Week 2: Application Assignment

Table of Contents

Application Assignment

 Choose a case study with the primary topic of either DECISION MAKING  or DELEGATION. (See list of cases on table 3-1 in chapter 3 of your text).

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Step one:  Briefly summarize the case.

Application Assignment

Step two:  Answer the questions and or instructions at the end of the case.   (Consider the following self assessment questions in reviewing your answer:   Do my recommendations show that I fully understand the issues involved in the case?  Could my recommendations realisticaly solve the problem?  Do my recommendations appear to be as fair as possible to al parties involved?  Do my recommendations support the goals of the organization?  If this were a real world problem, could I live with my recommendations?)

Step three: Review the author’s responses for your case in the responses section of your materials.  Briefly discuss whether or not your recommendations were similar to the author’s.  Would you adjust your recommendations after seeing the author’s proposed recommendations, or would you defend your own recommendation?  Why?

Variations on the Case study Method

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A large number of work situations, including many that lend themselves to use as case studies, can be adapted to role-playing situations in which individuals assume certain positions and act out a problem and attempt to find a mutually agreeable solu- tion. The following is an example of a potential case (not from the 100 presented in this book) adapted to a role-playing exercise.

“it’s a Policy” The setting is an 82-bed hospital located in a small city. One day, an employee of the maintenance department asked his manager,

Mr. Mann, for an hour or two off in which to take care of some personal business. Mann agreed, and asked the employee to stop at the garden equipment shop and buy several lawnmower parts the department needed.

While transacting business in a local bank, the employee was seen by Mr. Carter who supervised both personnel and payroll for the hospital and was in the bank on hospital business. Carter asked the employee what he was doing there and was told the visit was personal.

Application Assignment

Upon returning to the hospital, Carter examined the employee’s time card. The man had not punched out to indicate when he had left the hospital. Carter noted the time the employee returned, and after the normal working day he marked the card to indicate an absence of 2 hours on personal business. Carter advised the admin- istrator, Mrs. Arnold, of what he had done, citing a longstanding policy (in their dusty and infrequently used policy and procedure manual) requiring an employee to punch out when leaving the premises on personal business. Mrs. Arnold agreed with Carter’s action.

Carter advised Mann of the action and stated that the employee would not be paid for the 2 hours he was gone.

Mann was angry. He said he had told the employee not to punch out because he had asked him to pick up some parts on his trip. Carter replied that Mann had no business doing what he had done and that it was his—Mann’s—poor management that caused the employee’s loss.

Mann appealed to Mrs. Arnold to reopen the matter based on his claim that there was an important side to the story that she had not yet heard. Arnold agreed to hear both managers state their positions.

the role Positions Mann: You feel strongly that the employee should be paid for the 2 hours. You led him to believe he would be paid, and you also feel that in spite of the time spent on personal business, it was time well used because it saved you a trip out of the hospital.

Carter: You believe in the policy, and you feel that the action sanctioned by Mann was contrary to the policy.

Arnold: Listen thoroughly to both Mann’s and Carter’s statements of position. Work with them in an attempt to develop a mutually acceptable solution to the present problem and to also provide a way to prevent the problem from recurring.

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302 Part IV: Variations and Conclusions

Any “solution” to the foregoing may well hinge upon whoever best states his position, as well as on how the administrator relates individually to both Mann and Carter and how she interprets the policy and its value herself. About the only near certainty that can be predicted is a decision to revisit the “dusty and infrequently used policy and procedure manual” for possible revision and updating.

Role-playing exercises can be of considerable help in zeroing in on the key dif- ficulties in a given situation and providing experience in hammering out solutions that require some measure of compromise.

Group responses to Questions

Application Assignment

A frequently helpful group activity involves a number of managers—for example, the attendees at a management development session—providing their individual responses to a question, with these responses then woven into a comprehensive response. Usu- ally provided by instructor or discussion leader, a comprehensive response merges the individual responses, weeds out the inevitable duplications, and sets forth a range of reasonable approaches to the problem presented by the question.

Each question, so employed, is initially asked by a working first-line or middle manager, so each represents a problem actually experienced by a manager on the job. Responses are not the answers of a single person, and they are not simply textbook answers. In every instance, the response is developed from suggestions offered by the peers of the manager who raised the question. This is a collaborative approach to management development: the real questions of working managers answered through the pooling of the knowledge and experience of other working managers.

The following is a brief question and the resulting range of potential solutions. “How can I convincingly tell an employee who is ‘never wrong’ that she is, in

fact, undeniably wrong?” First, it is advisable to question the question itself. The employee may give the

impression of forever claiming to be right, and this impression may be properly per- ceived by the manager, but the phrase “never wrong” is likely to be an unwarranted generalization. For that matter, “never” and “always” are risky words to use either in active interpersonal communication or when describing the acts or attitudes of people.

The employee who projects the impression of never being wrong could be self- assured to the extent of overconfidence. This employee may have a strong self-opinion and may take considerable pride in being right. This person may even be aware of truly being wrong, but may be prevented by pride from any admission of wrongdoing.

The manager should try to deal with the person in a way that avoids destroying the individual’s confidence. It is invariably best to focus initially on a specific error or problem rather than dealing with generalities. That is, the manager’s approach should never be, “You’re making too many mistakes.” Rather, the approach should be more on the order of, “Here’s a specific error that we need to talk about.” The manager needs to determine why the employee was wrong and help that person decide what can be done to correct the situation.

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Application Assignment

As a manager who must deal with such an employee, make certain you do your homework first. Determine beyond any reasonable doubt that the employee is, in fact, wrong and that you have the correct answer. Be certain that you have proof. In all personnel matters, you should avoid acting on hearsay or secondhand information. This is especially important with the employee who would appear to never be wrong; this person usually requires absolute proof of wrongdoing and will take no one else’s word for it.

Back up your criticisms and comments with facts, proven and documented when possible. Factual information so presented is difficult to dispute. When necessary, use specific institutional policies and procedures when they apply. Policies and pro- cedures must have been established in advance and should constitute agreed-upon guidelines for behavior. If you have no absolute proof of wrongdoing in the form of factual information, then attempt to reason with the employee to bring about an understanding of the apparent error.

In dealing with the employee, provide a nonthreatening atmosphere in which you may converse in private, one-on-one. The person who insists on always being right may show obvious rigidity, inflexibility, and resistance to change, and should be dealt with diplomatically. However, the person’s tendencies may simply display a basic inability to see more than one side of a question or more than one possible answer.

In dealing with the employee who is never wrong, consider the following:

• Open on a positive note. Do not begin by tossing the error back in the employee’s face. Rather, begin by emphasizing the individual’s positive attributes (good employee, hard worker, always punctual, etc.) and dispense some reasonable praise before attempting to zero in on what may appear to be an inability to take criticism. As in many activities consisting of multiple steps, rarely has everything been done wrong; point out the correct elements of the employee’s approach. You should be interested in conveying the belief that you are not “out to get” the employee. You want to convince the person that accomplishing the work of the department is a cooperative undertaking in which everyone must take part.

• Be tactful and understanding. Nobody can expect to be 100 percent right 100 percent of the time. In dealing with the individual who has difficulty admitting fault, you may have to be gentle and tactful to avoid affecting the individual’s confidence or avoid a defensive reaction. Also, you need to let the person know that if there are personal problems affecting his or her work, you are available to listen if that is the employee’s wish. Do not bring up past mistakes, but concentrate on dealing with only one current problem.

• Stress mutual understanding and cooperation. Convey your belief in the value of collaborating on ideas and bringing misunderstandings out into the open so they may be dealt with by all concerned. Perhaps the current solution to the problem of the moment would be of value to a number of people in the work group. Make it plain that you are looking for some common ground on which

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304 Part IV: Variations and Conclusions

the two of you can agree and for a chance that both of you will eventually see the situation in the same general way. Strive for compromise, recognizing that it may be necessary for each of you to give something to obtain something in return.

• Listen carefully. Listen to all of the employee’s views and the reasons for doing what was done. Remember that in the mind of the employee, no mis- take was made and no wrong was done. Should you find it necessary to draw conclusions and relate them to the employee, ask for the person’s impressions of your conclusions. Be sure to question what you do not understand, listen carefully, and probe for reasons conveyed in what the employee is saying.

• Use facts and examples. If you must plainly point out that the employee has been wrong, get all of your facts, put them in order, and logically demonstrate what went wrong and how it should be corrected. If the problem involves job performance and there are established standards for the job, compare the actual results with the standards and explain why the difference is unaccept- able. Noting that nobody is right all of the time, do not be reluctant to provide examples from your own experience. Use specific examples, and draw paral- lels using your performance and the performance of others to provide insight. Ask direct questions and listen carefully to the responses.

• Participate in problem solving. Unless there are only two possible resolutions to a situation (and rarely are there only two alternatives), you may be able to get the employee to understand that there may be multiple solutions that work, but only one or two that are acceptable for various reasons. You may be able to point out that the employee’s approach is acceptable under certain circum- stances, but for specific reasons a particular answer is most appropriate. Offer alternatives—again, the notion of compromise—when that is possible, and never just say that the employee is wrong and let it go at that without explain- ing why and what the correct approach should have been. Of course if there are only two possibilities, then it may have to come down to saying, “One of us is wrong.” However, if it is indeed the employee who is wrong, your use of managerial authority to dictate what is right should be the last resort.

• Communicate openly. Attempt to be supportive. Exercise empathy, imagining yourself in the employee’s place. Explore any possibilities for misinterpreta- tion or misunderstanding in the employee’s work instructions. While doing so, be alert for signs that indicate defensiveness on the part of the employee or suggest a shutdown of communication. Do not argue with the employee and do not try too hard to rationalize or defend the position you see as the right one. A view that is truly correct will usually survive attack without requir- ing active defense. Always leave room for discussion, keeping in mind that you are aiming for a point at which you can say, “Now we both understand.” Although it may seem to be your intention, you are not actively looking for the chance to say, “Now you see it my way.”

• Follow up. In dealing with the employee who is never wrong, you will prob- ably accomplish little in only one interchange. You may have to exercise

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patience and go through the process multiple times, focusing each time on a new specific problem, to stand any chance of changing the employee’s work habits and attitude. Recognize, however, that as manager you may eventually have to insist on things being done in the way you believe is correct. Also, as follow-up, retain some documentation of your contacts for a while. It may not be necessary to enter the documentation in the employee’s personnel file— unless circumstances have reached a state in which formal corrective action is necessary—but you should be able, for both your sake and the employee’s, to produce a record of discussions that have taken place.

Is there quite a lot to consider in the foregoing? Certainly, but not all of the advice provided will apply in every situation. So much was said by the managers who responded to the question that the reader may be left thinking that an inordi- nate amount of time and effort would have to be devoted to every employee who behaves in that particular manner. Not so; there are many factors that enter into a manager’s relationship with each individual employee, and it is the whole person and that individual’s overall cooperativeness and productivity that will dictate the amount of attention the manager must invest in the relationship.

What you Can Gain throuGh the Case study Method

Practice, Practice

The conscientious use of case studies and similar activities provides practice in ana- lyzing problems and making decisions. Certainly a case is not the “real world,” so true decision-making pressures and emotional involvement in the decision situation are missing (although adding a time constraint can contribute a certain amount of pressure, as experienced, for example, by students who are given a specific block of time to complete an examination). Yet there is a plus side to even these apparent shortcomings of the case method: One can practice decision-making techniques with- out the risk of damage occurring through an occasional “wrong” decision.

Because a real world decision includes personal involvement, potential conse- quences, and often the pressure of time, a case study cannot simulate all of the moves required in making and implementing a decision. However, a case study allows you to go through some of the necessary moves and thus more closely parallels reality than does a simple recounting of rules or principles. In one especially important way, decision making is like many other human endeavors: The more you practice, the more proficient you become.

a new Problem-solving outlook

Although a case is not reality, it nevertheless demonstrates the complexity of the real decision-making environment. Addressing a case requires you to retreat from theory

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and other abstractions and face the uncertainties of the real world. Through the case study method you learn to make necessary simplifications, to cut through a maze of apparent facts and information and create a working order that you can deal with in a practical way.

No single case ever supplies “all of the facts.” In dealing with a case, just as in pondering many real-life situations, it is always possible to ask “What if . . . ?” Rarely does a manager have “all of the facts” in any but the simplest of situations.

Trying to decide without full knowledge of a situation is often frustrating, but this is an inseparable part of the manager’s task. If there were fewer such frustrations, there would likely be fewer difficult decisions to make, and if there were fewer deci- sions to make, there would most likely be fewer managers required to make them.

In spite of the shortcomings of the case study method, however, conscientiously working your way through a number of case studies can leave you with a new out- look on problem solving. This new outlook may well include your recognition of the need to:

• Thoroughly evaluate all available information and arrange bits of information in some logical order.

• Arrange your information into meaningful patterns or decision alternatives. • Evaluate each alternate according to the objectives to be served by the deci-

sion; and make a choice.

Rarely is there a single “right” solution to a given case. More often than not it is even difficult to say whether one particular answer is better than another. In this respect, however, the case study method supports reality: In real-world situations, what is “right” is usually relative to the conditions of the moment and the needs of the people involved.

The use of the case study method also reminds us of the true role of rules, prin- ciples, and theories. We quickly discover that rules, principles, and theories are but the tools we work with, and not the ends we are trying to serve. We learn to arrange information so we can use our tools as they are needed, rather than attempt to orga- nize our case analyses around the tools. In other words, we learn that theory serves practice—it does not dictate practice.

To help you decide for yourself whether you are getting something from the case study method, try to asses your “answer” to each case you complete according to the following questions:

• Do my recommendations show that I fully understand the issues involved in the case?

• Given the absence of unforeseen circumstances, could my recommendations realistically solve the problem? That is, is what I decided workable given the circumstances?

• Do my recommendations appear to be as fair as possible to all parties involved in the problem?

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• Do my recommendations support the goals of the organization rather than the goals of some specific person or group?

• If this were not an exercise but rather a real problem, could I live with my recommendation?

a Broadened View

The advantages of the case study method are never more apparent than when cases are considered by a group of persons working together. The multiple inputs provided by group activity serve as a strong stimulus to creativity. Ideas lead to more ideas; another person may offer an idea that had not occurred to you, and this in turn can lead you to think of something that neither of you had mentioned. Ideas—implications, possibili- ties, variations, what have you—build upon other ideas, and often the thought that leads to a sound solution springs from discussion of peripheral issues or matters of yet-to-be- recognized importance. Much of the time, group consideration of a case reveals more potentially productive alternatives than one person would have generated alone.

Also, different persons viewing the same case will bring different viewpoints to bear. Each of us possesses a unique viewpoint; the sum of our own attitudes, experi- ences, knowledge, and background. We are inclined to view the same problem in different ways; we will see some factors as more important than others because of the way we are put together.

Consider, for example, a problem concerning a request for more housekeep- ing personnel arising during a period when finances are severely constrained. To the finance director the dollar problems may loom as the most significant issue in the overall problem. However, the housekeeping manager, struggling with an over- worked and understaffed crew, is likely to see understaffing as the critical issue. Even without professional involvement in the problem, any two managers from different disciplines may well view matters differently. The same hypothetical problem—the housekeeping staffing situation—may be viewed in two completely different ways by, say, a registered nurse and a laboratory technologist.

Differing views come from different orientations. You alone stand in a unique spot in the organization, so no one else views all things quite the same way you do. No department exists in isolation from all others in the delivery of health care, and there are few kinds of problems that do not cross departmental lines, so the views of a number of people of varying backgrounds usually contribute to the development of more numerous and comprehensive alternatives.

Group participation in case study activity also points up the need for compro- mise in problem solving. Again reminded that few activities and few problems in a healthcare organization are isolated from each other, any decision rendered usually has to accommodate more than one particular interest. We find that our need becomes not that of developing the “best” solution, one that may be “best” logically and eco- nomically, although it may serve the desires of but one interested party, but rather developing a solution that is fair and workable overall, one that serves the objectives of the organization rather than the desires of an individual.

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308 Part IV: Variations and Conclusions

the Benefits of the Case study Method

In summary, the case study method of learning provides the following:

• Practice in idea generation and creative problem solving • Familiarization with logical problem-solving processes • Broadened perspective, owing to the sharing of ideas and viewpoints with others • Encouragement in developing the habit of approaching problems analytically • Some limited “practice” in solving problems and making decisions

As noted elsewhere in this book, the case study approach is only one of several methods available for presenting management development material. No manager’s continuing education should rely 100 percent on the case method; many necessities— specific rules, principles, and techniques, for instance—are best acquired by other means. However, the case method has characteristics that make it worth consider- ation as a significant part of a manager’s continuing education: It calls for the active involvement of the manager in the learning process, and it significantly narrows the gap between theory and practice.

ColleCtinG your oWn Cases

Material is Where you find it

One excellent source of material for original cases is your own experience. Many items suitable for case presentation can be found in experiences you have had in your present position and jobs you have held in the past.

Hardly a day goes by in which each working manager could not point to at least one or two instances that could be written up as cases. Such events involve all of us day in and day out. However, most potential cases slide by us unrecognized; only the truly troublesome matters remain clearly in mind after the fact. Of course the big problems, those we remember clearly, make excellent cases, but so do many of the lesser matters we regularly deal with and forget.

If you want to collect case material, your conscious decision to do so will prob- ably remind you to remain alert for opportunities. When something happens that may later make a useful case, make note of it, briefly but in sufficient detail to allow you to recall the incident when you need to do so.

Even a relatively new manager’s brief experience, say 3 or 4 months, can furnish many useful cases. None of these cases may be truly original as far as the issues they involve are concerned, but each is likely to have unique implications.

Remaining with your experience for a moment, another excellent source of case material—quite likely the best available source—is your mistakes, those perhaps painful occasions when you “learned the hard way.” If you made a mistake, recog- nized that you erred, and benefitted from the experience, then it is likely that you

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have the issues clearly in mind. It is also likely that you know something about the cause of the error, why the mistake was indeed a mistake.

You may also find case material in your observations of the actions of other people, people you have worked for, those who have reported to you, and others whose working lives have touched yours. You can use secondhand information as well, stories of the experiences of other managers.

