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Case Investigation of Wandjina

Station Resort
Author: Reuben GAN, Communication Consultant
Authorizer: Harvey SPECTRE, Settlement Expert
Completed: Monday, September 21, 2015

Executive Summary
Wandjina Station Resort has requested an investigation of their
organization. The purpose of this report is to examine the
communication and ethical issues that have affected Wandjina
Station Resort, and identify what issues have led to its overall
decrease in ratings, cattle exports and profitability. The overall
decrease began several years ago, with the Board taking action in
2013 and hiring a new GM.
This report has come to find that the new GM Wolfgang Wolfie
Schmidt is the main cause of Wandjina Stations continued decline.
Relationships were not formed early on with employees, due to both
a lack of interest and empathy on the part of Schmidt. Constant
miscommunication occurred due to his unconscious cultural
incompetence. His autocratic leadership style leaned towards task
focus and less on discussion. Choices were made without consulting
other senior management and these decisions often had negative
consequences.
Schmidt also engaged in some highly unethical behavior in order to
address the falling profitability of the cattle business. Bribes were
paid to foreign official and illegal drugs were imported into Australia
to hide evidence of sickness amongst the cattle heard.
Wandjina has been recommended to terminate its contract with
Schmidt and set its focus on re-establishing quality of the resort
before regaining profit. They should also rehire wrongfully
terminated staff and re-introduce both the corporate uniform as well
as the horse riding tours.

Table of Contents
Executive Summary...........................................................2
Table of Contents..............................................................3
1. Introduction..................................................................4
2. Issues in Communication...............................................5
2.1
2.2
2.3
2.4
2.5
2.6

Interpersonal Relationships and Interactions......................5


Communication Channels...................................................5
Cultural Differences...........................................................5
Personality Type................................................................6
Leadership Style...............................................................6
Team Dynamics.................................................................6

3. Issues in Ethics.............................................................7
3.1 Corporate Social Responsibility..........................................7
3.2 International Dealings.......................................................7
3.3 Wrongful Termination........................................................7

4. Conclusion....................................................................8
5. Recommendations.........................................................9
5.1 New Leadership................................................................9
5.2 Quality Vs. Cost Cutting.....................................................9
5.2.1 Rehiring of Staff...........................................................................9
5.2.2 Re-introduce Identity...................................................................9
5.3 Under-the-table dealings...................................................9
5.4 Cattle Control...................................................................9

6. References..................................................................10

1. Introduction
Over the past several years the Wandjina Station Resort of East
Kimberley, North Western Australia has seen a worrying decline.
This decline has been two fold, in both public perception, as well as
overall profitability. In 2013, its International Ranking as a Resort
dropped from 9th to 18th, and its rating on Trip Advisor decreased
from 5 to 4 stars. Not only that, its joint cattle breeding operation
saw a 40% decrease in trade and the companys publicly listed
shares saw a price drop of 12% to $18 per share. This prompted
action by the Board to dismiss and replace the then General
Manager in hopes of returning Wandjina Station to its former status.
This unfortunately has not been achieved, as in 2015 the resort has
slipped further down international rankings to 21 st and is now rated
only 3 stars on Trip Advisor. The share price is now only $16.50 per
share. With the resort offering such a unique value proposition of top
tier luxury resort accommodation, combined with the rugged
landscape and many adventure activities, alongside a fully
operational cattle breeding station, the question remains as to how
and why Wandjina Station has declined in such a manor.
This report examines the organizational structure of Wandjina
Station, the actions and dynamics between employees. The purpose
of which is to identify any communication or ethical issues, which
may be contributing to the problems at hand. This report will focus
on several ranking individuals in the organization, namely General
Manager Wolfgang Wolfie Schmidt, Resort Operations Director
Jessica Wong, Executive Housekeeper Anthony Abbott, and Cattle
Station Operations Director Adam Gooridgee. The sources of data
used for this report are mainly secondary, with a detailed
observation of Wandjina having been compiled by Ray Durham,
UNSW.

2. Issues in Communication
In trying to understand the problems that exist for Wandjina Station,
the communication within the organization has been examined. The
inability to communicate effectively with one another can be
detrimental in the running of a company. As the points below will
suggest, the main issue at hand is a general lack of rich and
coherent communication between Schmidt and his staff, as well as a
general unawareness of other view points than his own.

