Creating a Service Climate through the Boss-Subordinate relationship


Creating a Service Climate through the Boss-Subordinate relationship

In this article we are going to analyze how to conduct the relationship of the bosses with subordinates, that is to say, what are the main roles and behaviors that bosses of the middle level must consider in order to orient their collaborators toward a climate focused on service and keep a solid relationship with them. It is important to be aware that the purpose for creating a service climate is to implement consistently the service strategy and aim precisely for some specific results about customer satisfaction and customer relationship. In other words, it is not an additional way to generate a positive atmosphere of well-being or satisfaction for employees. It is rather, to build an environment oriented to specific results and foster a continuous learning and improvement toward excellence in service. And it also means an attractive place to work that favors employees’ technical and professional development. In this case, the company seeks specific results through a continuous improvement of its service capacity which, at the same time, includes the constant increase about the business expertise. The one without the other, may reflect incoherence or mediocrity, therefore, there are companies that fail to balance with adequate criteria these capacities. Thus, creating a service climate is a significant way to build the competitive capacity, especially when this climate is solid, because it contributes to generate a shared understanding about what is important and how to relate different systems and processes. Undoubtedly, the orientation and emphasis to be considered in the creation of a service climate depends on the particular service strategy that is established and the specific outcomes that the company is trying to achieve. There is no single formula to all organizations.

However, we have to consider some generic issues, firstly to sow the seed of service will be necessary to have a terrain prepared for this purpose. It is not possible to obtain specific results with only well designed strategies and policies. In that sense, middle managers must maintain a general environment through healthy interpersonal relationships that will become the appropriate terrain for sowing the seed of service. This environment also called generic climate, will be a recommendable way, both for creating a service climate and for building positive connections with other organizational units which have other functions and occupations and so the service focus may be different and complicated to implement. In addition, middle managers not only have to implement the service strategy within their units, but also apply other organizational initiatives that require determined employee efforts and behaviors. And when this is not faced with clarity and care can generate contradictions and interferences among other practices that the organization establishes, and among other internal units. For example, boosting efficiency and productivity, customizing services for customers, controlling costs, innovating processes, and fostering security, among others initiatives demand, necessarily, a right alignment of these practices that contributes to connect them conveniently in coherence with middle managers behaviors. Therefore, it is a crucial challenge for managers at middle level to build a healthy environment where employees keep in mind clearly the main ideas.  At the same time, they want and can to perform with the behaviors that are expected, collaborating and receiving collaboration from others, both within each unit and when interacting with other units. However, it is  not enough to have this positive general terrain, it is necessary the sowing that favors the harvest of specific results and constant learning, which requires a thorough care, through determined processes with specific and consistent employees’ behaviors. The head of the organizational unit, the middle manager, has to be the main reference of influence for this purpose.

Thus, the question to be answered is: how should the boss-subordinate relationship be conducted to create a service climate?, and specifically: what are the behaviors and roles that middle managers should promote in order to create a service climate within their units and within the organization as a whole?

In an earlier article, we have explained about the role that middle managers must assume in order to increase the service capacity of the organization, which means creating a climate focused on service. To foster that climate, we identified a set of practices that promote specific behaviors. We have verified the usefulness of these practices focused on service through various experiences with companies, training and orienting their middle managers. When these behaviors are observed with emphasis by the head of the organizational unit, they are directly contributing to create a sustained service climate for achieving specific results, i.e. customer satisfaction, and to maintain an operational learning environment focused on service[1]. A requirement that should not be forgotten is that middle managers first must be committed to the organizational mission that requires them to adopt a transcendent motivation[2] and also be willing and prepared to implement the service strategy and the policy that top managers have established. Then, middle managers are ready to apply those specific service behaviors coherently. This will require a consistent leadership, both of those who lead at the top level and those who lead at middle level.