You can also fabricate cases completely from scratch. Start with a basic question, especially one on the order of “What should I do if . . . ?” and build a brief tale that describes the problem acted out rather than expressed as a question. Many of the ques- tions a manager might raise in the course of a day can be used in this fashion. In fact, a few of the cases presented in this book were generated in this fashion. If a manager asks, for example, “What can I do with an ordinarily good employee who will not take orders from one particular head nurse?” you can surely make up a two- or three-paragraph “short story” featuring an employee’s unwillingness to respond to a supervisor’s orders.

fact in fictional form

When writing up cases based on actual events, be sure to fictionalize your material. Write in such a way that no actual person can be identified. Do not name specific orga- nizations known to you—especially your own organization—and never describe an actual organization, department, or other setting so accurately that the people involved can be identified without being named. Make up names for your characters, and you should indeed consider them to be characters, just as though you were writing fiction.

Invent names for institutions, and consider altering institutional characteristics such as size, affiliation, and elements of organizational structure to further obscure the source of your material.

If an actual happening you would like to use as a case proves to be unique, so odd, unusual, or dramatic that the participants could still be identified no matter how they were disguised, then forget it. It is better to let an even excellent example go unused than to run the risk of invading someone’s privacy.

For each case you write you should be able to pose the central issue, the main problem or topic of the case, in the form of a relatively concise question. For exam- ple, the question “How can I get an employee to do a particular task when this person thinks I should really be doing it myself?” advances the central issue of Case 33, “It’s His Job, Not Mine.” Having thus clearly identified the central issue, proceed to weave your fictional tale to show the development of the problem in a brief scene (as opposed to simply restating the question).

The following are a few more samples of the kinds of questions that lend them- selves to the creation of cases:

• “How should I handle an employee who becomes disturbed and resentful when reprimanded?”

• “What should I do with an employee who continues to repeat mistakes after having been spoken to about them several times?”

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310 Part IV: Variations and Conclusions

• “What can I do with an employee who I know can do better but refuses to try?”

• “How should I deal with an employee who behaves flippantly over an error that is potentially quite serious?”

• “How can I get higher management to follow through on problems that des- perately need attention?”

• “How can I keep myself from being trapped in the middle when dealing with two different bosses?”

The supply of questions that lend themselves to the development of case studies is essentially endless. In addition to capturing questions that occur to you person- ally, you need only to listen to employees, managers, customers, visitors, and others. Everyone has questions from time to time, and many questions, properly simplified, can become cases.

Keeping it simple

Simplify your material, sticking to just those things you need to develop the issue at the heart of the case appropriately. In none but the most elementary of management problems can we hope to capture all of the available information; in most instances we cannot do so without generating cases that are far too long and complicated for practical use. This is especially true of problems concerning people. There are many sides to most people problems, and much of the available information is subjective.

Sticking to the central issue, provide a few pertinent facts. Also, if you believe it would be helpful—as it usually is in cases involving people problems—insert a few words of observation or insight relative to a person’s characteristics or manner of behavior. A bit of character description can provide the user of the case with some insight into the kinds of human relations problems that might be involved.

In general, the depth of information used in a case should be such that the reader can clearly identify the central issue and deal with that issue while filling in minor information gaps with reasonable assumptions.

The first case or two that you write may perhaps take more time than you believe the process is worth. You may find, however, that writing cases is much like using cases—and in fact much like making decisions—in that your performance improves with practice. The more you do, the better you become at doing it.

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      • ROLE-PLAYS

& P a r t III


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r e s P o n s e 1

More Help Needed—Now!

One possible solution is for the department manager to simply concede to the request and immediately authorize an additional transcriptionist. On the plus side, a greater amount of work could then be accomplished. However, it is equally possible that the manager, in conceding, would be demonstrating to all employees that he or she is likely to give in to threats.

Another solution would be to ignore the transaction supervisor’s threats and allow her to step down from supervision or resign if she should so choose. However, it is possible that by calling her bluff the manager could cause the loss of an other- wise good employee.

A third possible solution would be to require that only documented requests for increases in personnel, complete with justification, can be considered. The supervisor should thus be encouraged to fully document her request. This routine might encour- age the supervisor to consider all ramifications of her request. However, it could also possibly discourage a busy employee who may not have time for supervisory duties from generating a proper request.

The department manager appears to be in a twofold trap: The department appar- ently has employees operating with inappropriate job descriptions and titles; and persons with the title of supervisor have apparently not been given appropriate train- ing in supervision. It is this lack of supervisory training that could well be the main genesis of the existing problem.

Also, there appear to be communication problems; the department manager has ignored the warning signs of frustration up to the point at which the supervisor is desperate for action and will risk her job to get help.

The most serious trap is presented by a threat, seemingly an ultimatum, from an employee. The employee is saying to the manager, “Do it my way or I quit.” The employee’s drastic step has made the manager fully aware of a problem that needs to be acted upon, but has also put the manager in a position in which immediate action, no matter how well intended, can be interpreted as capitulation to employee pressure.

The list of possible approaches could be much longer. However, any solution attempted should recognize and attempt to correct the communications problems, emphasize the correct way to go about requesting relief, and ensure that investigation and analysis come before action.

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r e s P o n s e 2

Up froM tHe raNks

As the manager of a group of former peers, Julie will have the advantage of already knowing many of the strengths and weaknesses of the people reporting to her. She should also know, based on past behavior, which employees are likely to have atten- dance or disciplinary problems. As an 8-year member of the unit, she may be privy to personal information or have knowledge of idiosyncrasies that could enable her to select and apply effective motivational techniques. In short, she knows the people.

The disadvantages may be troublesome for Julie. The new supervisor may have difficulty being taken seriously by her former peer group; these people have responded to Julie in a particular way for 8 years, and it may be difficult to change their response patterns. There could also be resentment from others in the group who thought they were more qualified, or that perhaps another specific person should have been promoted instead of Julie. There may even be some who simply resent another’s good fortune. Julie may also be uncomfortable giving orders to her friends or point- ing out errors to them. Disciplinary matters may also present problems for Julie.

Julie must be prepared to deal with the likelihood that she will no longer be thought of as one of the gang. It is a rare instance in which one who has been pro- moted can remain a member of group in the same good standing as previously enjoyed. The immediate effects may be mostly negative, and unless Julie’s direct superior prepares her for them, she may be in for some difficult times. Her member- ship in the carpool and the “lunch bunch” may be among the first things to change.

There is often an “us-and-them” mind-set in the working world, suggesting that if you are one of “them,” you cannot be one of “us.” If Julie realizes this and accepts the fact that she cannot be all things to all people, she should have every chance for success.

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r e s P o n s e 3

tHe sileNt GroUp

One way to approach the problem presented by the quiet group begins with trying again at the next regularly scheduled staff meeting. This time, however, do not leave it entirely up to your employees to speak up and volunteer their complaints. Rather, be prepared to prime them with some information that might encourage them to open up about whatever is bothering them.

To encourage your employees to speak up, you be the first to speak. Because you have met with them individually and heard their complaints to the extent of identi- fying common themes, you have the ideal basis on which to begin. Share with the group these common themes, being careful, of course, to avoid saying anything that is sufficiently specific to be attributed to a single individual. The key is common; tell your group that this information you are sharing came to you in various forms from several of them so there is every reason to address these issues as a group.

At all times, tread lightly and proceed carefully. You are new to the organiza- tion, so chances are, you know very little of the history of the organization, and you have not had sufficient time to become acclimated to the environment and corporate culture. It is conceivable that the employees are silent in the group setting because they have been criticized or penalized or have otherwise experienced negative con- sequences for speaking up in the past. The task you face in earning their trust will be considerable even if the problem lay only with your predecessor; it will be all the more difficult if the problem resided in higher management because chances are, the perceived reasons for distrust of the hierarchy are still in place.

The possibility of one or more employees “carrying tales to administration” presents some interesting concerns. Having been there longer than you, some of these employees may have relationships with higher management that you do not yet enjoy, so you should proceed cautiously. Higher management should of course avoid subverting the chain of command by acting upon any information that comes to them from your subordinates. The very least you can do under the circumstances is to, first, make your group aware that there are concerns about some of them possibly carrying their gripes direct to higher management, and second, for you to do your job as you should, you need to hear their concerns—individually and confidentially, if necessary—directly and not secondhand or through your manager.

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r e s P o n s e 4

tHe repeat offeNder

“You can’t make mistakes like this one” could very well be a valid statement, depend- ing, of course, on the nature of the mistake. An error that can result in direct patient harm, or, in the case of the overlooked stat order, can increase the patient’s risk of a serious occurrence of some kind, can be considered a potentially serious error. Depending on the requirements of any particular state government, an error like the one Arnold admits to could conceivably cause a state-reportable incident to which the organization will have to respond.

What is wrong with Arnold’s description of a warning as a form of punishment is that a warning, properly administered, is an attempt at correction, not a form of punishment. Arnold, however, appears to regard a warning as only another “gotcha!” one more strike that ensures your position “on the list” and one step closer to the door. He has apparently never learned, or perhaps has chosen to ignore, the true purpose of disciplinary action. In all but extreme circumstances that call for immediate termina- tion with no second chances, the essential purpose of disciplinary action is correction of behavior. That is precisely why there is a hierarchy of actions that are progressive in severity—for instance, counseling, oral warning, written warning, suspension without pay, and ultimately termination—to provide plenty of opportunity for correction.

There could be a valid point in what Arnold says about the age of a warning. We do not know how long Arnold has gone between occurrences; however, you will often find in place a personnel policy that declares a warning invalid providing there has been no recurrence of the same kind of behavior for a specified length of time.

The way to deal with Arnold is to be quite specific about the nature of the prob- lem and write the warning to include the potential consequences of recurrence within a particular period of time. And the potential consequences need to be more specific than “you may find that more than a written warning is involved.” In Arnold’s case, it may be wise to indicate that another such error “may involve disciplinary action up to and including termination.” Then if Arnold repeats a serious error within, say, a year, it might mean termination, but if he stays “clean” for longer than a year it may suffice to repeat the last step before termination. In any case, however, laboratory manager Elsie Clark needs to be working with Arnold concerning his attitude toward errors and his apparent lack of concern for quality.

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r e s P o n s e 5

a Good eMployee?

Housekeeping supervisor Ellie Richards should arrange a counseling interview with the employee. Ellie needs to try to learn firsthand Judy’s reasons for her excessive absenteeism and for being absent for several days without calling in.

Ellie can break the ice by stating that she recognizes Judy has problems, but out of fairness to Judy’s coworkers, they must attempt to correct the situation. Further- more, Ellie can indicate that she was hesitant to address the attendance issue because of Judy’s otherwise-positive work record.

If Judy is willing to explain her behavior, Ellie will have the opportunity to indi- cate her understanding and offer support and guidance.

The key questions are: Does Judy have her situation resolved? Or is further absenteeism anticipated? Either way, a timetable for review should be established, perhaps 15 to 30 days or so in the future, depending on Ellie’s judgment.

Ellie should make it clear that this counseling session must be recorded, but that it is hoped that Judy will be able to return to her former good behavior. If Judy remains in her job, most likely she will eventually appreciate the action taken. If Judy is unable to get back on track, then further disciplinary action can proceed. The morale of other staff could be at stake if one employee is allowed to get away with behavior that others feel would be grounds for action against them.

Ellie’s failure to take action thus far does not affect her ability to take action now. What is done is done, and continued lack of action will not correct the situation. Appropriate action is both explainable and defensible, and if no action is taken, the opportunity to salvage this worthwhile employee may be lost.

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r e s P o n s e 6

tHe CliNGiNG ViNe

One of the first responsibilities of a new supervisor is to become fully acquainted with all employees, discuss their jobs with them and determine how they perceive their responsibilities, and communicate to them your expectations as their new super- visor. The discussion should be informal and nonthreatening but, nevertheless, quite specific so that future misunderstandings can be avoided.

As a result of such discussions, a new supervisor following an apparently author- itarian supervisor might anticipate some of the problems that May faces with Brenda. Some employees will welcome a more democratic working environment and will readily accept increased responsibility and freedom in decision making. However, others may lack the desired initiative because of insecurity that is either innate or was instilled by the previous supervisor.

How does one train to think and act independently an employee who has been accustomed to authoritarian supervision? Having clarified new expectations, the new supervisor should concede that complete change cannot be realized imme- diately. The employee must be allowed to gain confidence as increased respon- sibility is given and accepted. The supervisor should appreciate that, concerning most tasks, the employee already knows what to do and needs only confirmation and reassurance. Applying this belief, May can ask Brenda to provide her own answers to the questions she brings. As confirmation is provided for Brenda’s responses, she should gradually learn that she is capable of handling some situa- tions herself. As Brenda’s self-confidence increases, independent action is encour- aged, acknowledged, and rewarded until a level of satisfactory performance is achieved.

May will never have enough time to deal with her department’s major problems until she can delegate with confidence. Elimination of Brenda’s time-consuming dependency must be one of May’s priorities if she is to succeed in her supervisory position.

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r e s P o n s e 7

tHe iNHerited probleM

Donna, the kitchen supervisor, has every chance of salvaging her problem employee, Sandra. Sandra is possibly a problem only because of improper orientation and train- ing. It is unreasonable to expect an employee to perform at a particular level unless that level of performance is clearly defined in the minds of both the employee and the supervisor.

Correcting the problem must begin with thorough orientation to the department. Sandra should be fully advised of the chain of command, the various functions of the department, and the specific requirements of her particular job. It may also be helpful to include a listing of possible tasks to be done should Sandra have unexpected time available when her regular work is caught up.

Donna has an obligation to tell Sandra, as well as other employees, that practices are necessarily changing, that performance must be monitored, and below-standard performance will be pointed out so that it can be corrected. Donna must also make it a point to commend above standard performance whenever she observes it.

If properly handled, this situation may be a blessing in disguise for Donna. The results of her efforts may serve to firmly establish her in her new position as supervi- sor. The other employees may judge Donna’s ability by her success or failure with Sandra. If Sandra indeed becomes a productive employee, other employees will be favorably impressed. Another result for all employees could be a lessening of the ten- sion inevitably accompanying a change of boss, because the new boss has clarified her expectations and the consequences of nonperformance. The employees will know where they stand. Consistent application of her requirements and expectations will help to ensure Donna’s success as a supervisor.

The solution includes the need to formally extend the employee’s probationary period. The employee is to be essentially held harmless for her recent unsatisfactory performance because of a supervisor’s omissions. A fresh start, with all ground rules out in the open at last, is in order.

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r e s P o n s e 8

tHe well-eNtreNCHed eMployee

Although Dave Farren may indeed have felt that “the biggest problem was Mary West’s complete lack of an efficient approach to the job,” he nevertheless owes it to his employee and to himself to recognize some other long-standing difficulties. If he is to stand a chance of “selling” Mary on the need for change, he should con- sider the following:

• Carefully studying all of the complaints about mail service, looking for cor- rectable procedural problems

• Doing whatever he can to relieve the physical problems of the “cramped, out- of-the-way mail room,” if not through securing a new area, then at least by updating the equipment and the sorting and storage facilities

• Taking steps to determine, through engineering studies or other means, the actual amount of time required for daily sorting and mailing and for daily rounds requiring Mary’s involvement in documenting the workload of the mail room so that presently unsubstantiated claims of “too much work” can either be verified or refuted.

Dave will be most likely to win the employee’s cooperation if he demonstrates that he cares about the functioning of the mail room, that he cares about Mary’s work surroundings and is genuinely interested in getting the work accomplished efficiently with minimum strain on her. He needs to be patient and extend her the benefit of the doubt. Although it may appear that she has been allowed to work independently over the years, it is even more likely that she has simply been ignored.

After 20-plus years of making her own way and following her own apparently meandering path, Mary may not respond to even the best that Dave can offer. How- ever, as the responsible manager, he nevertheless needs to try. If she is not responsive, that is, if she cannot be “sold,” then he should implement whatever improvements he can develop without her help, provide her with specific job procedures, spell out his expectations of her, and hope for the best. He should not, however, resort to any disciplinary action until he has clearly given her every reasonable opportunity to improve.

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r e s P o n s e 9

tHe seNsitiVe eMployee

Theresa began this employee counseling session with a negative attitude because of her previous experiences with Barbara. Her approach immediately put Barbara on the defensive. Theresa could have opened the conversation with facts simply stated: “Barbara, on June 30, 2009 (using the date applicable) you received a warning about your absenteeism. Since that date you have taken 10 sick days. This is an excessive number of sick days. Do you have any explanation?”

Emotions cannot always be ignored; they must be dealt with often. However, at the same time, a manager must remain objective in dealing with the resentful and emotional employee. Barbara’s outburst of tears might indicate an underlying prob- lem at home that causes her absenteeism. Theresa might want to suggest that Barbara work part-time until she resolves her problems, or that perhaps she change shifts.

If Barbara offers no real reasons for her absenteeism, and it is evident that she is an unreliable employee, then further disciplinary steps can be taken. When a second warning regarding absenteeism is issued, specific corrective guidelines should be set in writing for the employee. At this time, Theresa should define what the organization considers “excessive absenteeism” in terms of number of days allowed in a specified period of time; this is ordinarily specified in personnel policy. The second warning should explicitly state that if improvement is not seen and probation limits are vio- lated, disciplinary action will be taken. Depending on business office policies and the state labor laws, “disciplinary action” can mean suspension without pay, and after a third warning, termination. Barbara then should be placed on probation for at least 3 months with the assurance that her attendance will be closely monitored. At the end of the probationary period, another counseling session should take place with proper documentation of Barbara’s adherence to or violation of the probation.

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r e s P o n s e 10

tHe eNeMy CaMps

Helen should not discipline Sandy on the secondhand evidence provided by a member of the opposite “camp.” There is really no clear way of carrying out such disciplin- ary action without compromising Jeanette. Disciplinary action undertaken on such a basis would destroy the confidence Helen may have established in the last 7 months and would probably solidify the counterproductive positions of the “camps.”

An initial action suggested for Helen would be to change the locks in her office. She should make no accusations. Helen should hold a meeting with Sandy and others to seek help in designing and implementing a goal-setting system with the participa- tion of all employees, perhaps in brainstorming sessions to set and prioritize goals and objectives. Sandy, being an informal leader, would be an excellent source of assistance to Helen in furthering her efforts. Helen might also consider having Sandy and an informal leader of “Camp A” cross-train to further integrate the department. Helen needs to outline the general goals, seek input on objectives from employees, and have Sandy and the “Camp A” informal leader put the plan into action, reporting to her often to ensure control. Helen should continue her regular meetings, including time during each to discuss progress toward the departmental objectives.

