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Communication and Interpersonal Skills: Negative feedback

To get started…

Refresh your memory on the various barriers to communication mentioned in your textbook on pages 325-326, to see why it is important to find efficient ways of communicating.  Check out how electronic communication is used today, and what interpersonal skills a manager would need.  Then, read this report in the business insider about Dropbox, and employee criticisms about its strategy.

So, to summarise…

Some people, like me, see Dropbox as a something that should have always been there.  Instead of running around with memory sticks, updating versions of files on the work and home computer, and always missing that one really important file at a critical moment (like, when the presentation you prepared for over the last two weeks is about to start…), you can now just download the latest version of your file onto any networked computer.

I am obviously not the only one with this view.  Dropbox claims to currently have 300 million users worldwide.  This is pretty impressive.  But this many users do not necessarily translate into dollar value.  Although Dropbox was valued at $10 billion, sources indicate that their revenue last year only reached a little over $400 million.  It’s a big gap, and the reason is – many users of those 300 million are actually not paying users.  Money is to be found not in people, but in businesses.

People at Dropbox know this, of course, and therefore do have a paid offer for businesses.  But employees in Dropbox feel that business customers do not receive sufficient attention.  The main example cited in this article the Dropbox late integration with Microsoft Active Directory services. 

Microsoft’s Active Directory is a way to manage accounts.  On your home computer, there are typically one or two users, and they all pretty much use similar profiles, but in businesses, particularly large ones, one computer may be used by many people.  What different people can do on the same computer varies: tech support obviously should have more comprehensive access, whereas users who only need to check company emails and some status reports should not be allowed to manipulate as much.  Microsoft’s Active Directory allows system administrators to define groups of users and their privileges, and to manage these groups and accounts more easily and securely. 

If you are sharing Dropbox folders among employees, similar privilege issues should apply: some people should have access to some files, but not others.  Some people should be allowed to edit files, and some should only be allowed to read them.  This seems like an obvious fit with the Active Directory services: but Dropbox took a while integrating the two. 

Dropbox employees, as well as some external critics, see this as a major weakness, representing its slow innovation.  Paradoxically, one of the major issues delaying such innovations has to do with the company’s growth.  With individual customers continuously signing up, it is hard for the company to really put its focus on business users, who have other ways to share access to files and fodders.

Some issues to notice and pay particular attention to here are…

  • Barriers to communication
  • Ways to overcome barriers to effective communication
  • Technology and communication
  • Interpersonal skills

Consider the following questions for discussion…

  1. What barriers to communication would prevent Dropbox from innovating?
  2. If you were a manager in Dropbox, and you attended regular weekly meetings with top managers, how would you raise the innovation issue?  Would you use the Active Directory issue as an example?  What would be the benefits and the risk of doing so?
  3. How could technology help / hinder the effective delivery of corrective feedback?
  4. In your opinion, which interpersonal skills can help managers and employees when they communicate criticisms to more senior managers?  How should these skills be used?