2.1 Interpersonal Relationships and Interactions


The problem with the current managerial situation is that Schmidt
did not bother to form meaningful relationships with his staff from
the moment of his employment. The former GM of Wandjina Station
maintained an open door policy at all times, allowing for free and
easy communication between her and other employees. Schmidt
fostered a negative communication climate (MBC, 2013: Ch. 4) by
discontinuing the open door policy of his predecessor stating that he
had little time for the trivial issues of individual staff I am not
their father or their psychologist. This displays both a lack of
empathy and a lack of willingness to empathize with his staff, which
is a crucial part of forming a relationship.

2.2 Communication Channels


Another issue relates to Schmidts preference of text and email over
verbal face-to-face communication. His justification that it is more
efficient is unfounded, as efficiency of communication must take
into account the richness of the communication channel and its
ability to minimize interference. Also in terms of efficiency of time,
synchronous face-to-face communication is certainly a much quicker
means than asynchronous messages that may be left unread for an
extended period of time.

2.3 Cultural Differences


Different cultural backgrounds are present within the Wandjina
Station senior staff. Schmidt is from Germany, Adam Gooridgee is an
aboriginal man from the East Kimberley Region and Jessica Wong
was born and raised in China. Schmidt displays unconscious cultural
incompetence through his unawareness of differing cultural
characteristics and it explains why miscommunication so often
occurs between him and Jessica. Germany is a very low context,
monochromic culture where individuals are very direct and
confronting in their conversations (Hall, 1997; Locker & Kaczmarek,
2004). Thus Schmidt finds difficulty in understanding and adapting
to the high context, indirect nature of Jessicas communication style.
His frustration and lack of trust for her is based on his inability to
understand her point of view, again relating to his lack of empathy.

The same divide can be seen between Schmidt and Gooridgee in


their communication. Schmidts highly monochromic obsession with
punctuality led to the dismissal of several local aboriginal men who
worked with Gooridgee. He failed to understand that culturally, they
looked out for each other and Gooridgee tolerated them arriving late
as they would often compensate this by working longer than
required. They were also excellent horsemen that were required to
help manage and maintain the cattle heard. Schmidts dismissal of
Gooridgees horse riding tour further displays that his stubbornness,
and insistence on pushing his views is a problem for Wandjina
Station. He replaced a very popular and successful adventure tour
that was culturally relevant, with a totally unfitting luxury trip based
on what he assumed people wanted to experience. It is not
surprising that it has seen a significant drop in bookings.

2.4 Personality Type


Schmidt displays signs of a conversational narcissist, as evidenced
by his exaggerated body movements, loud outbursts and tone of
speaking, as well as being oblivious to the reactions of those around
him (Derber, 2000). Cornel and Stanford argued that narcissism is
not necessarily a bad trait however in the context of Wandjina
Station, employees have expressed that they take offense not only
to what he say but also the manner in which he says it. His worry
that people will waste his time in discussion relates to his timefocused listening style as described by (Villaume & Bodie, 2007). In
meetings none are prepared to disagree with him or suggest any
agenda items as they are usually interrupted for taking too long,
quickly singled out and ridiculed.

2.5 Leadership Style


The task focused, autocratic leadership style of Schmidt doesnt
compliment Wandjina Station or its employees. His approach as a
bottom line man that focuses on profit making through cost
cutting saw 30% of cattle breeding staff and 15% of general resort
staff dismissed upon his arrival as GM. Along with his preference for
email and text, he also makes decisions without consulting other
senior managers and expects them to comply or implement
forthwith allowing for no line of questioning or room for discussion.
Refusing consultation from others, he removed the corporate
uniform as he deemed it unworthy and likened it to road workers or
hillbillies, even though it was extremely well received by guests.
Not only are the employees unhappy about the black and white
attire, they feel as though they have lost their sense of identity.

2.6 Team Dynamics


Before the arrival of Schmidt, the teams that run under Executive
Housekeeper Anthony Abbott were autonomous and worked
successfully together with little supervision. When Schmidt
introduced the staff cutbacks the lack of staff forced quick formation
of new teams, pulled together from those who remained. This

absence of task and attraction based cohesion amongst members


stemmed from a lack of time for teams to build trust and attraction
to other teammates. Loss of identity due to the replacement of the
corporate uniform can also explain that they no longer feel their
work is significant (Conrad & Poole, 2005). Inevitably this caused
significant inefficiencies for housekeeping

3. Issues in Ethics
This section discusses the ethical underpinnings of decisions made
by Schmidt, and argues that these decisions are not beneficial to
Wandjina Station in the long run; particularly in relation to his efforts
in addressing the decline in the cattle export trade.