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r e s P o n s e 11

tHe tUrNaroUNd CHalleNGe

One should first recognize that there are two significant dimensions to this problem and that the overall difficulty may be described as two separate but related problems. The first of these problems is the one described in some detail in the case: the lax department. The second problem to emerge, but the one that may have to be solved first or at least put into a “hold” status, is that of the boss’s expectations. By simply demanding to know how soon a problem that took years to evolve can be corrected, the boss is adding an element of pressure that may cause Fred to take shortcuts to find an answer, thereby ignoring some of the people problems that should be dealt with along the way.

Fred should attempt to obtain some clear, detailed expectations from his supe- rior. If those expectations appear unrealistic—for example, the boss expects it to be fixed in 3 months, tops—then Fred is going to have to try to negotiate with his boss. In his negotiations, Fred should suggest objectives aimed at incremental progress and try to sell a long-range program of steady improvement that is far more realistic than an attempt to forcibly alter a situation that took years to develop. Fred and his boss both need to recognize that many of the department’s employees came to regard their slow pace and lax environment as normal and that management is now trying to force them to do more than normal.

As part of his overall approach, Fred must make full use of the knowledge and capabilities of his assistant manager, treating this person as a true member of man- agement and delegating responsibility to him accordingly.

The case suggests that Fred is at least partly on the right track. Some improve- ments have been made, and even though there were some setbacks, if he keeps trying, the net result may be long-term improvement. Neither he nor his boss can necessarily expect every month or every reporting period to show constant improvement.

Much of the challenge referred to in the title lies in the work Fred has to do with the department’s employees and their attitudes. He has before him the significant task of building on the improvements made so far by attempting to motivate his workers through pride in their contributions.

Because the department in question is a laundry, there is one seemingly drastic option available that has been used to solve numerous laundries’ problems: The

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hospital could consider going outside to a commercial laundry or to membership in a shared laundry. Productivity problems of the human kind sometimes have an impact in such a decision, but often, the decision to get the hospital out of the laun- dry business is based on economics. In an increasing number of cases, hospitals are finding it more economical to go outside for this service than to upgrade and modernize their laundries. Thus an analysis of the economic feasibility of retaining the laundry might well be part of the hospital’s approach to the laundry problem.

202      Response 11: The Turnaround Challenge

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r e s P o n s e 12

oNe persoN’s word aGaiNst aNotHer’s

The second-shift supervisor should decline Mrs. Carter’s request to cosign a written warning for Janet Mills. Further, Mrs. Carter should be advised against generating such a warning. Because there was room for confusion and misunderstanding, on this occasion the employee should be given the benefit of the doubt. Ms. Mills bears some responsibility for asking Mrs. Carter for permission to leave rather than asking the second shift supervisor, however, and it is reasonable to assume that Ms. Mills asked Mrs. Carter only because she was afraid of receiving a negative response from the other supervisor. A cynical view might suggest that this behavior is akin to that of a manipulative child playing one parent off against the other.

The two supervisors should consider meeting with Janet Mills so that both sides of the story can be aired for all concerned parties at the same time. It should then be made plain to Ms. Mills—and reinforced with all employees as a department policy—that permission to leave early (or otherwise alter scheduled work time) must be obtained from the supervisor who will be on duty at the time of the early depar- ture. Furthermore Ms. Mills must be advised that the two supervisors necessarily work closely because of their common responsibilities and that any attempt to play one of them against the other will not succeed. It could in fact affect future perfor- mance evaluations and perhaps result in disciplinary action. Both supervisors should become well aware of the hazards existing when an employee reports to two different supervisors in the course of a single shift.

Any employee attempting to play one supervisor against another should be con- fronted by the involved supervisors and warned of the unacceptability of this practice. Communication between supervisors can be facilitated by brief shift report meetings each day. Also, a daily supervisors’ log could be maintained to exchange information. Regular departmental meetings should be held, and at these meetings the work force should see a unified management team.

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r e s P o n s e 13

tHe GroUCHy reCeptioNist

Morris Craig is challenged to determine the cause of Jennifer’s poor job performance. Trying to meet individual and departmental needs, having no rationale for the change in Jennifer’s behavior, and trying to avoid a confrontation, he is relying on Jennifer to solve her own problems—or rather hoping that she will solve them. Unfortunately, she seems unable to solve them and unwilling to discuss them, and Morris’s delaying tactics are only compounding the problem.

If the cause is determined, Morris can ascertain what he and the department can do to achieve a solution benefiting everyone. If the trouble is work related (for example, “burnout”), job satisfaction might be improved through promotion, new responsibilities, different hours, additional help, or unit transfer. If the cause is per- sonal (for example, marital problems), a leave of absence or counseling might be appropriate.

Marie Stark’s recommendation is an excellent first step, especially with an employee whose past behavior has been acceptable. Jennifer may avoid discussing specific concerns with her male boss but she might talk with a female colleague. This approach emphasizes commitment of the work group to its members and departmen- tal goals, something that the department seems to lack at present.

Morris Craig could complete a performance appraisal for Jennifer. Open, honest dialogue is required. Jennifer knows her responsibilities and is probably aware of her behavior, her perceptions of the job, her role within the department, and adverse influences on her work, so her recommendations are critical in a mutually satisfac- tory resolution.

As a last resort, disciplinary action may be considered to prevent further disrup- tion. Morris must clearly indicate to Jennifer why such action is required and must describe organizational policy, identify expected behaviors, delineate progressive steps of the action, structure evaluation mechanisms, and provide close supervision. The onus lies with Jennifer: regardless of the cause, she either changes her behavior and improves performance or ultimately is terminated.

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r e s P o n s e 14

wHat’s tHe trUtH?

This is an extremely difficult case to deal with in any consistent fashion because it does not provide a point of view from which to address the problem presented. One is asked to assess what happened from the perspectives of two participants, but without being firmly positioned in some relationship to the characters, it is possible to be led in any of several directions. One could automatically adopt the viewpoint of any of the three characters, or one could assume an omniscient viewpoint. Thus, four completely different viewpoints—and a number of potential paths toward resolution within each viewpoint—are possible. To further complicate matters, it is also relatively easy to unintentionally change points of view while thinking through the case.

The overall problem is twofold: some clear indications of weakness on the part of the immediate supervisor, Tom Davis; and what would seem to be continuing difficulties with employee Stan Thomas, who apparently “plays the gray areas” and comes across as troublesome while staying out of big trouble with his boss. Thomas seems to have a sense of the extent of Davis’s weakness; with many other supervisors, his insubordinate behavior would have already gotten him into big trouble.

Considering where the situation has gone, one is left with little reasonable action that can be taken over the specific incident but much that can and should be done about future communication among the parties. Also, Harry Willis, Tom Davis’s immediate superior, needs to make Davis appreciate some of supervision’s basic responsibilities. Tom Davis seems to have made his problem Harry Willis’s problem, as he was unable to resolve it himself. Also, Davis exhibited weakness in attempting to deal with this apparently troublesome employee; perhaps Davis has little control over his subordinates and feels intimidated by them.

Tom Davis fails to see the need to help Stan Thomas set priorities; it does not appear that the supervisor has done a great deal to ensure the employee’s understand- ing of what must be done and when it must be done. The supervisor’s position is further weakened by director of building services Harry Willis, who steps out of his role and into Tom’s when he addresses Stan for insubordination.

All reasonable approaches to this case should ideally mention the need to work on communication, and should also suggest the supervisory education and higher-management guidance necessary to help Tom Davis better fulfill his responsibilities.

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r e s P o n s e 15

iN a rUt

There are two basic problems underlying the situation described in the case. First and foremost, Sue has taken it upon herself to come up with all the ideas for the group; she has not involved any of her staff in planning. Second, she has been fairly quick to develop a negative attitude toward her staff and blame them for a lack of progress.

Director Andy Miller has his work cut out for him. He must counsel Sue con- cerning proper techniques of management, suggesting that she first invite her staff to participate in planning. She must be helped to realize that the employees are her most valuable asset, and that more than likely, those people can offer many good ideas based on their experience if only they are given the chance to be heard. It is of utmost importance to involve the affected people in the setting of both short- and long-range goals.

Sue must also be reminded that no manager is an island; no manager is always expected to come up with all the exciting new ideas. The manager has the job of coordinating, prioritizing, and developing others’ ideas. Having access to the bigger picture, the manager can be the judge of where and how a given idea can fit into the overall scheme of things. One of the most pleasing experiences a manager can have is to witness the success—and thus the professional growth and development—of an employee for whom the manager has paved the way.

Also, Sue needs to do some work on her apparent negative attitude. She may need to be actively encouraged to look for the positive a bit more readily.

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r e s P o n s e 16

tHe Up-aNd-dowN perforMer

There are some significant issues to consider before dealing with the questions posed in the case:

1. The employee’s actions and the possible reasons for them. It is necessary to ask whether she has been thoroughly trained, understands the manager’s expectations, and has sufficient time to do all that is assigned to her.

2. The lack of documentation. The manager failed to record all efforts at correction.

3. Failure to follow up. Since the manager did not discuss the employee’s mar- ginal performance at the end of the 30-day period, the employee had reason to assume that her performance was acceptable.

With the foregoing in mind, the questions may be addressed:

1. The employee could cause trouble because of the lack of documentation. Termination at the point described in the case could readily be construed as occurring without cause and could lead to a lawsuit or other legal action.

2. At this point the manager needs to go back and reassess the employee’s training, capabilities, and assigned workload. Eventually satisfied that the problem is indeed employee performance, the supervisor may then begin the process over again with an oral warning or other appropriate reprimand, making sure to document all efforts and follow up regularly even if behavior seems to be improving over the short run.

Documentation is the key in this case. Whenever such an employee problem lands in court or the hands of an advocacy agency, the employer is required to demonstrate that the employee was given a reasonable opportunity to improve the substandard performance. It does not matter if you have talked repeatedly with a problem employee; as far as employment law is concerned, in most cases if it is not documented, it never happened.

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r e s P o n s e 17

i’ll Get aroUNd to it

The problem appears to involve poor supervisor–employee communication. Super- visor Mabel may feel that she has little control over housekeeper Ellie because she leaves Ellie alone to do her assigned work and intrudes into Ellie’s world only when she has additional work for her. Ellie may well be resistant if she has come to associ- ate communication from her supervisor with more work. Mabel should make a point to find time to communicate with Ellie in a positive way and not always about work. She needs to break Ellie’s habit of associating the supervisor with additional work.

Instead of telling Ellie to do something based on information from a third party, Mabel could have said something like, “I hear that the ER entrance is muddy again. Would you please check it out and get back to me?” This type of communication invites dialogue between supervisor and employee. It also implies trust. Mabel should not have to tell Ellie to “take care of it.” She need only direct Ellie to the problem area and trust that once Ellie sees that the floor is muddy again, she will clean it up and report back about what she has done. If this approach fails to work the first time, Mabel needs to work at it until she gains Ellie’s cooperation.

Mabel might also consider looking into the state of Ellie’s job description. If the job description states or can be modified to state that the incumbent is to periodi- cally check certain specific areas (such as the ER entrance) and clean as necessary, this can be used to encourage Ellie to possibly become self-managed in maintaining the area.

Working with employees is a two-way street. Mabel must show an interest in Ellie and her concerns before she can expect Ellie to reciprocate. So long as Mabel simply issues directives, Ellie may continue to respond in borderline insubordinate fashion.

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r e s P o n s e 18

tHe alterNate day off

There appears to be no policy violation in this situation. The issue revolves around Susan’s action. Was she ill? Or did Susan use the policy to manipulate the nurse manager? If so, this is an ethical issue dealing with Susan’s sense of responsibility, her respect for her coworkers, and her duty to the patients. However, claiming illness when one wants time off for other purposes is such a common occurrence that it is understandable that the manager might suspect manipulation.

As Susan’s immediate superior, Mabel should review Susan’s performance record to identify whether or not Susan has established a pattern of illness or absence. If so, she should then determine whether the pattern is related to holidays and alter- nate days off. In many organizations’ policies, such patterned absenteeism can trig- ger the start of a progressive disciplinary process. Second, Mabel should schedule a conference with Susan to discuss Susan’s behavior, offer Susan the opportunity to express her point of view, and for Mabel, as head nurse, reiterate the responsibilities of an employee. Third, Mabel should document this incident and the subsequent conference.

Regarding the “alternate-day-off policy,” Mabel can do little or nothing. The policy is not the issue; it is a broadly stated general policy that serves its purpose. However, there may be no procedure to follow when an employee becomes ill on the job. Perhaps Mabel could suggest to the administration that such a procedure be considered.

About all Mabel could do regarding the policy itself is to suggest that it be clari- fied to specify the alternate day off as coming only after the holiday. Again, if Susan was not truly ill, the real issue would seem to be her sense of duty to the institution, her coworkers, and the patients. Appropriate change in Susan’s attitude and in her sense of commitment to her responsibilities is the real challenge for Mabel.

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r e s P o n s e 19

if yoU waNt tHiNGs doNe well . . .

Having never put in writing his procedure for preparing his monthly report, laundry manager Miller was not in a good position to suddenly decide to delegate the task. His decision to have Curtis do the report should have been accompanied by a simple note to himself to orient Curtis to the procedure, followed by completion of that month’s report himself. Then, unhurried, he should have committed the procedure to writing.

Miller presented the assignment to Curtis as though he was dumping an unpleas- ant chore that required little skill. Actually, his presentation of the task should have been positive, a recognition of Curtis’s abilities and an expansion of his respon- sibilities. Based on his knowledge of Curtis’s learning capability and work style, Miller should have presented the written procedure and copies of past reports and then should have either gone through the procedure with him or allowed him to go over it himself and later ask questions.

Given a previous month’s raw data, Curtis should have been asked to do the report and then compare his results with the actual report. Curtis’s critical error would have been either avoided because of the written procedure or corrected in a far more positive manner. A regular submission deadline should have been negotiated, allowing for necessary corrections to be made by Curtis after discussion.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the report form should have been amended to allow Curtis to sign his own work, with Miller’s signature of approval if required. Task ownership and recognition are crucial in effective delegation.

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r e s P o n s e 20

sixty MiNUtes or less

If forced to select one and only one of the three suggested uses for Judy’s avail- able hour, the expected textbook answer would be the second choice, sort everything according to priority and develop a work plan. This is the only certain way of bring- ing to the surface any true high-priority items that might be buried in the stack. If Judy already knows the relative importance of everything awaiting her attention, she can select one or two important items for immediate resolution as suggested in the third choice.

However, if Judy has no idea of what is there she needs to invest the hour in sort- ing her work and determining priorities so she can then be assured that she will begin working on the most important items first.

Some people who have discussed this case in time management workshops have suggested that the department secretary could be involved to a greater extent than implied by the short case description. A knowledgeable secretary can at least separate the items that might be of immediate importance from those that clearly can wait. It appears that Judy and Ann, manager and secretary, already enjoy open communica- tion as evidenced by their exchange of feelings and opinions. As long as it was Ann who originally took the numerous phone messages, and as long as Ann is reasonably familiar with Judy’s job duties, one approach to making the most of the available hour would be for Judy to ask Ann to brief her on each item or call and thus help arrange the work in priority order.

Since Judy has nothing on her calendar for the following day, that would be the best time to start actually working on the listed items. Also, if Ann considered any of the telephone calls to be urgent, perhaps Judy could have Ann relay brief messages to those particular callers or at least let them know that Judy would get back to them early the following day.

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r e s P o n s e 21

is it iNsUbordiNatioN?

It is a manager’s responsibility to balance organizational needs with employees’ rights. Personnel policies exist to provide equity between the employee and the orga- nization. In the instance described in the case, Mason does indeed exhibit insubordi- nation to Hamilton during and after the staff meeting.

Hamilton restricted vacation time as a management strategy to ensure adequate worker availability. Recognizing the potential hardship the time restriction may have on his employees, Hamilton shows sensitivity by announcing his intentions a full 6 months before the actual restriction. Even though Hamilton has the right to sched- ule according to the organization’s needs, he provides employees with rationale and time that helped foster their acceptance of the change.

If Mason had not used a group forum for his outburst, Hamilton would have had more room to negotiate a settlement. Now if Hamilton decides to allow an exception to his policy and gives Mason time off, he must address two issues: the responsibility for reward- ing negative behavior, and the impact of his decision on the morale of the work group.

Supervisor Hamilton needs to assess whether Mason’s belligerence was blatant insubordination or a subconscious strategy by Mason to garner peer support for time off; that is, “With his attitude, let him take off.” Regardless of Mason’s motivation, Hamilton needs to initiate dialogue and take appropriate corrective action to prevent future outbursts.

In joining an organization an individual in effect agrees to follow its rules. It is the manager’s position to uphold the work of the organization; that is, the creation of a secure and successful work climate for the employees. Hamilton may have to exercise his management right to restrict Mason’s vacation, a right based on work demand.

As long as Hamilton applies his ruling on vacations consistently throughout his staff, he has every right to insist that everyone—Mason included—schedule vacation as directed.

Pete Hamilton should also advise his manager and human resources of the necessity for the vacation restriction and the situation with Mason, because it is pos- sible that Mason may take his complaint up the chain of command. We do not know to what extent Hamilton may have planned the vacation restriction, but if he has approached it responsibly, both his manager and human resources will have been consulted and agreed to the change.

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r e s P o n s e 22

Get baCk to yoU iN a MiNUte

This is a truly frustrating situation for a manager. The description of this one particu- lar week illustrates a king-size problem by highlighting the frustrations involved in reporting to a manager who seems never to have time for subordinate supervisors.

Neither mounting an all-out campaign to get the boss in situations in which he has to talk to you, nor doing your own thing may be appropriate answers. You might best proceed by:

• Examining your relationship with the boss before this terrible week. Ask yourself to recall a time when the boss listened to you or paid attention to the needs of your department.

• Considering how you can replicate that situation to get his attention now. • Trying to identify the boss’s priorities.

All of the contacts made with the boss were either by catching him on the run or telephoning. He does not appear to respond well to either of these methods. Perhaps he places greatest importance on scheduled or emergency meetings, so making an appointment with his secretary to discuss concerns on a regular basis might be help- ful. Right now, he seems to perceive your attempts to talk with him as interruptions or distractions.

We are given no indication that he pays attention to written communication, but in case he does, it could be helpful to try writing your concerns and asking for a reply. You may be surprised at the speed with which you get an answer; then again you get no response at all. This may cause you to be more flexible in your style.

You may be comfortable doing business as you run into people, but your boss’s style is different. Being aware of that and making adjustments will improve your relationship with your boss.

There is one technique you might consider when something of importance is pending and you cannot get at the boss directly: Briefly write out the problem, clearly state what you believe should be done, and advise your manager that this is what you will do unless you hear from him with other instructions. This may at least cover you to some extent if something goes wrong.

