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Cirque Du Soleil Research Paper

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Cirque du Soleil is a unique organization in terms of organizational behavior and management. It is different in various terms and aspects: behaviors of the employees in the workplace, psychological contract, and cultural diversity of the workforce, compensation, organizational culture and commitment.

Cirque du Soleil is a world-famous entertainment organization that provides over fourteen different shows worldwide, brings entertainment and makes a change in the lives of its audience and enhances the creative skills of its artists. Moreover, the organization makes a profitable business out of every performance – no wonder its CEO and owner, Guy Laliberte is ranked 664 among world’s billionaires by Forbes, and has been recognized by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2004. Guy Laliberte also received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award for all three levels: Quebec, Canada and International in 2006.

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The company’s organizational overview brings an insight into its formation as the grand cirque and a successful entertainment unit, employing over 2500 people.

Cirque du Soleil was founded by a group of street performers of “The High-Heels Club” in June 1984. Initially, it had seventy three people working for the organization, but in the course of years, the circus has attracted numerous artists and performers that have become a part of the team in the course of the years. Certainly, the initial atmosphere of creativity and freedom has greatly contributed to the general principle of Cirque’s corporate culture.

The organization’s sole proprietor, Guy Laliberte, first shared the Circus’ ownership with a co-founder, Daniel Gautier, but has later bought Gautier’s share and remained the owner ever since. Laliberte’s principles of refusing “going corporate” have contributed to the organizational stability and mutually acceptable managerial approaches, because Cirque’s owner did not have to coordinate his managerial approaches with the investors.
The Cirque du Soleil in known to have performed all over the world, but most often in Canada and the United States, especially in Las Vegas’ the North America’s capital of entertainment and show.

According to the article on “Cirque du Soleil” written by Professor Thomas J. Delong and Research Associate Vineeta Vijayaraghavan, the people working in the Cirque have a different set of motivations that people working for any other organizations – this is caused by the specifics of its activities and performance. The factors affecting the behavior compensation are obviously non-financial, for the starting pay is too low to awake the interest of a standard employee, as the researchers of the human resource market see him/her.

One of the Cirque’s employees, the conductor named Oberacker proves this argument by stating that the announcement of his starting salary has almost made him “jump from the 10-story building”. Obviously, there was something that made him accept the low salary – a prospect of successful future, maybe.

The system of earnings in Cirque du Soleil is based on the per-show principle. The more the artists perform, the more they earn. That is why the Cirque does 10 shows a week, which is physically and psychologically quite stressing.

Still, the promises of career development and fulfillment bring more and more talented people to the Cirque’s company, and the promises are fulfilled completely. The full list of compensation issues includes career growth and personal development, self-fulfillment, financial rewards, responsibility and leeway in the conduct of work. Relative freedom of choice in behavior and methods of achieving organization’s goals is one of the strongest points of the given organizational structure. The employee’s output and efficiency depend not on the authoritative guidance and control but on the employee’s own desire to achieve the highest results and to make the show stand out.

The authors of the article claim the managerial approach to organizational behavior and human resource management is based on the Douglas McGregor’s Y-theory of motivation (participative management style), that implies, among other statements that people will commit to the quality and the productivity of the work if their higher needs, such as self-fulfillment, are being met.

With this in mind, the managerial approach in Cirque du Soleil provides proper basis for its own prosperity, for the employees are interested in the success of the performance and their own personal growth and development more, than an employee in a standard non-entertainment organization. The entertainment business is all about ratings and popularity as well as are the personal achievements of the performers, thus, the business and the workers have common goals and their financial prosperity depends (the realization of the lower needs) is secondary and dependent on the realization of the higher needs (e.g. the self-fulfillment).

If we take a closer look at the organizational culture of the Cirque du Soleil, its “distinct flavor” is truly outstanding, for the Cirque’s team combines the efforts of various performers from different parts of the world and the culture is shared among the old performers and the newcomers.
The “problem” with workers’ devotion to the business is that he or she does not separate the work from the private life. Sharing the passion for entertainment certainly helps the organization become one of the world’s best performing circuses, but it also sometimes a trouble. For example when the staff had a party using the pools for the aquatic show O, the management was disappointed, but obviously this is the price they have to pay for the creative staff that synthesizes the work and the life.

The three important feature of the corporate culture, are embodied in the Cirque’s “distinct flavor”. First, the culture that an organization holds can be traced to its founders (the street performers who have decided to start up a circus without animals and grand circus rings) and passed to the newcomers with the appreciation of “character and fantasy”, and “above all on the artistry and acrobatics of the human body. Secondly, culture can be developed out of the interactions of the organization towards its external environment (the appreciation of the audience), which Cirque and its workers successfully do for over twenty years by now.

And finally, organizational culture develops from the need to maintain a harmonious and good working relationship between the employees. The Cirque provides the basis for such relationship in the course of the shows.

