This case study focuses on an analysis of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCSBM), a nonprofit mutual insurance firm operating in Michigan. The study focuses on the six elements of organizational behavior- VABES, accountability, feedback, diversity, culture and conflict, that make up the firm. The analysis reveals that BCBSM has VABES that acts as a guiding framework for its employees’ behavior. Furthermore, the study shows that personal accountability is highly valued in the organization, and it is often reinforced through formal policies such as HIPAA.
An analysis of organizational behavior also shows that feedback is part of BCBSM’s culture. Notably, the organization establishes policies to protect employees who offer critical feedback against negative retaliation. Diversity of human resources and thoughts is also highly valued in BCBSM and is often linked to the success of the business. Furthermore, BCBSM takes pride in its culture of inclusion, which is reinforced by both the employees and the firm. The case study also establishes that healthy conflict is acknowledged as a good and constructive thing in the firm as it fosters creativity and open-mindedness. However, to prevent the adversities of unresolved conflicts, the firm encourages informal modes of conflict resolution such as accommodation, collaboration and compromise.
Despite the positive organizational behavior elements, the study establishes that there exist niches in the firm that could be filled to improve the firm’s performance. Therefore, it is recommended that BCBSM should adopt an open-door policy to foster transparency and openness in employees’ feedback. It is also recommended that BCBSM should promote manager accountability, which would help enhance the employees’ productivity levels.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) is a nonprofit mutual insurance firm operating in Michigan. The firm, which was founded in 1939, ranks as the largest insurer in the state, serving approximately 4.5 million people (“Fast Facts”). The management partially attributes BCBSM’s success to the six elements of the organizational behavior-VABES, accountability, feedback, diversity, culture and conflict, which are an area of focus and analysis in this case study.
VABES (Values, Assumptions, Beliefs and Expectations)
Like other firms in the insurance industry, BCBSM has values, assumptions, beliefs and expectations (VABES) that govern its operations. Notably, the company’s most important value is trustworthiness which is captured in its mission statement- “being a trusted partner” (“Mission and Commitments”). This value acts as a guidance for BCBSM’s employees and helps them fully understand what the company stands for. BCBSM also has a set of beliefs, among them, the idea that the need for affordable quality healthcare has not changed despite the numerous changes in healthcare (“Our difference”). This belief stimulates BCBSM to help Michigan residents get quality health care through its affordable insurance plans.
Besides the values and beliefs, BCBSM has assumptions that guide its internal operations. On the one hand, the company operates on the premise that clients seeking insurance coverage receive care for all medical conditions from in-network providers. This assumption helps ensure that patients are not served by out-of-network providers that can be relatively costly. Also, the firm has expectations of improving its members care and health by providing them with affordable and innovative products (“Mission and Commitments”). From a management’s view, the firm’s expectations are a framework of reference for its employees to work towards a common goal.
Fundamentally, BCBSM’s VABES developed from the firm’s mission to help Michigan communities become healthier by accessing quality and low-cost healthcare. Over the years, these VABES have remained concrete and consistent and are often communicated through the firm’s website and annual report. Arguably, the fact that the VABEs are accessible to every stakeholder suggests that the company’s employees are also aware of them. The publication of the VABES on the company’s website is also a strategy that BCBSM uses to enforce the values and expectations among its employees. Overall, BCBSM uses the VABEs to manage employee behavior by outlining the expected codes of conduct at work, which are embedded in the values. However, an analysis of the firm’s information also reveals that violation of its VABEs can attract severe disciplinary actions imposed by the managerial personnel, leaders or other individuals higher in the hierarchy. Notably, these consequences are administered by the firm’s management under the guidance of various Acts established to govern the insurance industry.
Overall, BCBSM’s VABEs comports with my values by outlining some of the values that I consider essential in daily life, such as trustworthiness. However, if the organization’s values conflicted with my personal VABEs, I would reconcile the two through confronting the source of the differences and developing neutral VABEs that serve the company’s and stakeholder’s best interest.
An assessment of BCBSM’s operations suggests that the firm values accountability, and it often communicates this aspect through its website and annual publications. Accountability, in this context, refers to the firm’s obligation to take responsibility for the management’s and employer’s actions. Notably, accountability in the firm is reinforced through legal policies such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. For example, BCBSM, through the provisions of the HIPAA, acknowledges the importance of reducing health care fraud and abuse (“Code of Business Conduct” 28). Although the firm does not have formal job descriptions and accountability references, its subscription to the HIPAA provisions suggests that it places importance on accountability.
BCBSM also has a goal-setting process that helps its clients achieve financial well-being. Often, the firm rewards members that shop for specific health procedures. Besides rewarding clients, BCBSM also rewards its employees for attaining the organizational goals.
Overall, employees in BCBSM are often held accountable for their actions, implying that managers are not responsible for their employees’ acts. Besides the formal accountability to organizational expectations, the employees also handle informal accountability among themselves by holding each other accountable for meeting expectations set in collaborative works. While personal accountability can sometimes hinder employees from exploring new business processes for fear of negative rewards, BCBSM employees think that it is an ideal move of eliminating unproductive behavior in the firm and stimulating them towards the accomplishment of the organizational goals. An assessment of the firm’s operations also suggests that it is climbing the ladder of accountability through fostering a proactive culture that requires its workforce to be compliant.
Feedback is part of BCBSM’s culture, and it is often encouraged and used in decision-making. As noted by the firm’s CEO, BCBSM fosters a culture where workers can share concerns without fear (“Code of Business Conduct” 2). Nevertheless, rather than open-door policies and annual performance reviews, feedback in the organization is provided through anonymously written letters directed to the vice president of Human resources. However, BCBSM also holds company meetings which enable governance committees to discuss and communicate regularly on matters and inquiries issued by employees.