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r e s P o n s e 23

tHe deleGated diGGiNG

If Sharon is qualified for the project, the primary determinant of whether Kaye assigns the task to her should be her likely future involvement. If the task is to become a regular part of her job, it would make sense to actively involve her in doing this task from the first. However, if this is to be a one-time task, and if no one is more clearly qualified than anyone else, the job might as well be done by whomever can best set aside the time to perform it.

The foregoing possibility has the advantage of being easy for the supervisor. However, unless Sharon does know all of the codes and terminology, and unless she truly understands what is needed, she could be heading straight into a time-consum- ing failure. The second possibility has the advantage of thoroughness; with expected results clearly spelled out, a detailed procedure to follow, and a specific deadline to work toward, her chances of going astray are minimized. However, all of this takes time and effort on the part of the supervisor, and if it does turn out to be a one-time job it will have taken far longer to get the data via delegation than it would have taken Kaye to do the job himself.

The third possibility falls midway between the other two. It would likely lead to more accurate results than would the first, simply turning her loose, but it would not be nearly as time consuming as the complete delegation of the second. Also, this third approach would avoid the “overkill” of the second that would be experienced if the task did indeed turn out to be a one-time job.

Under the circumstances of the case, the most reasonable approach of those offered is the third—tell her what is wanted, recommend an approach, and turn her loose. However, to this we must add the necessity for John Kaye to stay closely in touch with the job as it progresses. Sharon should not have to call for help; the super- visor should anticipate most of her needs.

The ideal approach would be for Sharon and her supervisor to tackle this digging together. Although this data collection might become a regular part of someone’s job, chances are, this will not come to pass in the exact form in which it is first encoun- tered. The process of going through 18 months’ worth of work orders could be a key part of determining exactly what is needed in the design of a preventive maintenance program.

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r e s P o n s e 24

tHe seCoNd CHaNCe

The situation described in this case exhibits some classic symptoms of distress caused by lack of planning and incomplete communication of objectives to the person responsible for the project. The communication of desired results, especially impor- tant in delegated projects, appears absent here. It is important to note that the assign- ment is a “special” work-order-analysis project and that it was “hastily assigned.”

It has often been suggested that performance is generally predictable based on factors such as ability, personal motivation, and encouragement to produce. The problem in this case appears not necessarily to be with ability and motivation, but rather with encouragement—which includes proper direction and communication of the manager’s expectations. It is certainly possible that the job enlargement involved in this project might be beyond Sharon’s ability, but there is no evidence to suggest this may be so.

Sharon’s interruptions should be viewed as calls for help as she tries to read her boss’s mind, and a good manager should sense this. Too often, managers plan but then keep their plans largely or completely in their heads.

John Kaye’s smartest move would be to utilize the first option: Review what Sharon has accomplished so far, show her where and how to adjust to meet the proj- ect’s real objectives, and assist her in planning the remainder of the task.

Once the manager devotes the proper time to planning and conveying all appro- priate information, most of the details should fall into place for the employee, and there will be fewer interruptions coming the manager’s way. Doing so will also give Sharon a stronger sense of involvement, but allow John to retain ultimate control while he remains free to concentrate on other business.

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r e s P o n s e 25

tHe bUNGled assiGNMeNt

Delegation is a valuable tool that can maximize the performance and productivity of management personnel. Moreover, its proper practice is essential to a manager’s long-term success. In substance, delegation requires the turning the authority for task performance to a subordinate who in turn is held responsible for the performance of the task.

That is probably what John Kaye thought he did when he asked his secretary, Sharon, to do a report for him and gave her the authority and responsibility for the report. Later he was considerably disappointed in the results. As do so many who fail at delegation, he did not delegate completely.

There is more to delegation than dropping an assignment on a subordinate’s desk. Before delegating, the manager should confirm the skills, experience, and com- petence of the employee. If the subordinate is not familiar enough with the project content or context, more experience and training may be necessary.

The manager must also clarify expectations. He or she must explain what is acceptable in relation to quality, quantity, and time. The manager must also help the subordinate set priorities by guiding the arrangement of tasks for completion.

Once the task is assigned, the manager should become a coach. The manager becomes accessible via milestone or checkpoints, planned interactions scheduled throughout the duration of the project. If necessary the manager establishes calls for interim reports to monitor progress, coaches the subordinate, and assists with problems. If John Kaye had been more of a coach, Sharon’s project might have been successful.

Delegation not only enhances management time and resources, it also provides an opportunity to encourage subordinates’ potential and foster personal growth. Therefore, a dimension of humanity is evident in the concept of effective delegation. An extra bonus is the job satisfaction that accrues when subordinates make decisions and successfully meet new challenges.

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r e s P o n s e 26

it isN’t iN tHe Job desCriptioN

One’s initial reaction to the problems presented in the case might be to recommend revising that particular job description. However, it is not always possible to revise a job description simply because a manager decides to do so; in a union shop, for example, it usually requires a significant change in equipment or procedures to reopen and revise a job description.

Absent the restrictions of a union contract, supervisor Morton should certainly consider strengthening employee Thompson’s job description in various ways. It should be relatively easy to add a line to the job description calling for reporting of other apparent maintenance needs encountered while working on a primary assign- ment. It may also be helpful for Morton to obtain Thompson’s active input in the process of revising the job description.

The improved job description should also include standing instructions for the employee to follow when an assigned repair job is completed and another is not yet designated. For example, Thompson’s job description could clearly indicate that he is to pursue certain known preventive maintenance activities during time open between assigned repairs.

As Thompson’s job description may exhibit weaknesses, so too might there be weaknesses in the maintenance department’s scheduling practices. Consci- entious scheduling would not ordinarily afford the individual employee the opportunity for “prolonged breaks.” Also, a work-order control system that captures elapsed time, material costs, and other information for each repair job would quickly reveal whether Thompson did in fact “usually take longer” than needed.

The matters of the job description and work scheduling and such add up to a need for Morton to provide closer supervision of Jeff Thompson. However, it was noted that much of the problem seems to lie in Jeff’s attitude. Why should he have such a negative view of his responsibilities?

One can only second-guess at the possible reasons behind Jeff’s attitude. How- ever, the supervisor has one clearly positive factor to build upon—Jeff is confident in his ability to do the job. Jeff does good work and he knows it.

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Supervisor Morton needs to:

• Strengthen the job description and improve his scheduling and control procedures • Provide Thompson with closer supervision • Stress the positive results of Thompson’s efforts • Truly get to know this employee on a one-to-one basis, making it plain that

he, Morton, is interested in each employee as a whole person as well as a producer

The rest is up to Thompson. At worst, his productivity will improve, even if no atti- tude improvement occurs, because of closer supervision. At best, his attitude will improve over time as he is drawn into a relationship in which he and his skills are respected.

218      Response 26: It Isn’t in the Job Description

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r e s P o n s e 27

delayed CHaNGe of CoMMaNd

The employees’ view of Smitty would probably undergo considerable change over the 6 months during which there was no official manager. At the start, the employees assumed that Smitty would be appointed manager. However, because that assumption was not borne out within a reasonable period of time, some of the employees would have begun to feel that perhaps Smitty was not as strong or capable a candidate as they thought him to be, and that perhaps higher management felt there were better choices available. In short, as the weeks become months, the employees would have likely become less and less convinced that Smitty was the proper person to lead the department.

The finance director’s viewpoint is extremely difficult to assess without more information. It would be especially helpful to know whether the finance director had genuine doubts about Smitty’s capabilities; thought Smitty was probably “okay” but wished to test the market to make sure; felt he needed to test Smitty for a while to assure himself that Smitty was a reasonable choice; or simply procrastinated, extend- ing to months a process that should have been accomplished in far less time.

As his position would likely deteriorate in the eyes of the department and other elements of the organization, so too would Smitty’s position be likely to deteriorate in his own eyes. Assuming that he, too, believed he would move up and become manager, Smitty would probably experience growing impatience and increasing self-doubt as the weeks dragged on without a decision. Learning that candidates were being interviewed for information services manager could have been a considerable blow to whatever self- confidence he possessed. He could feel increasingly insecure in his employment with the hospital and could begin to have doubts about his future with this particular employer. Smitty could come to wonder whether this organization—and especially the finance direc- tor—held him in any appreciable regard. Certainly, Smitty could come to feel exploited in being left to handle the important elements of two positions for so long.

Finally, appointing Smitty to the position of manager after 6 months of unex- plained delay does not correct the situation. Damage has been done; doubts, espe- cially those of Smitty and the department’s employees, will linger. One can almost hear some of the comments: “They finally decided to take a chance with Smitty;” “They gave it to him because they couldn’t find anyone better at their price;” “I wonder what they thought was wrong with Smitty?”

If Smitty is truly good at what he does, he will succeed as manager. However, because of the manner in which his transition was handled, he will have an uphill struggle. He will have to work doubly hard to prove himself and to overcome linger- ing negative impressions.

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r e s P o n s e 28

tHe tiGHt deadliNe

Deadlines such as the one nurse manager Susan Wagner is facing present basic chal- lenges in prioritizing and properly managing the time commitment to a project while allowing for the contingencies and crises that may arise in any dynamic organization. Time is ultimately the scarcest resource, and unless it is properly managed little else can be accomplished adequately. In addition to being necessary for organizational control and growth, deadlines are important means of assessing time management skills.

The problems of the assignment of tasks and the management of time are impor- tant topics in decision theory. It is always possible that overuse of deadlines breeds conscious or unconscious hostility, but nevertheless the use of deadlines is considered essential to effective management.

In making the decision about when to complete the final formulation of the overtime report or any similar task, economy of effort is an important practical con- sideration. You want to “get the biggest bang for the buck” relative to the major con- straint, which in this case is time. Options include immediate and delayed processing. The psychological advantage of beginning the project could be enhanced through delegation of sorting and organizing processes to the secretary, Betsy Adams, who is already familiar with the process and forms. For Susan Wagner, the first option seems impractical and uneconomical, and the third option does not allow for interruptions or unplanned factors. In addition, the third option would demonstrate poor manage- rial skills and procrastination, thereby setting a bad example.

All factors considered, the second option seems to offer the best solution. This alternative would allow one full day to complete the assignment with an additional day (the due date) for emergencies or revisions. In addition, this option would allow the project to be completed with little interruption, which would help to ensure con- sistency and would enhance the sense of having finished the project.

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r e s P o n s e 29

teN MiNUtes to spare?

Each of the three options possesses advantages and disadvantages, with the disadvan- tages running the gamut from merely possible to highly likely.

Option 1, putting off Mr. Wade and promising to call him in the morning, would allow you to avoid an unneeded intrusion at a busy time. However, this solution might be annoying to Wade (although he had no appointment), and it might strike him as unnecessarily delaying resolution of a genuinely small matter.

Option 2, asking for a memo so you can consider the matter later, would also allow you to delay the intrusion. On the other hand, this choice adds work for the other party and again could be an unwarranted delay in resolving a small problem.

Option 3, seeing Mr. Wade and trying to limit the discussion to 5 or 10 minutes, could potentially resolve the open issue then and there without making it part of another day’s workload. However, there is a risk that the matter will prove too com- plicated to be resolved in 10 minutes or that the finance director, Wade, will simply tie you up for as long as he sees fit once he has his foot in the door.

Knowing no more than the case tells you about you and Mr. Wade, the cleanest, most sensible choice is the third option, meeting with Wade then and there. However, it is essential that you control the meeting. You need to make it clear that you have 10 minutes—tops—for this business, and you may need to reinforce this by getting ready to leave as your deadline approaches or politely ending the discussion when you’ve run out of time. As far as using your time is concerned, it may be efficient for you to deal with the problem at once and not have to face it later. However, if you allow Wade to exceed your time limit and cause you to be late for your commitment, then you have allowed someone else to dictate the use of your time.

If the “minor question” was important enough for Wade to bring to you, it prob- ably deserves your attention. If you can resolve it within a few minutes, it will be finished; if not, then it has to become part of the next day’s workload, as would be the case with any other option.

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r e s P o n s e 30

assiGNMeNt aNd reassiGNMeNt

This is the familiar problem involving conflict over a person’s ability to serve two masters with any amount of satisfaction. In this scenario, the director of nursing, Ms. Carey, violated two management principles, one more serious than the other, to achieve what she considered an effective and efficient delegation of authority and responsibility. Ms. Carey violated this in bypassing the formal chain of command and delegating assignments to an employee who was not her immediate subordinate. This type of end run around the assistant director, Ann Baker, seems unwarranted in this circumstance. At best, the action could go unnoticed; at worst, it could undermine the confidence of Carol Ames in assistant director Baker or lead to further confusion and distrust.

The second and more common violation was of the unity of command principle. This violation places the inservice director, Carol Ames, in conflict with the desires of her immediate superiors. In this position, Ms. Ames is forced to deal with poten- tially bruised egos of both her immediate supervisor and the director of nursing.

The delegation of functional authority to Ms. Ames for control of the nursing audit is within the realm of Ms. Carey’s control. It is not a radical violation of the unity of command principle, because the higher-level orders would also apply to all subordinates of the director of nursing, including Ann Baker. Carol Ames should immediately inform Ms. Baker of the change in plans, and Carol should convey her willingness to assist with completion of the inventory and cost report immediately after fulfilling her obligations with the nursing audit.

A successful resolution to this problem will involve tact and communication as well as cooperation between the parties. The new assignments, particularly the inven- tory, may be sufficiently nonurgent that their delay or reassignment should cause no problems. In any event, Ms. Carey was wrong in bypassing Ann Baker to delegate this assignment. She might best try to clarify the situation in a short meeting between the parties. Carol would do well to request such a meeting.

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r e s P o n s e 31

tHe UNreqUested iNforMatioN

As suggested by the initial option, you should indeed thank Nellie for her con- cern. However, asking her to report anything else she might hear is to be avoided; doing so would in effect designate Nellie as your “spy” in the group. Having a personal informant among the staff is bound to be destructive of working rela- tionships.

The second alternative is probably the best remedy for the immediate situa- tion. Her concern for the good of the department, if genuine, is appropriate, as is acknowledging that concern. You should certainly direct Nellie to bring you no further stories. In bringing you disturbing new and then urging your silence, Nellie has done little more for you than give you cause to worry about what may be going on in the department. In any event, there is nothing you could legitimately do anyway; it is always inappropriate to take action based on secondhand informa- tion (hearsay).

Concerning the third option, again, thank her and send her on her way. Consid- ering what you have heard you probably cannot avoid “keeping an eye” on Marge, whether you mean to or not.

This situation will have created in you a heightened awareness of problems within your department, which should in turn lead you to step up efforts at commu- nication within the group. Consider: probing for problems at staff meetings, holding “gripe sessions” for any who will participate, holding one-on-one meetings with your employees, offering staff a means of submitting complaints and suggestions anony- mously, and whatever else might bring problems into the open.

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r e s P o n s e 32

did He HaVe it CoMiNG?

We probably cannot answer the title question with absolute certainty, but it is reason- able to assume that Dan Smither had something coming because of his error. He did have coming some form of criticism; however, he did not deserve to be on the receiv- ing end of Peter Jackson’s emotional tirade.

Jackson’s approach was anything but constructive. In a brief exchange, Smither heard that his behavior was “idiotic,” that he “fiddled around” and “stalled,” and that he made a “major blunder.” Jackson also implied that Smither does not know his job. One need hardly wonder why Smither walked out of the office in anger.

The responsibility for this exchange rests with Jackson. It is unfortunate, how- ever, that Smither reacted to anger with anger—understandable, but nevertheless unfortunate—because Jackson is the organizational superior. If Jackson is suffi- ciently crude as a manager to criticize an employee in this fashion, it is also likely that he will allow an employee’s angry response to further prejudice his opinion of the employee.

One reasonable approach would start with Jackson requesting Smither’s analysis of the error—what happened, why it appears to have happened, and so forth. After they have gathered as much factual information as they can, they should discuss the problem in detail to determine whether there was indeed an error on Smither’s part and what steps should be taken to prevent its recurrence.

Jackson needs to be aware that criticism, to be effective, must be constructive; that is, it must embody guidance for correcting the offending behavior. And both par- ties—but especially Jackson, the boss—need to be aware that as anger increases in an interpersonal exchange, the potential for effective communication is diminished.

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r e s P o n s e 33

it’s His Job, Not MiNe

Delegation is fundamental to effective management. Delegation allows employees to feel valued and that they are part of a team and gives them the opportunity to learn new skills. The department benefits overall, and managers can focus on those tasks that require special attention.

This case, however, involved assignment, not delegation, and the employee felt burdened rather than flattered by the increased responsibility. Clues should have been noted in the initial lack of enthusiasm, as well as the later procrastination and lack of enthusiasm. Miller has also noted that narrow job descriptions can be a cause of the “It’s not my job” malaise. He feels that a job description should focus on the depart- ment and patient care, rather than the individual. Participative management will also be of value both in the short and long run here. If managers influence, rather than assign, employees will be committed to invest time and energy in production and performance.

To influence this employee, various “perks” might be assigned to the job. If this employee is interested in moving into management, letting the employee present the report to administration might be of personal value. Perhaps if the cover sheet for the report clearly lists the employee as author, this individual will be motivated by recognition. Giving the employee an afternoon at home to prepare the report is another strategy.

This employee may simply be unmotivated; however, if the manager employs the principles of participative management, employees will surface with an interest in furthering the goals of the department and themselves, not simply themselves.

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r e s P o n s e 34

i Used to rUN tHis UNit

Only time will tell whether Ms. Adams will come around and overcome her resentment of what she perceives as a demotion. If she is truly professional in outlook, she will likely come around eventually. Ms. Adams has knowledge and experience that remain valuable to the unit and the hospital, and Ms. Williams should acknowledge this and make every effort to utilize Ms. Adams’s capabilities. The demotion could actually be leaving Ms. Adams in a position second only to Ms. Williams in the unit. Ms. Adams is ideally situated to undertake special assignments, serve as mentor or instructor for new LPNs and aides, and perhaps cover for Ms. Williams during occasional absences.

If time and Ms. Williams’s efforts fail to soften or eliminate Ms. Adams’s resent- ment and resistance, there may always be the possibility of transfer to some other nursing position in the organization. Or perhaps Ms. Williams will resign herself to Ms. Adam’s resentful attitude as long as Ms. Adams maintains acceptable perfor- mance in her staff position. Also, Ms. Adams needs to understand that accrediting agencies and the appropriate state health department require the presence of a regis- tered nurse in that capacity.