With that in mind, we identified the following behaviors that managers should foster: a) to be focused on specific results, b) to give a clear communication about service policy, practices and procedures, ensuring that they are understood by employees, c) to distribute fairly the tasks and resources among subordinates for delivering a right service quality, d) to communicate service quality focus consistently within the informal environment, e) to forge teamwork to deliver superior service quality and remove the obstacles that impede it, f) to promote continuous learning and innovation, both to boost service capacity and to increase the business’ expertise, g) to empower team members to solving customers problems and to provide them with an opportune and personalized help, h) to obtain customer feedback and monitor service quality, i) to give support to subordinates to boost their performance with a service orientation, j) to give positive feedback to every team member for improving their service performance, k) to give special recognition to employees who provide superior service to customers, l) to dedicate time and effort for their personal improvement and style focused on service. These behaviors observed consistently by those who lead at the middle contribute to orient employees toward a solid service climate, and also to keep coherent relationships within each organizational unit. Schneider and his team of researchers proposed a measure of service climate using a table with specific items that is useful to verify the level of this climate[3]. This includes: how would you rate the job knowledge and skills of employees to deliver superior quality service?, how would you rate efforts to measure and track the quality of service in your business?, how would you rate the recognition and rewards employees receive for the delivery of superior service?, how would you rate the overall quality of service provided by your business?, how would you rate the leadership shown by management in your business in supporting the service quality effort?, how would you rate the effectiveness of our communication efforts to both employees and customers?, how would you rate the tools, technology, and other resources provided to employees to support the delivery of superior quality service? If you get a high qualification about these items then, there is a solid service climate.

An important aspect is that the exercise of these behaviors has to include a particular style for the management and delivery of service quality. That is what we call service style, the original and particular way that the company uses to deliver their service, both external and internal. In this task, top and middle managers, and employees are responsible for applying this particular seal to the actions they carry out.

In order to build relationships based on trust with subordinates, bosses at middle level must firstly assume a commitment to the organizational mission, and with the teamwork and its specific goals, and also a commitment to themselves, in other words, with their personal mission and goals[4]. Thus, it is possible to expect the fulfillment of some roles that facilitate the employees’ orientation and behaviors, and then, generate the sufficient level of the service climate that the organization is trying to consolidate. We have verified the following roles that are fundamental for this purpose: guide of the team, coach, driver of empowerment, promoter of innovation, manager of change, and leader-teacher. These roles must first be assumed from a generic perspective and then be directed from the specific perspective of a focused climate, focused on service in this case. In this way, these managers will also be prepared to interact coherently with their colleagues and collaborators from other units and will prepare their staff according to those lines. In addition they will understand the entire landscape in order to exert other organizational practices and initiatives, giving each one the right treatment.

Although a service climate is created through the establishment and implementation of specific service policies and practices, it is consolidated through the concrete behaviors that executives and employees must observe carefully. Therefore, it is important to emphasize the importance of both the formal system that defines those policies and practices, and the informal or spontaneous system that influences behaviors of executives and employees. In that sense, the consistency of middle managers when exercising those roles and behaviors is crucial.

If each middle manager forges a transcendent attitude within their teamwork, it will favor that the organization be focused on adding value to customers and serve them the best way as possible. Likewise, to foster innovation for improving processes and customer satisfaction, middle managers should build a positive environment where everyone can understand the whole situation and look for something better constantly. The propulsion of empowerment has to generate an atmosphere of trust with their subordinates, and this is sustained basically by the intentions of each boss at middle level. As managers of change, middle managers must develop an emotional force capable of absorbing the anxiety and become a real support for their collaborators. A service climate will bring situations of pressure with unforeseen difficulties, particularly when organizational improvements are undertaken. It warns us that techniques and skills are not enough it requires a solid character and proper style according to the circumstances. The role of coach hast to produce decisive help to employees in order to create a service climate, and it will allow the bosses to leave their hierarchy and become a useful company for overcoming obstacles and achieving the goals that every subordinate faces when performing according to the service dynamic. In order to assume the role of teaching, each leader must consider that it is not only a matter of training about technical and operational issues, or the specifics tasks of service quality, but also about learning the corporate style and living ethical principles as a solid base for everything. Training programs, external or internal, can be useful, but it is in the day to day, in the spontaneous terrain, where teaching is powerfully exercised. We can conclude that the service climate will be possible with leaders at middle level who develop a passion for service and for the field of the business. Thus, every leader can undertake the crucial task that organizations demand: to create environments where people know what they have to get, strive to get that better every time, and want to do so according to strong convictions in which they believe and share with their bosses and collaborators.

[1] “Service Leaders, how to develop a transcendent leadership at the middle level of the organization”, Lucio Lescano Duncan, EUINSA (2012).

[2] Trascendent motivation was proposed by J. A. Pérez López and it is a motivation that is focused on the benefits to give to people according to their real needs. In this case we apply this concept to service orientation, so we focused on benefits for customers and employees, and all the stakeholders.

[3] Schneider, White and Paul (1998).

[4] “The Service Discipline, how to develop a new culture focused on customer and person oriented”, Lucio Lescano Duncan, Ph.D. (2014).



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