Case: Whole Foods
The purpose of this document is to discuss interpersonal communication. Interpersonal communication is found in various aspects of life. How we communicate in most cases makes up what other people think and observe of us. Poor communication often is the main problem in a troubled relationship, both professional and personal. To better understand communication a person must acknowledge many different aspects, including speech, body language, and context. Context, the time, place, or occasion when communication is encoded, has a very large role in transmitting a message. Without the right context, a message could be perceived as the opposite as it was intended. The best way to begin to understand the communication process is to understand the interactive communication model. First, there is a sender who encodes a message to the receiver. Noise interfering with the communication of a message is called a channel. The receiver then decodes this message depending on the context of the situation, and the speaker’s credibility.
1. Discuss how the basic interpersonal communication model that is presented in Figure 8.1 can be applied to the impersonal nature of an online forum.
The basics of interpersonal communication are represented in an online forum. A sender or the person originating the message exists in an online forum as does a receiver, the person receiving the message. There is a two-way communication as there is interaction between a sender and receiver, although a delay in responding could alter the intent of the message received. In an online forum, it is difficult to know if the perceptual screens, the quality, accuracy, and clarity of the messages are received in the way intended. The online forum is impersonal, the transmission of thoughts is void of the important nonverbal elements of communication, and the intent could often be distorted based on the individual traits, experiences, and cultural differences of the communicators. Feedback usually occurs in an online forum, although it is not always and immediate response. Reflective listening, the skill of carefully listening to another person and repeating back to the speaker the heard message to correct any inaccuracies or misunderstandings is often a lost art in the online forums. (Nelson/Quick, 2010)
2. How does defensive communication enter into this case?
Defensive communication is defined, in the text book, as communication that can be aggressive, attacking, and angry, or passive and withdrawing. In the case of Whole Foods, John Mackey used defensive communication in the online forum. Even Mackey’s defenders described his comments as anonymous, boastful, provocative, and impulsive. The recipients of defensive communication often deliberately discard the intended message and are often invoked to retaliate with their own defensive mechanisms of communication. Defensive communication is nonproductive and leads to injured feelings and alienation. John Mackey had to have realized the negative impact and possible alienation of customers and potential customers to Whole Foods in his online attacks of the competitor, the Wild Oats Market, Inc. and that is probably why he chose to make his comments anonymously. A defensive tactic is to use misleading information, which is a form of deception, and the selective presentation of information designed to leave a false and inaccurate impression in the listener’s mind. John Mackey used defensive tactics in his online postings. (Nelson/Quick, 2010)
3. How is the Internet transforming the way people communicate?
People are not face to face with their audience and often take more liberties with their style of communicating when on the internet than they would share in a face-to-face conversation. Interpersonal skills like tact and graciousness diminish when using the internet to communicate. The internet tends to equalize the participants; the lower status participants are sometimes more open and willing to share their input in an online setting than they would feel comfortable to do so in person. The higher status members can lose power in an internet setting when their charismatic personality and personal demeanor are not part of the equation. Nonverbal behaviors can be important in establishing rank and hierarchy of the participants. Nonverbal behaviors are also important to establish trust between the people communicating. The internet challenges the ability to create or maintain a trust relationship. The internet reaches farther in distance, in a shorter timeframe, and to a much larger audience than personal conversations and non-electronic communication modes can accomplish. The access of the advanced electronic technologies surpisingly, have relatively little impact on work culture, but they do influence effective, successful communication and affect behavior. (Nelson/Quick, 2010)
4. Discuss the ethical problems that are revealed by examining John Mackey’s online postings in relation to the communications provision of the Whole Foods Declaration of Interdependence?
John Mackey’s online postings are not aligned with the communication provisions stated in the Whole Foods Declaration of Interdependence. In part, the Whole Foods Declaration of Interdependence states, “our ability to instill a clear sense of interdependence among our various stakeholders ? is contingent upon our efforts to communicate more often, more openly, and more compassionately. Better communication equals better understanding and more trust.” John Mackey’s comments were posted anonymously, which is opposite the “more open” vision of Whole Foods’ communication requirements. He was abrasive and used open attacks on the competitor, Wild Oats Markets Inc. In addition, Mackey’s comments such as, “No company would want to buy Wild Oats Markets Inc. Almost surely not at current prices. What would they gain? OATS locations are too small ? [Wild Oats management] clearly doesn’t know what it is doing ? OATS has no value and no future.” These comments could be considered slanderous; they are certainly dishonest and lack integrity. Mackey did seem to meet the goal in the declaration of more communication, but not the type intended. (“Case Study”, 2011)
Despite the negative publicity of his comments, “for the 12th straight year, Mr. Mackey’s
company has been praised as one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” by Fortune
Magazine. Whole Foods sells healthy food, practices “socially responsible trade,” and prides itself
on promoting foods that are grown to support “biodiversity and healthy soils.” Mr. Mackey
donates 5% of company profits to charity and has been one of America’s loudest critics of
runaway compensation on Wall Street. And he pays himself $1 a year. He would seem to be a
model corporate citizen.” (Moore, 2009)
My parents always used the quote, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching” to encourage me to use wise discernment when making decisions. In my opinion, Mackey did not apply integrity, nor represent his company’s vision when posting his comments online.
The purpose of this paper was to discuss interpersonal communication and how it can be applied to an online forum; how defensive communication enters into the discussion on Whole Foods; how the internet is transforming the way people communicate; and the ethical problems revealed while reviewing the online postings from Whole Foods CEO, John Mackey.