Two years is an overlong time to leave a person like Ms. Adams working in an “acting” capacity. In spite of a supposedly lean supply of RNs in the area, it is dif- ficult to believe that active recruiting would have failed to find a nurse manager for all that time. The “acting” nature of the assignment should have been made extremely clear at the outset, and it should have been regularly reinforced. If in spite of all honest effort to recruit for the position it remains unfilled for a period of months, it might be wise to rotate the “acting” position through two or three individuals.

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R e s p o n s e 35

Your Word AgAinst the Boss’s

First, you can say that this problem should never have occurred, that the boss’s behav- ior is inappropriate. True, the boss’s behavior is highly inappropriate, but inappropri- ate behavior occurs at all levels, and when it is a middle or upper manager who has made the mistake, the manager’s subordinates are frequently directly affected.

What you are able to do under the circumstances described in the case depends largely on your relationship with the boss. However, considering what has already taken place in the meeting, it should be reasonably clear that you should not repeat your objections then and there for two reasons: you have already been told not to pursue the topic, and speaking up again would present a direct challenge to your boss in the presence of several other people.

Your only sensible course of action lies in getting the boss alone as soon as pos- sible after the meeting. If you are again rebuffed—even in private, even in spite of documentary evidence—then the boss is essentially out on a limb on his or her own, and you can only do the best you can do in setting the record straight informally overall and formally within your own sphere of authority.

Most importantly, resist all temptation to simply let the boss blunder along his or her own way and look foolish or even get into trouble when the record is set straight. If you are indeed correct (and it would be wise to make absolutely certain you are correct before proceeding), you will eventually be vindicated by the facts, and others who were present will know you were correct. Although you may feel the sting of what was, in effect, a public “put-down” from the boss, proving that you were right by allowing the boss to proceed in error is not to the benefit of the organization. Rather, the organization benefits most when you take steps to resolve such disagree- ments as quietly as possible.

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R e s p o n s e 36

You’re the Boss

Many executives consider themselves to be strong people-oriented managers who lack little or nothing when it comes to motivating staff, yet they fail to realize that being good with people also means being able to listen well. One of Ross’s problems in this case may be the inability to listen well; he conveys double messages to Win- slow by advising him to own a project that Winslow apparently has no control over.

If Ross is truly interested in Winslow as a person with needs to grow and take responsibility, then he must avoid the tendency to coerce him into following his way of proceeding. Instead Ross must try to convert Winslow to the new pattern of pro- ceeding or else yield to a possibly better, even “traditional,” pattern as Winslow sug- gests.

Human relations is one skill that can never be emphasized enough. Employees often know the solution to a problem an organization faces, but they are rarely con- sulted. In this circumstance, Ross depends on the technical expertise of Winslow as a healthcare finance accountant, yet Ross refuses to assist in Winslow’s professional growth or use Winslow’s resource capabilities effectively.

Rather than allowing Winslow to simply forge ahead on his own doing some- thing that he obviously does not believe in, Ross should consider pulling a small group together, including Winslow, and backing up a step or two to what seems to be a charge from higher management, and exploring ways of getting the job done. In other words, if possible, go back to the stated intent of the change and involve the people who will be affected in developing the best way to get it done.

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R e s p o n s e 37

the neW Broom

Resistance to change is likely to be found in most groups of people. This is especially true in a group that has been self-reliant with little or no management for a long period of time. To be effective, change must be desired and striven for by a significant number of people in the group.

In case it is clear that a number of important changes are being attempted in a short period of time; Shari Daniels seems to perceive these problems as a personal challenge to be mastered. She must first remember that these problems took years to develop; they cannot be resolved in the space of a year. Second, she must alter the focus of the problem to place the emphasis on the group, not herself, as the key to the solution.

This group appears to have had little or no management support. Staff members have become content with managing themselves, secure in the belief that they are doing just fine because of the lack of interference from management. Shari’s steam- roller tactics can easily be perceived as insulting. After years of coasting, employees are now in effect being told that they have done little or nothing right. This is bound to cause resentment, which in turn leads to resistance.

Shari has engaged in a battle of wills in which there can be no winner. She would be much more effective in achieving her goals by putting her steamroller in reverse. Utilizing the weekly staff meeting as a planning session and guiding the staff toward deciding on the changes she desires would be much wiser and cause less resentment. To cite an old cliché, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Rather than forcing the staff to change to please Shari and the Joint Commission on Accredi- tation of Healthcare Organizations, she should strive to make the changes a matter of pride and personal choice.

Management and staff must work together to develop mutual trust and respect. When Shari begins to respect the opinions and experience of her staff, she will gain her strongest asset—a cooperative team.

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R e s p o n s e 38

no Better thAn i used to Be?

There are a variety of possible reasons for the difference in scores between the present evaluation and previous evaluations. These include a possible difference in performance between units (for example, good pediatric nurse may not be a good cardiac nurse), a difference in performance caused by not getting along with other employees, and most likely, poor inter-rater reliability. It is not necessarily true that Sue Collins’ previous evaluations were correct simply because they were higher.

Both Carrie and the institution can be faulted for not adopting a more holistic performance appraisal strategy. Carrie should have:

• Talked to Helen before the performance appraisal to determine her expectations • Reviewed Helen’s old evaluations • Provided Helen with a means of self-evaluation before the meeting • Anticipated and prepared for problems related to first meeting or the employee’s

reaction to the self-appraisal • Provided a performance appraisal that consisted of planning for the future, not

simply telling the employee that it is “close to average” or “good”

At this point, Carrie can only apply a bandage to the current appraisal. If she knows specific reasons for the lower performance, she can tell Helen what they are. If not, she is left with relatively empty statements regarding possible and unavoidable differences between raters or possible below-expected performance resulting from the newness of the unit. She should use this experience in a positive way to guide her in future performance appraisals and to recommend that the institution evaluate its own approach to performance appraisal.

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R e s p o n s e 39

the incompAtiBle emploYees

This case presents an undesirable situation that could plague a supervisor for a long time. At its heart it is perhaps what we commonly refer to as a “personality conflict,” but do not openly label it such. Calling it a personality conflict is actually rendering personality judgments of the employees, something well out of bounds for a supervisor.

As long as these people must work together and with others in the department in the normal course of business, you need to do something to try to smooth over their difficulties. In the long run, you cannot let the squabbling of two employees adversely affect the work of a dozen others.

Talk to them again, both individually and together. Look for ways of accommodating any differences in how they are supposed to relate. Try to establish some very clear ground rules as to who does what, when, why, and how, so as to minimize areas of perceived con- flict. However, put them on notice that their conduct is unacceptable and changes must be made. Perhaps even considering this step as a brand-new start for both, counsel them about the need to get along on the job, and tell them the possible risks if they fail to do so.

If their technical work performance is satisfactory, let them know this. Let them know that it is generally their conduct that is in question, not their performance, but that conduct can be fully as important as performance as far as maintaining an effec- tively functioning unit is concerned.

As long as they both seem equally troublesome, go out of your way to ensure that you treat them absolutely equally, that neither is gaining favor with you, and that they are in fact hurting themselves.

If you have the opportunity to do so, you might try assigning them to a fairly involved joint project on which they would have to work closely with a third party (either you or a strong senior staff member). Sometimes prolonged contact will help some persons find greater tolerance for each other. However, you have to be ready to instantly pull the plug on this arrangement if necessary, because prolonged contact may actually intensify their hard feelings for each other.

Sound them out separately as to whether either would consider transferring to another department. If the interest is there in either, perhaps you can help. However, do not actively encourage one or the other to transfer; in doing so you would auto- matically be taking sides.

If talking appears to get you nowhere with the incompatible employees, start the formal disciplinary process. A written warning for disruptive behavior (listed under misconduct in many disciplinary processes) might well deliver the message that you were not able to plant effectively up to this point.


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R e s p o n s e 40

Where does the time go?

Kay Thatcher had no real plan for Monday. She had only an outline without an agenda for resisting others’ demands or requests and no defense against her own human nature. She surely felt that she was organized; she was perhaps even overorganized to the extent of scheduling out all of her time, leaving little or no room for the unanticipated.

One of the most difficult parts of managing our time is recognizing that we are the biggest culprits. It is much easier to blame drop-in visitors, meetings, inadequate equipment, paperwork, phone interruptions, or crises. The real cause lies in the way we allow these interruptions, the ways in which we allow our time to be wasted. To make real progress in managing our time, we need to be prepared to change habits and be willing to make changes in the way we work each day.

A written daily plan is the most important tool in time management. Without it, our days may well become a mix of minor crises, interruptions, and frustrations; but again, that daily plan should leave time for contingencies.

Time management means performing the most important task first, and giving that task our full attention. If nothing else in our daily plan gets done, we can still feel good in having completed our top priority.

Making time work for us is a challenging task. Whether through reading, partici- pation in seminars, workshops, or in-house training programs on time management, Kay can apply techniques such as improved planning, tactful telephone screening, effective delegation, task prioritization, and self-discipline to make a real change in her daily work life. These changes may reduce stress, improve productivity levels, hasten progress toward completing tasks and accomplishing goals, and result in a healthier balance between personal and professional lives.

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R e s p o n s e 41

sYlviA’s choice

Unintended personal bias may have intruded in Sylvia’s selection of Jane over Hilda largely because Sylvia simply liked Jane better than she liked Hilda.

Events subsequent to Jane’s promotion seem to suggest that Jane may well have been the right choice. If both Jane and Hilda were equally qualified, either could probably have done the job satisfactorily; but Hilda’s reaction to losing out on the position was rather unprofessional, suggesting that even if she someday entered man- agement she may perhaps react unprofessionally on occasions when things did not go her way.

Sylvia is now faced with an employee who exhibits poor work performance and whose behavior at times border on insubordination. Even with the best of manage- ment and counseling skills, it may be too late to reverse Hilda Ross’s resentment. In addition, if others in the unit also perceive Jane’s selection as a result of personal bias, the morale of the entire unit could be affected.

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R e s p o n s e 42


Has Arthur Morris finally gotten the attention of the administrative director of radi- ology? We certainly hope so. It is unfortunate, however, that Morris threatened to resign to awaken the director to the presence of a problem.

What the director should do about Morris’s ultimatum is exactly what the direc- tor should have done some time earlier; that is, start talking with special procedures personnel and others about workload and scheduling. That two of the three techni- cians have complained of inadequate staffing, and that the most senior technologist has been particularly vocal, should have suggested at least a strongly perceived prob- lem. A perceived problem is fully as troublesome as a real one until it is addressed and either defined or defused. The administrative director has not been listening to the staff sufficiently to recognize the obvious—that there is discontent in the depart- ment involving issues of staffing and workload.

The director should not simply commit more staff to special procedures without thorough study and analysis; added staff may not be the answer. Yet it is doubtful that the problem can be defined and corrected before Morris’s self-imposed dead- line arrives. The best the director can do under the circumstances is acknowledge— belatedly, unfortunately—the existence of a problem and show visible signs of getting to work on it. If that is enough for Arthur Morris, he will reconsider his resignation. This would make time for which a solution might be found. However, Morris might just as readily go through with his resignation.

Indeed, the key issue in the case as presented is Arthur Morris’s ultimatum. He is essentially threatening the management by telling them that if they do not do some- thing he wants them to do, he will do something to make circumstances worse for them. This places the administrative director in a potential no-win situation for one who has just been awakened to a significant problem: The director can immediately cave in to what amounts to subordinate blackmail and add staff, thus sending a dan- gerous message to the rest of the organization, or take the chance of Morris actually resigning. Neither alternative is acceptable, so the director’s only real choice is to acknowledge the likely existence of a staffing problem and begin at once to apply visible effort to the problem’s definition and solution in a manner that, preferably, involves the special procedures staff.

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R e s p o n s e 43

to motivAte the unmovABle

Melissa might truthfully say that “Thank you’s go only so far and that’s not far enough.” Thank you’s do go a certain positive distance in encouraging employees to perform acceptably; however, simple thanks usually fail to provide sustaining motivation.

On the other hand, Melissa cannot conclude that money always motivates because “employees talk about money so much.” Although the mix of motivating forces can vary dramatically from person to person, money can indeed motivate if it is enough. (Consider whether you would step up the pace and turn out more and better work just as willingly for a 5 percent raise as you would for double your pres- ent salary.)

Admittedly, Melissa is working in a highly structured environment that limits the actions she can take on behalf of her employees. However, the restricted circum- stances do not themselves prevent the supervisor from taking some positive steps with her employees.

In Melissa’s circumstances it would be best to recognize the difference between the true motivators and those other factors that Frederick Herzberg referred to in his classic motivation-maintenance theory as potential dissatisfiers. These potential dis- satisfiers, also frequently referred to as environmental factors, represent conditions of employment that must be continually reinforced or maintained or they will become dissatisfiers. Most often, money is in this category; periodic raises do not necessarily motivate, but their absence can breed dissatisfaction and have an adverse effect on performance.

Looking beyond the environmental factors, the potential dissatisfiers, we are eventually led to conclude that the true, lasting motivators reside in the work itself. The true motivators include the opportunity to learn and achieve, the opportunity to do interesting, challenging, and meaningful work, and the opportunity to assume responsibility and become involved in determining how the work is done.

To be able to identify the true motivators, Melissa needs to focus more on the work itself and less on the environment in which the work is performed.

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R e s p o n s e 44

Who’s the Boss?

Carrie’s problem is not total quality management (TQM), but her response is typical of the true problem. TQM signals that Carrie’s strengths are no longer as valuable, and she will be in less control of her work environment. To Carrie’s mind, TQM has considerably reduced her status.

This is the critical time to launch a transformation from “boss” to “leader.” Instead of focusing on the minutiae of management, Carrie should concentrate on the qualities needed to support her staff during this transition.

Embracing the organization’s vision and imparting it to her work group, becom- ing a catalyst for change, and ensuring her group is getting the resources it needs to carry through its ideas, will be skills critical to her success.

Her response to “Freddie the Expert” is another indicator of Carrie’s feelings. Having an assertive individual on the team can seem threatening to those reluctant to loosen controlling reins. Unless Freddie’s behaviors are negatively affecting the area’s work, the problem isn’t Freddie.

Phrases like, “a couple of management courses” clue us that Carrie is beginning to recognize she may be working from a stagnant knowledge base. Whether she opts to take courses herself, bone up on journals, or increase participation in information- sharing professional organizations, Carrie, as leader, will earn the group’s respect by updating her informational resources.

Meantime, she should focus Freddie’s energy to her advantage. Giving him an analysis project or charging him with finding ways to increase the whole group’s knowledge in a manner it’s comfortable with are two ways she could use his “exper- tise” to add to the work group’s efforts.

This is a critical time for Carrie. Working toward leadership status, rather than bemoaning loss of control, will serve her career best.

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R e s p o n s e 45

But i’m reAllY sick!

The personnel representative being asked for advice by supervisor Jane Babson might start by reminding Jane of something she herself said, “After all, I’ve got a unit to staff and whether somebody is truly ill or just faking it, the work still isn’t getting done.” Regardless of why any particular employee is absent on any given day, the fact remains that either the work is not getting done at all or is getting done only at the additional expense of replacement help or overtime. The key, of course, in applying the disciplinary process is consistency, in that whatever action is taken with one person for a violation of policy also must be applied with another for the same violation regardless of the supervisor’s belief in possibly differing motivations or circumstances behind the behavior.

Jane needs to be dealing with both Kelly and Wilson according to the organi- zation’s policy concerning absenteeism. She cannot allow herself to “go easier” on Kelly because of apparently genuine health problems and implied threats of legal action. The disciplinary process should include a referral to an appropriate source of counseling assistance, someone in a position to help assess individuals’ problems and suggest how to address them. The best such source, and certainly right in Kelly’s case, is usually the employee health service. Also, appropriate counseling might be provided by an employee-relations professional, especially in cases like Wilson’s that might involve mostly employee motivation and attitude.

It is extremely important for both employees to be given the full benefit of all of the organization’s applicable processes. In the case of an individual such as Kelly, who may well be dealing with a chronic health problem, the solution may be found in some form of medically advisable leave, either continuous or intermittent, under the Family and Medical Leave Act. It is possible that a leave or other form of accom- modation will help to both address the supervisor’s staffing problem and ensure the individual’s continued employment.

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R e s p o n s e 46

All thAt empoWerment JAzz

Many conflicts arise over delegation and empowerment. Before true empowerment can exist, a conducive environment must be established to facilitate what some might call “informed empowerment.” We must all realize that employees cannot be expected to take on added responsibility without first being prepared. If the manager attempts to empower people before establishing the environment, this may be interpreted as “dumping.”

Managers can promote a positive environment by providing a clear vision for the department or organization. This helps ensure that everyone is moving in the right direction. In time, employees will become aligned with the organization. Along with measurable goals, the vision should be established, reviewed frequently, and kept visible to all employees.

Another key element is trust. The manager must develop a trusting relationship with employees. This can be accomplished by providing open channels of communi- cation. Shared information gives everyone the ability to play on a level field. Better decisions are made when employees hold a more global viewpoint.

People must be allowed to make mistakes. If no mistakes are made, people are not trying new and innovative approaches to their work and no growth will occur. It is not important how many mistakes are made, but what is learned from the mistake. Thomas Watson once said, “To double your success rate you must quadruple your failure rate.”

Recognition is another important factor that must be linked to performance. The manager must recognize employees’ successes and contributions. Simple acts such as a letter or card sent to an employee’s home complimenting the positive behavior will go a long way in motivating people.

Craig Williams should advise Susan Benton to step back and begin preparing her staff for a change of culture. Empowerment will not work in just any environment.

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R e s p o n s e 47

WhY doesn’t AnYone tell me?

Business manager Carrie Owen’s frustration over the communication problem is understandable. This lack of communication prevents her from truly fulfilling her role, making it necessary to take action. Proper lines of communication should be followed, making it advisable for her to discuss her specific problem with her imme- diate superior, Barry. She should start by informing him of the three incidents that happened to her that week: one of her key staff members had decided not to return to work after her maternity leave, which was confirmed later that same day by the hospital’s employee health service; two of her employees learned 2 days before she did about the hospital’s new policy on vacation accruals; and she almost missed an important meeting, the notice of which she received later that same day.

Once she has stated her problem, she should clearly state how these occurrences made her feel and how this hampers her effectiveness. She should be assertive enough to ask for legitimate changes. Because downward communication (flow of communi- cation from higher to lower authority) is essential in any organization for sharing new and important information, she should clearly express that she needs to be informed of meetings in a timely fashion. She must be informed firsthand of new policies to understand them, to interpret them, and to answer questions from her staff.

