organizational culture among her team members with activities like team building, which she utilizes to prevent unhealthy conflict. Based on what I have learned in this course, I believe she might have more success if she prevents unnecessary conflict within her team by clarifying member roles and building more autonomy into their work.”

(5) Be free of spelling and grammatical errors.

Please see the Course Schedule for the due date of the interview paper. Submit your paper via the available link here. There is also a rubric to further guide your writing on the Assignments page.

Note: Each semester, many students ask that their Interview Papers be approved for use in their writing portfolios. The writing portfolio is meant to be a sampling of your best writing, so please be advised that your paper will not be approved if it contains spelling and grammatical errors, or if it does not meet formatting and length requirements. Only papers that received a grade of B or higher (83% or higher) will be considered, and papers that received an A (93% or higher) will be considered for the “exceptional/outstanding” designation. 

Please also see the rubric available below.  

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