3.1 Corporate Social Responsibility


A result of Schmidts early decision to cut 30% of cattle station staff,
led to the spread of a disease that affected half the cattle herd.
Rather than destroying the cattle and replacing them, Schmidt
sourced an illegal black market drug that would mask the disease
from inspection at a much cheaper cost than destroying the
infected. Schmidts utilitarian approach displays a blatant disregard
for the law and any ethical responsibilities towards the animals or
towards potential consumers of the meat. The social obstruction
caused by his actions could potentially destroy the reputation of
Wandjina Station if the public were ever made aware of this.

3.2 International Dealings


Schmidt has also delved into bribery, agreeing to pay an initial
$200,000 to Indonesian government officials as well as monthly
payments of $10,000 in order to increase sales. These payments
have been hidden as export administrative fees in company
records. He has also taken to slandering other Australian beef
exporters in meetings with importers.

3.3 Wrongful Termination


The dismissal of Gooridgee was another highly unethical decision
made by Schmidt. Gooridgee was apposed to the use of bribery in
order to secure the deal as it was against his moral values and
principles, and it was his opposition that cost him his job.
Differences in personal principles are not grounds for termination.

4. Conclusion
The hiring of Wolfgang Wolfie Schmidt as GM at Wandjina Station
resort was meant to steer the resort back in the right direction to
regain its status as an elite holiday destination, and return
profitability to its cattle breeding business. Not only has Schmidt
failed to do this, he is the main reason that Wandjina Station has
continued to decline on all fronts.
His autocratic leadership style, focused on tasks and discussion has
led to no meaningful relationships being established with his
employees. His loud narcissistic tendencies often offend individuals
and cause miscommunication to take place between him and those
from higher context cultures. The numerous decisions made without
the council of others such as the replacement of Gooridgees horse
riding tour and corporate uniform have both had negative
consequences on both guests and staff. Cost cutting measures such
as reducing the staff have negatively impacted the teams involved
in housekeeping, as well as cattle breeding.
He has also engaged in various illicit activities during his tenure.
These highly unethical actions include bribing government officials,
importing an illegal drug into Australia in order to disguise sick
cattle, and wrongfully terminating Adam Gooridgee for refusing to
compromise his moral principles. Not only are these actions illegal,
but they could permanently tarnish Wandjinas Reputation as a
Responsible Corporate Entity.

5. Recommendations
5.1 New Leadership
It is recommended that Wolfgang Schmidt be released from his 3year contract with Wandjina Station and terminated as soon as
possible. Wandjina should take steps to search for a suitable
replacement, an individual with less of an autocratic leadership
style.

5.2 Quality Vs. Cost Cutting


With the issues of both Resort ratings and Cattle Business profits
dropping, Wandjina needs to focus its efforts on tackling these one
at a time. Instead of instituting cost cutting measures that benefit
only the business side, focus first on re-establishing the quality of
the resort through value propositions.
5.2.1 Rehiring of Staff
Adam Gooridgee should be immediately rehired at Wandjina.
Cattle breeding staff and general staff should also be hired to
alleviate pressure from existing staff.
5.2.2 Re-introduce Identity
Both the previous corporate uniform and Gooridgees horse
riding tour should be brought back to the resort.

5.3 Under-the-table dealings


All illicit activities including importing illegal drugs and bribing
foreign officials should be immediately discontinued. Furthermore,
ethical guidelines should be established and made available to all
staff.

5.4 Cattle Control


All infected cattle must be destroyed and replaced. Any cattle that
have been injected and sold should be tracked down and destroyed
as well.

6. References
Crossman, Bordia & Mills, 2010, cited in MBC, 2013, Ch 4.
Hall, E. T. (1976). Beyond Culture. New York: Dubleday Dell
Publishing.
Locker. K, Kaczmarek. S (2004). Business Communication: Building
Critical Skills Front Cover. New York: Mc-Graw Hill. 46.
Derber, C. (2000). The pursuit of attention: Power and individualism
in everyday life. Oxford University Press.
Villaume. A, Bodie. G. (2007). Discovering the Listener Within Us:
The Impact of Trait-Like Personality Variables and Communicator
Styles on Preferences for Listening Style. International Journal of
Listening. 21 (2), p102-123.
Conrad. C, Poole. M. S. (2005). Strategic organizational
communication in a global economy. Belmont:
Thompson/Wadsworth.