Because Carrie is responsible for the communication within her own unit, she should look at the patterns of communication between herself and her employees. A starting point for building upward communication (from lower to higher authority) lies in improving practices that facilitate better communication. Questioning and lis- tening will show staff her interest in their opinions, desires, and information and that she values their input. Other practices she can use are employee meetings, open-door policies, and participation in work-related social groups.

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R e s p o n s e 48

the dedicAted hip-shooter

Many people who consider this case from the assistant administrator’s point of view might agree that, if such total dedication is a problem, then we all need more such problems.

Although the case situation can be tough to deal with, there are positive factors that are not encountered in many other employee problems. Specifically, Wade is totally dedicated to the organization, and he is an excellent electrician. Any solution or path to a solution should take these two facts into account and build on them as possible. Some alternative possibilities for dealing with this problem include:

• If the relative experience among the electricians permits, another of the group could possibly be designated as lead worker. Perhaps this could be sold on the basis of having Wade concentrate on that which he does best.

• It might be appropriate to abandon a departmental management structure that has led workers for each small trade group and combine the skilled trades under one or two first-line supervisors.

• Provide some highly specific management training for Wade and let him know what particular problems his “managing” (or lack of same) is causing and exactly what he can do to correct these apparent weaknesses.

• The entire electrical group—Wade, the other two electricians, and the helper— might be treated as a potentially self-directed work team and as a group could be given the challenge of improving their effectiveness through better service. This could include providing them instruction and some initial assistance in how to establish priorities.

As already suggested, any reasonable solution should attempt to capitalize on Wade’s strengths. Also, because “except for Bob himself, nobody seems to know what to work on at any given time,” a partial answer might lie in examining how Wade sets his own priorities and determining whether this can be applied to the others as well.

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R e s p o n s e 49

the pAperWork simplY isn’t importAnt

Jean Howell’s dilemma over the documentation problem presented by Julia is under- standable and real. Lack of documentation keeps other staff members from forming a concise and accurate picture of the patient situation. After all, if care is not docu- mented, it instills doubt as to whether treatment was actually performed.

Jean should start by informing Julia that she must set aside time to commu- nicate about her documentation and you value her as an employee because of her positive results with patients and her efficient use of time. None of this, however, is reflected in her documentation. Also, it must be stressed with Julia that if lack of documentation surfaces during a state survey, the organization could be censured and fined. Concerning some patients, there could conceivably be legal problems such as malpractice lawsuits—the defense of which will depend in part on the existence of documentation.

Documentation is important to help others recognize and meet patient needs and record patient response. Documentation helps us evaluate whether procedures were performed accurately and efficiently. By documenting complete visit reports, professionals demonstrate accountability and fulfill their responsibilities in admin- istering care to the patient. Supervisor Sharon Ward should be assertive enough to demonstrate that documentation is essential for sharing new and important informa- tion. Julia must realize that the patient record is an important tool and reference in care and treatment. All caregivers should assume this aspect of the patient care with conscientiousness. Pertinent observation of the condition of the patient, progress, and plans for the future should be made on the patient’s chart by responsible practitioners who must understand that the paperwork is important.

Although Jean would surely be extremely reluctant to do so with such an otherwise great performer, as a last resort, she may have to lay out the possibility of disciplinary action. Surely this is a distasteful alternative, but missing documentation can be damaging to the organization.

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R e s p o n s e 50

WhY should i AlWAYs go the extrA mile?

Harry and Millie actually have similar problems concerning direct communication with their supervisors. Both need to be more proactive and anticipate what it is they want and to ask for this from their supervisors.

“Always” was a word that both Harry and Millie used to describe communi- cation with their bosses. It should be a red flag word suggesting that neither has clearly thought through their situations. Their bosses do indeed represent different styles. Because her boss may have high control needs, Millie may need to keep her boss updated on her progress on assignments. Harry’s boss, on the other hand, seems to be more laissez-faire. It appears that Harry is catching his boss in transit or between appointments. Harry should set up meeting times with his boss in advance, send memos, or leave voice mail messages stating succinctly what he needs from his boss.

Harry’s problems with communication are of more concern than Millie’s. When Millie offers suggestions, Harry has a rebuttal for each. If Harry truly believes his statement, “I don’t think that’s my place,” he is perpetuating the communication problem with his boss. It is Harry’s responsibility to clarify expectations because he is aware of the problem. If he is unclear about what is expected of him in terms of job performance, it will be difficult for him to be effective and productive.

Both Harry and Millie need to initiate communication but for different reasons. Millie needs to do so to offer reassurance that she understands her assignments and build her boss’s confidence in her. It appears that Millie is clear about what is expected of her in terms of job assignments. For Harry, operating in the dark is a riskier situa- tion. He should take steps to shed some light on what is expected of him.

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R e s p o n s e 51

don’t tell them i sAid so

Clearly, Molly, with the information she provides for “the good of the department,” is doing Rita no favors. Rita can take no direct action based on hearsay, whether concerning lunch breaks, cliques, personal activities, or phone calls on work time, or even the allegations of active substance abuse. This is fundamental to disciplinary action; secondhand evidence is no evidence at all. Molly is only giving Rita cause to worry.

Rita should not necessarily discourage Molly’s reports altogether. When Molly comes carrying tales, Rita should question her and attempt to learn of specifics she can follow up on. If she can use Molly’s information to lead to firsthand knowledge of some infraction, Rita can then take disciplinary action.

It would of course behoove Rita to increase her awareness of what’s going on in her department. She might consider:

• Increasing the frequency of department meetings • Holding one-on-one meetings with staff members, in a few weeks working

her way through the entire department • Meeting with small groups deliberately composed, in turn, of the “ins,” the

“outs,” and some combination of these • Developing some new scheduling practices that have the end result of chang-

ing present assignments and altering longstanding working relationships

One of Rita’s objectives in all of the foregoing should be to elicit some acknowl- edgment of difficulties in the department so she will have something of substance with which to deal.

Concerning the allegations of substance abuse, Rita must be especially observant when meeting privately with this individual. Should she observe any unexplainable signs or behavior, she is probably, under the policies of the organization, able to insist this person either visit Employee Health or accept referral to the Employee Assistance Program.

Many of the kinds of problems noted in the case might be avoided or at least minimized if Rita had an officially designated backup person who could serve as acting manager and look after the department in her absence. It is unfortunate if some

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in Rita’s group require visible full-time supervision, but this may indeed be the case. Rita should examine her own behavior and decide whether anything in the way she runs the department seems to encourage laxity when she is not present.

In any case, the solutions to this department’s problems—and indeed, knowledge of the true nature and extent of any problem—will depend on astute observation and improved communication.

244      Response 51: Don’t Tell Them I Said So 

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R e s p o n s e 52

the oil-And-WAter emploYees

It is unlikely that any action Carrie takes will change the two employees’ attitudes toward one another. However, Carrie can make her expectations known and be con- sistent in follow-up by attempting to force change in their behavior toward one another. It is possible that Carrie’s lack of action in this direction has given the employees tacit permission to continue bickering and control the group with their emotional outbursts.

Carrie may have inherited these terrible twins from a former supervisor, in which case years of positive feedback, based solely on technical skills, have reinforced their nasty interaction. It is time to make the rules clear by ensuring that job descriptions, feedback sessions, and formal performance appraisals include performance skills as well as technical productivity skills. Not addressing performance skills, such as the ability to interact to the satisfaction of clients and coworkers, signals that these issues are unimportant to the supervisor.

Carrie also needs to take a look for some underlying issues fueling the feuding. Often personality conflicts are symptoms of poor systems, resources, or leadership.

Perhaps Ellie and Nellie, for lack of a better system, have each created their own work methodologies. Individualized systems can be highly workable and might be exactly what led to the pair’s good productivity reviews. Consequently, both might be wedded to individual systems that conflict with one another. A healthy systems review might be in order.

Even if the two are working on the same system but in competition for scarce resources (files, equipment, or desk space), these minor environmental aspects will strain even the cosiest coworkers. The staff relies on Carrie as group advocate to gain needed resources from the organization.

Finally, the conflicting coworkers may need an opportunity to develop interac- tive skills. Some internal or external training might be helpful in giving them new techniques to resolve conflict. However, training can only help employees who are willing to change. If this duo is able but unwilling to change, training is not the answer.

By making her expectations for group behavior known and reinforced, ensuring that productive easy-to-complete systems are in place and understood by all, and ensuring that the group has the resources it needs to carry through with these sys- tems, Carrie can minimize reasons for disagreement. There is much that Carrie can do before considering disciplinary action.

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R e s p o n s e 53

getting off the fence: Jump, fAll, or pushed?

The on-the-fence feeling is natural for a supervisor who has risen through the group he or she now supervises, and the concerns Myrna expressed are those of many up- from-the-ranks supervisors. However, what Myrna does with these concerns during her early years in supervision can have a considerable bearing on her relative success in management.

The on-the-fence feeling arises from, first, the supervisor’s identification as a longstanding member of the work group who feels a commitment to the group, and, second, the knowledge of the supervisor’s management responsibilities. As suggested in the case, it can seem lonely and uncomfortable on the fence. This is undoubtedly because of the supervisor’s perception of conflict between his or her roles as a group member and as a member of management. However, as uneasy as the supervisor may be with that position at times, much of the supervisor’s real role involves straddling the fence in terms of providing the primary link between the work group and higher management. Any first-line manager is also a worker as well, and at any time is legitimately on either side of the fence.

There are times when the supervisor must identify most closely with the work group, and there are times when the supervisor must behave primarily as a member of management. The key in determining which role to emphasize at any particular time is up to the supervisor. The greatest danger for the supervisor who is on the fence (in the sense of functioning as a member of two different groups) is being pushed or yanked off by those on one side or the other. And this can happen, for example, with a group of former peers and friends who attempt to trade unfairly on past relationships, or with a higher manager who expects the subordinate supervisor to primarily serve a “master” rather than appropriately facilitating the work of the department.

The effective supervisor straddles the fence as necessary, steps off on either side when appropriate, and avoids being pulled or pushed off by others.

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R e s p o n s e 54

the vocAllY unhAppY cAmper

It would be much easier to deal with Jean if her performance were substandard. Documentable performance issues are usually easier to address than issues of behav- ior, especially when the behavior does not involve breaches of policy. Also, issues arising from interpersonal difficulties are often tough to address without intruding into aspects of personality (perhaps labeling someone as “grouchy,” “touchy,” “thin- skinned,” or whatever).

Some people who do not relate well interpersonally can nevertheless make a legitimate contribution if able to work in a relative vacuum. However, if continuing contact with others is necessary, then reasonable interpersonal relations with those others can be an expectation of employment.

That something must be done concerning Jean Todd is embodied in the case’s opening sentence telling us the situation is “affecting the whole department’s perfor- mance.” Taking that as given, business office manager Carol Jamison should consider proceeding along two fronts.

She should begin to deal with Jean concerning matters of behavior in interper- sonal relations within the department and utilize specific instances in which her dis- ruptive behavior has interfered with departmental performance and caused problems requiring supervisory time and attention. This should involve not only providing Jean every reasonable opportunity to talk about what’s bothering her (without prying into her personal life), but should also involve the organization’s progressive disciplinary process as necessary.

Carol should refer Jean to the Employee Health Service. The professional staff of Employee Health is able to legitimately probe for individual health or personal complications that the supervisor cannot address.

Whatever path is chosen, the situation demands that something be done. A prob- lem in an employee’s personal life will forever remain none of the supervisor’s busi- ness, but negative effects on departmental performance are always the supervisor’s business.

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R e s p o n s e 55

to mAnAge the mAnAger

It appears that by design or miscommunication, the unity of command principle is violated in this situation. Although “cross-cover” duties have merit, this technique should be used judiciously with well-defined operational guidelines. Inappropri- ate utilization of this staffing approach is apparently causing conflict among three “cosupervisors.” It is highly likely that the subordinate employees reporting to the cosupervisors are also confused or take liberty with supervisory conflict. This may be the reason for scheduled disciplinary conferences requiring the presence of all three cosupervisors. The “cross-cover” of supervisory functions appears to not only create conflict, but resource intensive conflict resolution as well.

Nancy Wright commented that she and Mark Allen are at times “forced” to make decisions that Linda Williams neglects. The real nature of being “forced” to do someone else’s work needs to be better defined or investigated. Who is doing the “forcing.” Is it Jane Worth? Or is it self-imposed by the commendable, but perhaps misguided conscientiousness of Nancy and Mark?

Proper conflict resolution focuses on issues and objectives rather than personali- ties. Margie Olson should advise Nancy to approach this in a way that avoids leveling accusations at Linda; in this way, Nancy will also avoid offending Jane. An objec- tive, problem-solving approach would be to ask Jane for role clarification. Perhaps the passage of time has distorted the intentions or expectations of “cross-covering” delegations of authority and resulting responsibility. Rather than complaining about a peer supervisor, Nancy might better address this situation by drawing attention to the possible employee confusion that can occur when three cosupervisors share what appears to be equal responsibility for all employees. No person can appropriately serve two masters.

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R e s p o n s e 56

the WeeklY stAff meeting

At the weekly staff meeting and again noting that the same six or seven people are punctual, acknowledge them for their consistency. If meeting minutes are generated, list the punctual attendees by name followed by “late arrivals.” Advise the remain- ing staff that this will be part of all future meeting minutes. Announce that all future meetings will begin at the scheduled time and that it is the responsibility of all late- comers to learn what occurred before their arrival. Follow this practice consistently for several weeks.

Select a task force of punctual employees to develop an action plan for consid- eration by the group. This action plan is to include what suggested action would be implemented to correct the tardiness situation, step by step. Have this task force elicit the assistance of their peers regarding effective measures to be instituted preventing tardiness in future meetings and present their findings at a staff meeting approxi- mately 4 to 6 weeks from the date of initiation.

Before submitting the action plan, the task force is encouraged to:

• Review the effectiveness of the meeting content, ensuring that it is valuable for all staff present (if not, make recommendations for improvement).

• Review the meeting to ensure that appropriate measures are taken to keep the attendees focused and discussion flowing in an appropriate fashion (if not, make recommendations to ensure this action).

• Include a member of the human resource department to review the recom- mended plan before submission to the staff.

Have the task force present the action plan for discussion and final decision, then implement their plan.

One additional consideration for the manager: Before doing anything concerning staff meeting attendance, examine the necessity of a weekly meeting. Is once each week really necessary, or has it become an automatic gathering? Would a biweekly meeting make more sense? If change is in order, settle on the most apparently sen- sible meeting frequency and announce it to the group. Then if the chronic latecomers still continue their previous behavior, proceed as suggested.

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R e s p o n s e 57

Where Are theY When i need them?

It appears that Jenny Lee has not done her homework. The situation with which she is presented—the use of volunteers or unpaid personnel to help meet the needs of patients—is common in today’s healthcare environment. To effectively use volunteers, you must implement systems that take into consideration the fact that they are unpaid personnel. Jenny’s expectations of them seem to be the same as for her paid staff.

Jenny might consider the following plan:

1. Develop well-defined guidelines for the role and duties of the volunteers on the geriatric unit.

2. Meet with the volunteers to learn their expectations. During this meeting, let them know how important their role is and how much the patients rely on them being there.

3. Develop an orientation program to allow the volunteers to learn their role and duties. As part of this orientation, assign unit staff to work with the volun- teers to help them learn about the department and facilitate communication between staff and volunteers.

4. Meet with the staff to educate them about the role of the volunteer. 5. Develop some form of ongoing recognition to show the volunteers how much

their time and efforts are appreciated. 6. Provide routine feedback to the volunteers on how they are doing. 7. Continually monitor the program by seeking volunteer, employee, and

patient input, and make appropriate changes as necessary.

With a little preparation and the right expectations of her unit’s volunteers, Jenny should be able to implement a first-class volunteer program. She needs to remember that managing unpaid personnel is significantly different than managing paid person- nel. However, one management technique that works equally as well with volunteers and paid personnel is timely, effective communication.

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R e s p o n s e 58

the unnecessArY tAsk

The management of the health information management (HIM) department is respon- sible for the duration of the unnecessary task. The former manager, Mrs. Victor, clearly set the boundaries for the clerk’s future behavior by being harshly critical of a deci- sion the clerk made on her own in good faith. The subsequent manager, Mrs. James, perpetuated the mistake by paying insufficient attention to the employees’ concerns.

The unnecessary task was perpetuated for a number of reasons. Foremost among these are the inappropriate focus of department management as suggested—the tendency to focus “upward” toward administration and the physicians rather than “downward” toward the employees and the day-to-day action—and some extremely serious communication problems. Much of a modern organization’s success depends on how well communication flows upward from the employees to the management, and in this instance, the apparent barriers to upward communication in the HIM department are numerous.

One of the most valuable assets to be found among employees is the combina- tion of common sense and courage that causes one to question the boss, selectively or constructively disobey an instruction, or, as in the case of the clerk who did the unnecessary task, make an independent decision to drop a task that “didn’t make sense.” An employee who exhibits this behavior will not always be right, and the manager who reacts punitively, as did Mrs. Victor, can squelch this otherwise healthy spirit. One who is harshly discouraged from behaving this way may simply shrug and go about her business the next time she sees the manager about to “shoot herself in the foot.”

Covering his bases with his immediate superior, Guy Smith should of course eliminate the unnecessary task and prepare to diplomatically advise Mrs. James, on her return to work, what was done and why it was done.

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R e s p o n s e 59

Your WAsteful friend

This seems to be one of those classic situations in which you find yourself caught between responsibility to your employer and loyalty to a friend. As conscientious as you might be as a supervisor, you might certainly be reluctant to do anything that could be construed as “blowing the whistle” on your friend. (Although if your friend counts on you to continually overlook careless and wasteful behavior, you may see considerable truth in the old saying that begins, “With friends like this . . .”).

As long as higher management is “paying no attention to what is going on in the department,” you have few options other than to do your job to the best of your ability as you believe it should be done. The key here is to recognize the difference between what you can control and what you cannot control. Start with your own job description, doing everything within your responsibility in cost-conscious fashion. And keep doing it.

If there is indeed an “economic pinch” that fails to go away on its own, you can rest assured that wasteful practices will eventually come under fire. Failure to pay attention to what goes on in the department has been the downfall of many a manager. Actually, in many organizations the higher the manager is placed the more susceptible that person is to the consequences of prolonged waste and inefficiency.