Although managers in BCBSM are not trained on giving feedback, they are competent in providing constructive feedback, and they often hold developmental discussions with employees. This aspect is evidenced by the positive glass door reviews issued with regards to the firm’s feedback mechanisms and past personal experience. For example, I have, in the past, received constructive and helpful feedback from the firm’s manager. Furthermore, I feel safe and comfortable providing critical feedback because the firm offers protection against hostile retaliation for individuals who report emerging problems in the firm’s operations (“Code of Business Conduct” 25). Besides, the option of providing anonymous feedback enhances my confidence in giving critical feedback.
Among the qualities that BCBSM is committed to is diversity. Diversity in the firm means intentionally recruiting individuals from diverse backgrounds. BCBSM links diversity to values such as positive business results (“Our Commitment to Diversity”). Notably, diversity is considered essential in the firm as it helps bring together individuals from diverse backgrounds and use their varying perspectives to impact the company positively. Diversity also enables BCBSM to attract and retain the best talent (“Our Commitment to Diversity”). Besides supporting the firm, diversity also enables BCBSM to serve the diverse Michigan community.
Overall, there lack formal policies about diversity in BCBSM, but the firm ensures that all employees are trained and enlightened about the variations in cultures and communities. Also, the firm guarantees that diversity is part of the culture by ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to take part in decision making in the workforce, management team and the firm’s board of directors. Besides diversity in the human resource, BCBSM also encourages diversity of thoughts, whereby each individual is allowed to contribute ideas publicly and at their highest levels (“Our Commitment to Diversity”). Often, the innovative ideas shared by the diverse workforce is utilized in the planning process for the company’s internal processes.
An analysis of BCBSM’s values and behaviors reveals the existence of formal processes and a culture of inclusivity in the firm. Scholars can describe BCBSM’s culture as inclusive because of the tendency of the organization to establish a sense of belonging where each worker can contribute ideas to their highest levels (“Our commitment to diversity”). The primary strength of this culture is that it enables the firm to generate multiple perspectives from different employees about specific issues and select those that best satisfy the consumer needs. However, this culture also has its drawbacks in that it can slow down the decision-making process in urgent matters.
Undeniably, BCBSM takes pride in the culture of inclusivity, an aspect that is cemented by the emphasis the CEO and President Daniel places on the concept in his public relations message. Arguably, BCBSM is proud of this culture because it not only supports the running of the business but also in serving all its diverse members. Furthermore, inclusivity is recognized by the firm’s employees, and it influences their behavior by motivating them to indulge in collaborative efforts and group decision-making. The benefits associated with inclusivity could explain why the management has been reinforcing the culture by partnering with other stakeholders in making strategic decisions and communicating this idea its website to inculcate the culture in new employees. The employees also support the culture by leading by example for new workers that may not be aware of the organizational culture.
From a personal point of view, conflicts make me uncomfortable because, in most scenarios, they create relationship problems with the disagreeing party. However, conflicts may be unavoidable in BCBSM due to the diverse workforce that has varying values and ideologies. The firm’s management acknowledges conflict when it exists, and it has informal strategies to encourage employees to indulge in conflict resolution. Some of the modes of resolution established by the firm include accommodating, where disagreeing parties give in to the demand of another to preserve harmony in the firm. Collaboration is also encouraged whereby disagreeing parties contribute jointly in the formulation of a shared solution. Compromising is also utilized in conflict resolution, whereby disagreeing parties are encouraged to equally give up some of their demand to help preserve harmony.
Overall, the emergence of conflict in BCBSM affects employees’ performance, as many become frustrated when a solution is not sought in time. Therefore, BCBSM discourages unhealthy disputes that may result in poor workplace relationships and adversely affect employees’ performance. Nonetheless, the firm also considers conflict a good thing because it stimulates employees to be creative and open-minded in developing solutions amidst a conflict. Sometimes, disputes in BCBSM are also constructive, notably when they bring people together to resolve an issue that affects them.
From the analysis, it is evident that the six critical elements in BCBSM are beneficial to the overall organization performance. However, an in-depth assessment of these elements also suggests that there are niches that the firm could fill to improve its operations. Notably, the synthesis of the gathered information indicates that BCBSM lacks an open-door policy. Instead, the firm mainly utilizes multiple channels to get feedback to the executive team. Therefore, to avoid the delays associated with the current channel of feedback, BCBSM’s managers should adopt an open-door policy, whereby employees can communicate important information directly to the managers. Arguably, this policy may not only facilitate prompt feedback but also foster transparency and openness in the organization.
Furthermore, the firm should create an environment where managers are accountable for their employees. As noted, BCBSM mainly encourages personal accountability, which can sometimes be detrimental to employees’ performance. Arguably, encouraging managers to be accountable for their subordinates would enhance the latter’s productivity, as managers would ensure that each individual in the team meets the organizational expectations.
“Code of Business Conduct.” BCBSM, May 2020, www.bcbsm.com/content/dam/public/Common/Documents/code-of-conduct.pdf. Accessed 14 October 2020.
“Fast Facts.” BCBSM, www.bcbsm.com/index/about-us/our-company/fast-facts.html. Accessed 14 October 2020.
“Mission and Commitments.” BCBSM, www.bcbsm.com/index/about-us/our-company/mission-and-commitments.html. Accessed 14 October 2020.
“Our Commitment to Diversity.” BCBSM, www.bcbsm.com/index/about-us/why-choose-us/diversity/commitment.html. Accessed 14 October 2020.
“Our Difference.” BCBSM, www.bcbsm.com/index/about-us/why-choose-us/our-difference.html. Accessed 14 October 2020.