But there is one aspect that Cirque du Soleil and its employees have to face every day – an aspect that brings complexity to the communication – the cultural diversity. While touring around the world, the circus’ management has recruited talented local performers from different countries to bring the shows to the top ratings and achieve success. This, in turn, has caused numerous cultural differences the team had to overcome. The schedule of performances does not allow much spare time, and the long tours bring additional urge for good mutual understanding and respect. The management has to provide the opportunity for the workers to better understand each other and learn each other’s cultural differences. In fact the whole team of certain specialization may come from a country with major cultural differences from what is common for the Cirque’s employees of the North American origin – for example, the Chinese team of acrobats, who did not speak English and did not share the cultural patterns of most of the Cirque’s workers. The tolerance and respect of other cultures is crucial for such organizations as Cirque du Soleil.

The management of the Cirque have dealt with the cultural differences through introducing the onsite courses (foreign language trainings), enabling the employees to understand what their colleagues from other parts of the world are saying.

This provides additional basis for the establishment of the mutually respectful relationships among the members of the team.

The performance of the team is well-ordered and this gives floor to the independence of the support staff and the performers. In fact, the Cirque does not have a handbook for the employee conduct. Each person working with the Cirque du Soleil has a unique opportunity of doing things – this enables to perform the masterpiece in the best possible way. Certainly, the teams are not fully self-managed, there are supervising directors and managers, needed to ensure the commitment to Cirque’s general course of performance, but the level of independence of the employees is still substantial.

Dralion’s artistic director, Alison Crawford, claims most of the Cirque’s artists have too much adrenalin. They give extra discretionary contributions that are neither required nor expected, which corresponds with the definition of the concept of the organizational citizenship behavior (in other terms – prosocial or extra-role behavior). The twelve-hour-long rehearsals just because of the ambition and fervor are normal for the life of Cirque. Such zeal is hard to find anywhere in the world. Even other entertainment organizations and shows can hardly boast such practices, performed without remuneration.

Such organizational commitment is mostly beneficial for the company. The three components of the organizational commitment stated in the article are: the affective, the continuance and the normative components.

The first deals with the person’s emotional attachment to the organization and his or her identification with it. In the case of Cirque du Soleil, its employees feel themselves to be a part (and an important one) of one of the world’s greatest shows and one of the world’s best entertainment organizations. The second component – the continuance – is basically the commitment based on the cost of leaving the organization. Staying with the Cirque provides more opportunities for each performer due to the world recognition and success of the organization’s shows.

The third component that adds to the Cirque’s employees’ commitment is the normative component that is embodied in the feeling that an employee has to stick with the organization.

The emotional connections and bonds are often very strong because people who perform as one big team working for the show and being of tours together have stronger feelings that the average 9-to-5 employee.

The organization’s performance is also analyzed through the prism of the concept of the psychological contract. Although there are no written documents regulating the employee’s performance (e.g. no handbook of the corporate conduct or code of behavior), the Cirque’s employees are still truly concerned with their obligations towards the organization.

The recommendations state that the problems the Cirque faces now can be addressed through the collaborative efforts of the management and the employees. The ideas for innovation should be welcomed from all the performers and supporting workers. Mutual contribution to the development of the more efficient system (the definition of levels of responsibility and independence, the means of getting feedback and recommendations, etc.) should be available in the organization’s working practice.

The authors of the article suggest there should be a new department that would deal with the human development affairs of the Cirque. Generally, the management has to pay more attention to the fact that there are non-artistic needs of the artists. The management has certain obligations to every employee’s personal growth and development and their careers. The overall behavior of the Cirque’s employees is very beneficial for the organization’s success. Therefore, the management should consider additional incentives in terms of personal development.

There is also a strong need for the improvement of the flow of information in the organization. Certainly, the artists, especially the experienced ones, know for sure what to do to achieve the best results in the performance. But still, as the Cirque is a team, not a one-man-show, there is strong need for communication of the goals and plans, as well as obtaining of the feedback and possible ideas for improvement from the employees. The exchange of opinions and common view may be much more beneficial that authoritative propagation of decisions and opinions, even if it occurs as the highest motives of care for the employees.

The high levels of employees commitment to the Cirque and its goals, brings additional benefits for the human resources management – in these terms Cirque du Soleil is truly unique. The management does not face the lack of motivation among the employees due to low financial compensation and does not have to invent new fringe benefits to satisfy the needs of the average employee of any other business. From the managerial perspective the human resources of the Cirque du Soleil are almost perfect – their levels of commitment, psychological contract and performance are as high as they could possibly be. There are only two spheres that truly need to be paid attention to – the corporate culture and the cultural diversities. These spheres are interconnected, as well as are all the other factors and components of the Cirque’s corporate culture. That is why it is of vital importance for the organization not to neglect them. The participation of over forty nationalities in the organizational processes certainly brings challenge for both the management and the employees. And these needs – of mutual respect and understanding – are crucial for the safe and successful performance of an organization, any organization, in fact, but especially such as the Cirque du Soleil.

The most important thing is that the Cirque’s employees fully commit their time, effort and even life to their work. This is really hard to achieve from the managerial perspective. The key to success here, I believe, is that the management consists of the artists and performers themselves (even if their career is in the past). The free and creative spirit of Cirque du Soleil was born of the streets of Montreal many years ago, and its founders have managed to preserve the unique qualities of dedication to the art and work in the organizational culture of the Cirque. Hopefully, the management and the employees will be able to address the team needs, resolve the minor problems and continue to perform at their highest possible level bringing more beauty and entertainment into the lives of other people. This is the core of the Cirque’s success for almost a quarter of the century.

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