It might be helpful to test higher management’s attitude by submitting a com- prehensive cost-control proposal for your department (describing circumstances, but naming no names) up through your normal chain of command. Management’s reac- tion, or lack thereof, could tell you much.

However, as long as there is no one in authority to whom you believe you can take your concerns, it is perhaps best to operate defensively—doing your job to the best of your ability, documenting the significant problems you encounter, and making certain that when the inevitable correction occurs you will have done all you could do to keep yourself in the clear.

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R e s p o n s e 60

one Boss too mAnY

A great deal of time could be expended exploring possible reasons for the resistance of the manager of engineering and maintenance. Suffice it to say that this manager now has a superior, the director of environmental services, where no superior pre- viously existed, and that this superior and the long-time manager are in constant conflict. Unfortunately, the three first-line supervisors and their staffs are adversely affected by the conflict between their managers.

A suggestion—the next time the director bypasses the manager and delivers an important instruction to the supervisors, the supervisors should stop the director, tell him what they have been experiencing, and ask for a joint meeting of the director, the manager, and the three of them. The issue of conflicting instructions—and espe- cially of one manager’s reversal of another manager’s instructions, if that has indeed been happening—needs to be out in the open in front of all concerned. As long as the supervisors are bounced from director to manager and back again, they remain victims of a tug-of-war between two higher-ups.

If not blessed with an immediate meeting to iron out differences, the supervi- sors are left in a position of having to decide whom to obey. In the absence of any other assistance, they are probably better off paying more attention to the director, the higher of the higher-ups, than to the manager, simply because of position in the chain of command.

If every effort to correct the situation by dealing directly and jointly with the manager and the director is made and conditions fail to change, the supervisors might consider following the chain of command upward and requesting a meeting with the person to whom the director reports. This is of course a frequently risky step, and it is one that should never be taken without first making every reasonable effort to solve the problem at the level at which it occurs.

The primary responsibility for the existence of this problems lies with the direc- tor. The manager is, after all, the director’s subordinate. Properly and thoroughly advised of what is occurring, the director may well address the problem before it has to go further.

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R e s p o n s e 61

hoW time flies

Implicit in the boss’s behavior is the apparent belief that his time is more important than yours, and in fact that your time is his to use as he sees fit and even his to waste as he chooses. This, unfortunately, is a circumstance frequently played out in the behavior of many managers, and it is generally behavioral, rarely articulated; only the most exploitative of bosses will openly state that the employee exists for the con- venience of the boss. Quite the contrary, hardly a manager exists who does not pay some kind of lip service to the importance of the employees. However, it remains true in the long run that what a manager does sends a much clearer message than what that manager says.

What you can do to encourage your boss to show more respect for your working time will depend on how much you dare to do, which in turn depends on how well you know this manager. Dare you simply tell the boss that he or she does not seem to realize that you have plenty of work to get done and that your time is being wasted? Or that you are not going to get something important done on time because of spend- ing an hour mostly waiting to transact a few minutes’ business? An occasional boss might accept this accusation of thoughtlessness and do something about it, but many would undoubtedly react negatively.

One supervisor with whom this issue was discussed says that whenever the boss takes a call during a one-on-one meeting, dashes off a quick note on the order of “Call me when you’re ready to continue” and goes back to his own office. Others who know their bosses well enough to expect this kind of behavior carry other work into the meet- ing to keep themselves productively occupied during the manager’s digressions.

You might also use the boss’s behavior as a reminder of what not to do in your relationship with your own employees. Even if you are not conscious of doing so, you are constantly learning more about management, forming impressions, and absorbing practices and techniques from the managers you are exposed to daily, and especially the one manager to whom you report. In a very real sense, these managers are your role models. Have the good sense to be ever critical of your role models, always learning from their behavior what you should do—and what you should not do—in your relationship with your employees. You owe it to your employees to treat them the way you would like to be treated yourself.

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R e s p o n s e 62

Your unhAppY dutY

Because the staff has already had a visit from the CEO and heard firsthand the expec- tations of them, there is not a great deal you need to do to get the word across to your employees. It could be helpful, however, to get the staff together early the following morning and discuss the situation. In doing so, you should get their reading on what they heard and make certain that all of you are in agreement as to the nature of the CEO’s edicts, namely, the prohibitions against eating in the department and having a coffeepot in the department. Of less immediate concern is the “no boisterous laugh- ter” demand; this is too highly subjective to be a realistic guideline for behavior. It might be best interpreted as caution against a level of noise in the department— laughter or otherwise—that could be heard in the public corridor.

Because you were not able to talk the CEO out of his lunch and coffeepot man- dates, you had best reinforce these in the department. You may not agree with his demands and you may not be happy about reinforcing them, but you may well be in a position of having to do what you are told or look for another job.

An important precaution is in order in this case: Avoid the tendency to simply side with the department, adding your own complaints about the boss’s strictness to your own, and essentially say, “Hey, don’t blame me—I didn’t agree with this, but I’ve got to do as I’m told.” All too often, first-line supervisors will redirect the blame for unpopular decisions to higher management, behaving in a manner that says, “This wasn’t my idea; ‘they’ made me do it.” Fortunately, in this instance the employees received most of the bad stuff firsthand, so they are less likely to place much blame on the supervisor.

The group’s morale is certainly adversely affected, perhaps significantly. What you can do under the circumstances is to continue to be the kind of supervisor you have been up until this worrisome turn of events. You need to modify your behavior only to the extent necessary to enforce the lunch and coffeepot edicts, and you can surely do so in a much more acceptable manner than did the CEO. Your staff will likely understand that you have no choice concerning these changes, but except for observing these two new rules you can probably run your department much the same way as you did before the CEO’s visit. Other than your continued humane supervi- sion, what is most needed for restoring staff morale is the passage of sufficient time to blunt the effects of the unpleasant incident.

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R e s p o n s e 63

the independent emploYee

Jim Wood and Bob Trent each own a share of the blame for the situation that has developed between them as supervisor and employee, and between employee Bob Trent and his work. Most of the blame, however, resides with the supervisor. Like many other supervisors who have employees who seem difficult to direct, Jim Wood is more adept at complaining about Trent and feeling frustration when Trent goes astray than he is at providing the kind of guidance Trent may need to get him on track and keep him there.

We could reasonably suspect that Jim Wood might be dealing with Trent the same way he deals with other employees. However, what works with some will not always work with others.

Wood seems to believe that “delegating” consists of little more than handing out an assignment. Part of the delegation process that he might not have to give much attention at such times is the employee’s knowledge of what is to be done; Wood seems to know that Trent can do the work, so that’s not a concern. Proper delegation, however, includes follow up as well. And “follow up” is decidedly not waiting until after the deadline has passed to ask about the job.

One of the most frequently repeated pieces of advice given to first-line supervisors is know your employees. Jim Wood should know his employees well enough to know who he can turn loose with minimal direction and who he has to follow up with regularly.

Concerning future assignments given to Bob Trent, Jim Wood should:

• Be specific about when to do the job, not “today or tomorrow,” as in the case, but something like “today,” “this morning,” or perhaps even “right now.”

• Set a definite deadline that’s a bit tighter than the “real” deadline, keeping enough time in reserve for response if the job does not get done.

• Follow up, follow up, follow up—early in the job to ensure it is started, during the job to ensure it is being done, at the deadline to ensure it has been done and done correctly.

It may seem—especially to Jim Wood—that the supervisor should not have to expend such time and energy staying right on top of Bob Trent’s activities to the extent suggested. However, this kind of close follow up, accompanying extremely specific instructions, may be exactly what is required to modify Trent’s behavior to the requirements of the position.

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R e s p o n s e 64

here We go AgAin

It is probably not a far stretch of the imagination to suggest that morale among the four senior business office employees would not be especially high. Having been passed over twice—even for a position that perhaps none of them would have read- ily accepted under the circumstances—sends the kind of message employees do not like to hear. It is one thing for them to have turned it down when it was offered; one can do this with dignity. However, to be bypassed, especially amid mixed messages (“You’ve come along very well and we’ll consider you next time,” then, in effect, “It’s now the next time and we don’t even think enough of you to ask you”), is readily perceived as demeaning and belittling.

The business office staff would not represent one of the happier, more produc- tive departments. The entire business office would likely be distrustful of the orga- nization’s top management, and especially of the finance director. The four senior employees would be likely to distrust the finance director and have little respect for that individual’s capabilities as a manager. Also, these four employees, having twice seen outsiders fill the next position up in what they perceive as their promotional path, may come to view their present position as a “dead end.”

As a result of the attitude toward the organization’s upper management, the busi- ness office may well become—if it is not already—a magnet for the problems that often accompany morale difficulties (sagging productivity, increasing error rates, increasing turnover, and such).

The apparent wage and salary inequity may or may not be justifiable; we do not have sufficient information about the pay structure. However, it is fairly common for the ranges of senior nonmanagerial workers to overlap the ranges of supervisors, so the pay of the four senior employees could already be in the supervisory pay range. Nevertheless, it is also fairly common—and only reasonable—to provide at least a modest increase in pay for taking on the responsibilities of supervision.

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R e s p o n s e 65

the forceful orgAnizer

If you recognize the apparent organizer as an employee, you need to immediately intrude and ask him to return to his own work area. You may need to remind him that he cannot organize on working time, neither his nor other employees’ working time. (An internal organizer has the right to solicit interest in a union on his own time—such as lunch time and recognized break times—but cannot solicit people who are not likewise on their own time.) If you get an argument or encounter resistance, call the individual’s supervisor or hospital security.

If certain the man is not a hospital employee, ask him to leave the premises at once and immediately call hospital security. Stay on the scene until the organizer is gone or security arrives; it is important that the employee, who is apparently being badgered, not be left alone with the outsider.

Addressing the third question, regardless of whether you do or do not recognize the apparent organizer as an employee, your very first action should be to break into the conversation. At the very least you are able to ascertain that the housekeeper, trapped in a corner by the man, gives every appearance of being distressed by the cir- cumstances. As a member of management you have a responsibility to all employees to provide them with an environment free from pressure and harassment. You need take immediate steps to free the employee to go about her normal business.

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R e s p o n s e 66

the requested fAvor

Denying the request avoids upsetting the status quo. With no change to Mrs. Allen’s hours, there is then no risk that others will be asking for the same consideration, and no risk of thoughts or grumbles among the staff about “favoritism” for Mrs. Allen.

However, simply denying the request out of hand—although probably consistent with some published policy or guideline—could make things difficult for Mrs. Allen. Perhaps Mrs. Allen would leave if she could not be accommodated, and you might not wish to risk losing a good nurse (assuming, of course, that she is a good nurse).

Granting the request is likely to keep Mrs. Allen happy, and you would not risk losing her. However, doing so could bring upon you the aforementioned charges of “favoritism” unless you were prepared to do the same for any other staff who make the same request. Also, depending on Mrs. Allen’s role in the unit, granting her request might cause difficulty with the shift reporting that takes place during the critical overlap period between shifts.

Granting the request on a temporary basis possesses most of the pluses and minuses enumerated in the preceding. In doing so, however, you can provide Mrs. Allen with a temporary solution while she seeks a permanent arrangement, and you can keep most other criticisms at bay with the temporary nature of the request (as long as “temporary” does not become “indefinitely”).

It might be appropriate to extend Mrs. Allen some temporary relief, perhaps 2 to 4 weeks, letting her know that this probably cannot be permanent and that she had best make another arrangement. The most straightforward reasons you could give her are your belief that you must provide consistent treatment for all employees who are similarly situated, and the fact that it is the needs of the unit and its patients that govern staffing and schedules, not the needs of the individual employee.

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R e s p o n s e 67

Boss? Who needs one?

In beginning to deal with Kay Morgan, do not assume that—and especially do not behave as though—her “seemingly quiet and stern manner” actually indicates resent- ment and thus resistance. You need to experience significant exposure to her before beginning to assess her behavior relative to your presence.

Initially, and making little of the fact that the reception area is now part of your responsibility, approach her as someone who has a need to learn as much as possible about how her job is run. Chances are, she has a fair amount of useful knowledge to impart. You might be able to see immediately how many tasks could be done better, but she is in the best position to have the most accurate information about how the details of her job are performed. Although a manager may be able to see the need for improvements in a macro sense, it is invariably true that no one knows the inner working details of a job better than the person who does that job every day.

Kay Morgan could indeed be resistant to change, well entrenched in ways of doing things that she developed herself. This potential resistance suggests that you need to become less of a threat to her. Assure her that she is needed and that her job is as secure as any other position (providing, of course, that this is true). You can also explain that the administrator, whom she considered her only “boss,” has experienced expanding responsibilities such that each of his direct-reporting employees could no longer receive the attention they deserved. You have been assigned her area because you can give it more attention than the administrator is able to provide.

In short, be open, friendly, and nonthreatening. Respect her knowledge and expe- rience, learn from her, and make her feel as secure in her position as possible.

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R e s p o n s e 68


Everything you know about the first candidate is forbidden information; age, marital status, and children are all out of bounds for use in making hiring decisions. For the second candidate, again age and marital situation are forbidden information. The length of time she has been out of work is not forbidden but is probably irrelevant. You have no forbidden information about the third candidate.

We are not allowed to solicit that which has been called “forbidden information” because the use of any such information in making hiring decisions is contrary to civil rights legislation. If we request such information and the ultimate decision is challenged, it may well be assumed that the decision was discriminatory.

A potential problem in hiring the first candidate resides in the statistically verifi- able claim that single mothers generate higher rates of absenteeism. Also, it is often assumed that when someone’s family includes a disabled individual, as with the second candidate, the employee’s attendance suffers and attendant benefits costs— health insurance and such—are higher. Also concerning the second candidate, the hiring supervisor is often left with an uneasy feeling—usually completely unwar- ranted, but nevertheless there—when a candidate has been unemployed for a lengthy period. Concerning the third candidate, if you hire this one you may be open to charges of favoritism. And looking at this third candidate from a selfish viewpoint, you know that she is going to be trying to transfer to the “department of her choice” so you will probably have to recruit all over again.

You would be most likely—and completely legally and safely—rule out all three candidates if none of them met all of the job requirements contained in the job description. The single best reason for taking one candidate over another is that the person selected is the best qualified for the job.

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R e s p o n s e 69

shortAge of help

This case can be responded to relatively easily and briefly—you are probably best off telling the applicant about the every-other-weekend scheduling policy and taking your chances with her reaction.

That you face this situation at all suggests the open position was not thoroughly communicated in your advertisement, job posting, or whatever was used. Weekend rotation should have been known to the applicant before she made her decision to apply. You really need to tell her that every-other-weekend is an expectation.

Until you address the issue directly you will not know for certain how she will react. For all you know she may be familiar with your practices, but is simply trying you out to see whether she can obtain exactly the schedule she prefers. Also, it is possible that one weekend off out of two might be acceptable to her.

Resist the temptation to take her for weekday evenings only and fill the week- ends with part-time or casual help. Regardless of how much of this latter kind of help you employ, the fact that this person would be working weekdays only still means that those who rotate will do more weekend work than they would if she rotated as well. Making an exception of her can cause problems with the rest of your staff.

If she refuses the job as it is offered, the worst you will be facing is continued recruitment to fill the position or perhaps continued overtime or agency nurse cost for a time.

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R e s p o n s e 70

Who AnsWers to Whom?

Ideally, the incident occurring between Tom Mooney and the head nurse of the medi- cal/surgical unit should be handled by Ross and the nurse together. However, if they cannot agree at their level this may have to go to the next highest level of manage- ment. (This should not occur, but it often does—there are few legitimate reasons for involving higher management in such a dispute. When resolution has to be sought at that level it usually means that one or both of the dispute’s participants are being stubborn or inflexible.)

Ross and the nurse need to take steps to ensure that neither Mooney nor any other housekeeping employee is put in such a position again. It is grossly unfair to Mooney to be placed such that one manager is countermanding the instructions he has gotten from another manager.

Mooney must ultimately respond to Ross’s authority. Ross is Mooney’s boss— that is the chain of command. However, perhaps Mooney’s basic work assignment needs to be modified to include providing certain kinds of assistance when necessary. In some hospitals, in fact, there are housekeeping staff permanently assigned to each unit under nursing unit management.

Mooney could have perhaps defused the conflict by helping out as requested and then advising Ross later and asking for help with future such requests. Also, the head nurse would have been far more likely to have gotten Mooney’s willing assistance had she not approached him in such authoritarian fashion.

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R e s p o n s e 71

When do You stop Being generAl?

After having addressed the error problems with the department at two successive group meetings, you should no longer continue to deal with the group at large in an attempt to improve the quality of output. You can, of course, and probably should, feature some kind of a quality update at every monthly staff meeting. As a group, your people need to know how they are doing in terms of overall quality. However, you will have no appreciable long-run effect on the quality level of those making most of the errors by keeping your criticism general.

It is not a matter of making your criticism “increasingly specific” that is required to address this problem. It must be made specific, period, with each individual who is exhibiting quality problems. If you do not have individual quality monitoring in place, this means that you must establish it and pursue it for a sufficient length of time to be able to identify the error rates for all of your transcriptionists individually.

The approach you should take is one suggesting performance improvement, not disciplinary action. Performance improvement usually involves counseling, perhaps corrective instruction, and plenty of conscientious follow-up. More often than not this approach works to correct the situation.

As suggested, you may wish to keep the entire group up to date on the quality situation in general. However, the troublesome employees’ quality problems should be addressed individually, one-on-one, with specific data.

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R e s p o n s e 72

An Act of negligence

You should separate Jenny from the rest of the group and deliver the reprimand in private. It is an absolutely fundamental requirement for delivering criticism or con- ducting disciplinary action that such discussions always occur one-on-one in private. The other employees who were present are certainly bright enough to realize that Jenny did something that earned criticism; but nevertheless, in fairness to Jenny, they need not be witness to her reprimand.

Also, you need not deliberately stage Jenny’s reprimand so that it can be a “warn- ing to the others.” Another fundamental requirement of fair and effective disciplinary action is that we should never make an example of anyone.

You can improve upon the rather simply stated option by getting Jenny alone and first asking her what happened. Simply because you believe you clearly saw what occurred in a way that left little room for doubt still does not mean that you have full knowledge of the situation. Overall, you should be trying to make your contact with Jenny more of a lesson than a reprimand.

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R e s p o n s e 73

it WAsn’t mY decision

Even if the solution developed by Sampson and his two colleagues was the most reasonable answer available, there remains plenty of legitimate reason for resistance from the two supervisors who were expected to carry it out. They are not in a position to feel any sense of ownership in the solution, and because they did not participate in the process, they are certainly not guaranteed to see the result as “the most reasonable answer available.”

None of us is likely to react completely favorable to the “directive” from Samp- son. Consider the position “we” as in as the absentees; we see the result as the classic reaction to just about anyone’s absence from just about any meeting or other working gathering—those who aren’t there get the assignments piled on.

The perception of anyone outside of the decision-making threesome— remembering that perception is reality to the perceiver—is likely to be that Sampson and company railroaded the decision through to their own advantage. Anyone in the position of one of the two people left out of the process should ask for another meet- ing. Sampson and company should participate in another meeting, this time of all five, and work toward a solution that all five can accept.

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R e s p o n s e 74

the dodger

If Jane deals firmly with Alice’s behavior, she may rapidly put herself in the position of having to terminate Alice, or perhaps she may nudge Alice into quitting rather than facing disciplinary action. In either case Jane loses Alice’s services at a time when she can ill afford to lose any staff. On the other hand, if Jane ignores Alice’s behav- ior indefinitely, the scheduling difficulties caused by Alice’s unreliability will likely continue. Also, and Jane may well not pick up on this until nearly too late, Alice’s behavior may have been noticed by others who are feeling increasingly frustrated because of what they perceive Alice is “getting away with.”

Of course, Jane should discuss the attendance problem with Alice. However, she should do so within the context of a “clean slate.” Jane should freely admit that she had not picked up on Alice’s attendance problem when she should have. She should review what she has found with Alice, indicating that if she had been aware of the pattern as it emerged, disciplinary action would have occurred already.

Jane should clearly spell out the conditions of the new start, indicating what is expected of Alice in terms of attendance, and how many absences in what period of time, or what sort of amount or patterning of absences, will trigger disciplinary action.

Finally, Jane should make it a practice to consciously monitor attendance, not just Alice’s, but all others as well.

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R e s p o n s e 75

Yours, mine, And hours

What you should be doing the first free moment after hearing out your employees is to take the story to your immediate manager. In considering this particular predica- ment, you should have plenty of help untangling the situation. At the heart of the problem is a hospital-wide issue: Is the basic workweek 37.5 hours or 40 hours? Is the workweek different for different departments?

The case description reads as though the majority of the staff in the department strongly favor the 37.5-hour week and consider it a condition of their employment, except, of course, for the two new people hired into the 40-hour week. However, in its unwritten state the 37.5-hour week is not enforceable.

The assistant director you hired might be an exempt employee and considered a member of management. If this is the case, the expectation of exempt—or sala- ried—employees is usually 40 hours a week or whatever the organizational standard is, regardless of how many hours are worked by the nonexempt—that is, hourly— employees.

The new transcriptionist might present a problem if working 40 hours alongside people working 37.5 hours. However, if these employees are all hourly, as is likely, the person working 40 hours earns 2.5 hours more pay in a week.

Your department could perhaps operate a 37.5-hour week for its hourly employ- ees, but chances are, administration would prefer a standard workweek, either 37.5 hours or 40 hours, but not a mixture of these, throughout the hospital. Regardless, this is one case for which you can safely say the answer must come primarily from others—administration, human resources, and perhaps finance.

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R e s p o n s e 76

An ExpEnsivE GAmE

The case suggests that there are probably not quite enough nurse anesthetists in the region to comfortably fill all ten hospitals’ needs. If the supply were adequate, much of Dr. Gable’s argument would vanish because the hospitals would be less likely to be “competing” for staff.

Whether the interorganizational “bumping” of pay rates is or is not “profes- sional” behavior will likely be a matter of opinion, depending on individual perspec- tive. The costs of various kinds of labor will fluctuate with supply and demand. One might be tempted to regard the playing-off of hospitals against each other as anything but professional, but in a shortage situation employers will in fact “bid” against each other for help. When this occurs, we might well consider the pressure exerted by those in short supply as one legitimate element of market force.

If the area’s ten hospitals decide to get together and establish “fair and consistent pay rates” for nurse anesthetists, they would be in violation of antitrust statutes. To establish pay rates cooperatively between and among employers is a form of price fixing, so this is illegal and thus unacceptable as a potential approach to the nurse anesthetists’ pay problem.

There is no simple solution to the nurse anesthetist pay problem. Dr. Gable may well be manipulated into advocating for the nurse anesthetists and exaggerating the so-called shortage, but there is no way to know for certain until additional staff are lured away by offers of higher pay. There is in this situation but one near-certainty: Salary-bumping between and among employers in the area will do nothing to allevi- ate the area’s limited supply; rather, all it will accomplish is increasing the cost of this particular skill for all local employers.

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R e s p o n s e 77

ThE REclAssificATion REquEsT

The major problem in the request is one of proper communication. Through his com- ments about “magic” and the “so-called system,” Dr. Smithers is suggesting that he is not a proponent of the formal reevaluation method. Lori has been aware that Pat has been at the top of his pay scale and the laboratory has lost good people because of money. Yet, instead of being proactive in initiating the request, she waited until her director is acting irrationally. Carl has already demonstrated that Pat is the highest paid hematology supervisor in the region, but this was apparently never shared with the laboratory managers. In this era of strong competition for clinical employees, department managers and human resource personnel must work closely together to have a process to continually look at appropriate pay scales.

Adequate time needs to be given for conducting a thorough examination, which considers factors for hospital-specific variations, rather than being pressured into a change because of one valued employee. If Carl’s analysis does reaffirm that the position should not be upgraded, this needs to be properly communicated back to the department, but also to the top-level administrators with the supporting docu- mentation clearly presented. This will make any complaints as to the upgrade denial impotent.

To strengthen the enforcement of his recommendation and prevent this situation from reoccurring, Carl needs to conduct management training to go over the salary review process. Carl seems to have a good handle on how to proceed, but this infor- mation has not been transmitted to the department managers. Many times, depart- ments that are highly functional, such as human resources, consider themselves as the “experts” and withhold information as a method of exerting control. A broader, system-wide perspective needs to be considered that includes a more participative approach to personnel management.

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R e s p o n s e 78

sEEkinG ThE limiTs

A common approach available for clarifying the limits of your authority involves test- ing your boundaries by cautiously making decisions that fall in that gray area of doubt concerning how far you can go. In even the best of circumstances, boundary testing takes courage and self-confidence, and apparently working for Jackson is anything but the best of circumstances. Jackson’s perception of your limits is flexible to the extent of the quality of the outcomes of your decisions; that is, he seems not to care if you overstep your authority as long as the results are satisfactory. And you have experi- enced his reaction when the results are not satisfactory. So the present limits of your authority, if there are indeed any, are flexible according to circumstances.

First, determine whether there is a job description for your position. If so, review what it says, if anything, about the authority of your position, and plan on requesting a meeting with Jackson to strengthen the job description and seek agreement on what it should say concerning how far you can go. In preparing for this meeting, draft an updated version of the job description reflecting the position as you envision it. Let Jackson know that you are aware of the demands on his time and that you would like to be as supportive of him as you can, and to do so you need well-defined limits governing what you can and cannot do. Bring up the recent instances described in the case as examples showing that you need more specific decision-making guidance.

You may be unsuccessful in your efforts to get Jackson to clarify the limits of your authority. If so, as long as you report to this individual, you will most likely approach questionable decision situations cautiously, perhaps taking small chances while avoiding significant risks, and attempt to default potentially troublesome issues to Jackson himself. It is unfortunate that Jackson’s style and approach place his sub- ordinate managers in a position of having to manage defensively, but this condition is a sad reality encountered in some working relationships.

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R e s p o n s e 79

A pEER pRoblEm

In addressing the problem she is experiencing with Carl Stratton, Sally Lowe might consider the following approaches:

1. Speak directly with Stratton, telling him of her observations and concerns and asking him to be more attentive to his responsibilities.

2. Talk with others of the staff, PAs and nurses and others as necessary, to deter- mine the extent to which Stratton might be just “her problem,” or whether there are similar concerns among others who have simply not yet spoken to any of them.

3. Speak directly with the emergency department director, Dr. Markis, about her concerns with Stratton’s behavior and performance.

People who are consistently not pulling their own weight in a group situation, as may be the case with Carl Stratton, eventually come under criticism by a number of group members. It may be that Sally, because she is apparently the person who works most closely with Stratton most of the time, is simply the first person to feel the strain apparently created by Stratton’s behavior. However, whatever Sally chooses to do, she will have to reveal her dissatisfaction and concern to Stratton himself, thus potentially alienating Stratton.

Sally should probably begin by speaking to Stratton alone and airing her con- cerns. However, she would best do so by framing her remarks in a way that reflects her concern for the department and its overall effectiveness in serving its patients. That is, she should take the broader view encompassing the department as a team rather than the narrow view that might sound like personal complaining on her part. It may help for her to remind Stratton that they are both supposedly professionals working within a group of professionals, and that how any one of them is viewed by others can be a reflection on the entire group. She should also consider asking Stratton whether all is right with him; that is, giving him the chance to reveal whether there is any problem that might be affecting his performance.

Speaking with others of the group becomes riskier for Sally because no matter how well she approaches it, her efforts will likely be seen by Stratton as complaining about him to the rest of the department. On the positive side, doing so will likely set

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some of the others thinking about their own experiences with Stratton and will prob- ably sensitize them to the situation such that they will be more tuned in to Stratton’s behavior. If enough of the staff have genuine concerns about Stratton, peer pressure may eventually place him in a “shape up or ship out” position.

Sally might be able to accomplish something by speaking directly with Dr. Markis, but doing so as her first choice would be almost certain to alienate Stratton and possibly certain others of the staff. The crew of the emergency depart- ment might consist mostly of professionals, but even professionals will often take a dim view of someone who is perceived as tattling on one of their number.

Although problems with Carl Stratton persist, Sally should attempt to do her best under the circumstances but should also remain well aware of the ways in which Stratton’s behavior could be affecting her performance. For example, if Sally were to be criticized for not completing a particular task in timely fashion her response might be that she had to first redo an important task that had been done improperly. She need not even name Stratton for it to become evident before long that it is his lack of real effort that is causing extra work for Sally—and for others.

In a group that is expected to function as a team, any team member not pulling his or her weight will be noticeable. Because of her position relative to Stratton, Sally may simply be the first to notice his behavior. Eventually, most of the group will notice and the leader will notice and something will be done about the substandard contributor.

Response 79: A Peer Problem 273

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R e s p o n s e 80

ThE oRphAn suppliEs

Jerry has obviously opened the door to a significant problem that could have seri- ous implications for the central supply group, the purchasing department, and any others who are involved in requesting, ordering, and stocking such material. Also, in addition to making the hospital vulnerable in the event of a safety inspection, this condition would not be looked upon favorably during an accreditation survey. One might wonder how the corridor stock condition managed to exist for any length of time without drawing strong criticism; perhaps the basement level was seldom visited by outsiders.

Either the hospital’s systems for requesting, ordering, receiving, and stocking material were weak and outmoded, or these systems were only partially utilized as intended. It would seem that the latter was more likely the case because of missing signatures and missing receiving copies.

In addition, someone in administration, finance, or both could be justifiably upset over the amount of money tied up in idle and perhaps useless stock.

It sounds as though the two groups that might be most responsible for the over- stock—central supply and purchasing—are both actively avoiding any possibility of responsibility for the condition. Although active exercise of authority does not seem to enter into problem, certainly failure to fulfill certain responsibilities plays a strong role in the state of affairs that Jerry found.

For materials that may be grossly overstocked, such as the item of which a 10- year supply was on hand, it might be possible to recover some of their value by working an arrangement with the original vendor or other using organizations. Cir- cumstances also suggest that this hospital’s purchasing system should be closely examined, with the possibility of complete overhaul occurring in the near future. There must be a rational approach in place for responding to purchase request, deter- mining how much to stock and when to reorder, and generally keeping track of all material coming into the hospital and going out to using departments.

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R e s p o n s e 81

ThE EmployEE Who is AlWAys RiGhT

When Wilma said, “You always turn things around so that you look innocent or cor- rect,” she generalized; she was not addressing a specific instance. A wise individual once said, All generalizations are dangerous, including this one. Rarely, if ever, can a generalization be successfully defended. Also, Wilma used absolute terminology, specifically “always.” Words such as “always” and “never” leave no room for excep- tions; they describe an all-or-nothing situation that simply does not apply in interper- sonal communication.

In this specific situation, the only way that Wilma can begin to get at the cause of the misunderstanding and accomplish anything constructive is to bring the three of them together: Wilma, Janice, and Dr. Gordon. However, if Wilma cannot achieve this meeting—after all, she cannot order Dr. Gordon to participate—she would do best to avoid writing a “disciplinary dialogue” on Janice; doing so would amount to taking disciplinary action based on hearsay.

In her future dealings with “the employee who is always right,” Wilma must:

• Address only specifics and avoid generalizations. • Not “save up” criticisms, but rather deal with a specific situation immediately

after its occurrence. • Make notes of every counseling-type contact she has with Janice. • Make certain that she is absolutely correct concerning the matter at hand. • Rely on firsthand knowledge only, avoiding criticizing or disciplining based

on hearsay.

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R e s p o n s e 82


Concerning her staff, it was stated that Dianne had “known most of these people for several years.” This in itself should be a clue to some possible weaknesses in Dianne’s management style. If she enjoyed a truly open communicating relationship with her employees, complaints about Eve would probably have been reaching her all along. This suggests that Dianne should work more on communication. However, she at least related well enough to her people to receive apparently honest answers about Eve’s performance when she asked.

It states that Dianne “knew nothing about how Eve was functioning as weekend charge because she had never seen Eve in action in that capacity.” This highlights another potential weakness in Dianne’s style. As manager, Dianne bears some respon- sibility for what goes on in the unit at all times and certainly bears responsibility for the performance of a charge nurse that she, Dianne, put in place. A conscientious manager in Dianne’s position would casually “drop in” while Eve was in charge and check on how things were going. Dianne made the same mistake that many, manag- ers and others alike, regularly make: They implicitly assume that all is well because they hear nothing to the contrary.

Dianne needs to assess the litany of complaints she has received and condense them to a few important and pertinent problems in preparation for speaking with Eve. It is within Dianne’s authority to lay out some of what she has heard for discussion with Eve, and do so without naming names. Much of what Dianne has heard is legitimate feedback on Eve’s performance and should be discussed with Eve. And Dianne needs to be timely about this; it is not appropriate for her to wait until performance evaluation time. Dianne cannot legitimately take any kind of disciplinary action at this stage because everything she has is secondhand information; however, feedback from customers (and employees are indeed internal customers), always secondhand in nature, cannot be ignored.

It is more than likely that Eve had never received any sort of training about supervising people, and apparently Dianne put Eve in this position with little thought about having one enter supervision—and a weekend charge position is indeed super- vision, although of entry level—with no more preparation than conferral of a title.

Dianne needs to lay out the apparent problem for Eve, acknowledge Eve’s capa- bilities as a nurse, review the apparent shortcomings indicated by Eve’s behavior in the charge position, tell Eve what needs to change, provide Eve with appropriate training or guidance in supervision, and, if Eve elects to remain a charge person, monitor Eve’s performance through regular visits and discussions.

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R e s p o n s e 83


Office manager Wende Carlson finds herself in the position of a great many mana- gerial, administrative, and support personnel in health care organizations: They work in conjunction with physicians who, although not in positions of authority in the chain of command, may wield implied or assumed authority stemming from or growing out of automatic organizational deference to physicians in general. In other words, many physicians who have no managerial standing in the organization can get away with “managing” because of the importance that attaches to the role of physician.

Wende certainly needs to discuss the incident with Sue, the apparent victim of Dr. Greer’s outburst. This discussion should take place in private after Sue has calmed down enough to deal with her feelings and her reaction to the incident, perhaps 2 or 3 days after the problem occurred. Wende should give Sue the opportunity to tell what happened in her own words and at her own pace, preferably without interruption except perhaps to request clarification of something said.

Even conceding Sue’s booking error as a genuine mistake, it’s still relatively safe to say that Dr. Greer was way out of line in the way he addressed the error with Sue. He called her names, he threatened her employment, and not only did he criticize in anger, which is rarely if ever acceptable, he delivered his criticism in public, which is never appropriate. It is bad enough for the doctor to berate one employee in the presence of others, and inexcusable for him to do so in the pres- ence of patients.

What Wende can do and how she should do it will depend largely on the strength of the management in her chain of command. She could of course ask Dr. Greer for some time to discuss the incident, and do so when tempers are even and ratio- nal discussion is possible. If the incident occurred under truly stressful conditions it might perhaps be readily resolved when the pressure is off. Should she encounter resistance from Dr. Greer she may have to address the issue with her organizational superior. Wende may find that she has appropriate backing when needed, or she may find—unfortunately—that her boss is fearful of “taking on” a physician.

It has been suggested that this is probably not the only time Dr. Greer has teed off on an employee; recall the reference to him being “a bear most of the time.” If working conditions become increasingly stressful because of this person’s behavior,

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some employees may quit rather than continue to face the doctor’s temper. Should Sue decide to resign, she—and anyone else who leaves for similar reasons—should be encouraged to give Human Resources some frank and honest answers in the exit interview. Management deserves to know why employees leave their jobs whether or not they make specific use of this information.

278 Response 83: The Tyrant

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R e s p o n s e 84

ThE busy boss DElEGATEs

The first two paragraphs of the case description that suggest Tom Netter’s espoused belief “in active delegation of authority and active participative management” was probably little more than lip service. The seeds for resistance to his delegation were planted earlier in his apparent unwillingness to delegate anything of substance. He was on something of a prolonged ego trip in being identified “so strongly with so many important functions.”

Tom Netter’s primary failing in his working relationship with his subordinate managers—or at least a significant failing—was his apparent neglect of the neces- sity to develop subordinates. The manner in which he ultimately “delegated” made it plain that he was peeling off and dumping on his subordinates those responsibili- ties that he least wanted to be bothered with. This is not delegation; it is simply dumping—and any reasonably intelligent subordinate can readily tell the differ- ence. Any time the perception is that the boss is “delegating” by attempting to shed the apparently undesirable tasks and sticking employees with them, the delegation is destined to cause resentment and resistance.

Tom Netter has a great deal of ground to make up with his subordinate man- agers before he can effectively delegate to them. Rather than simply handing off the unwanted tasks, he needs to make up his mind to delegate tasks that can be seen as learning and growth opportunities. Whenever delegation is contemplated, the employee to whom the task is given has every right to ask, perhaps not in so many words but in effect, “What’s in it for me?” To overcome his subordinate manag- ers’ resistance—a chore that could consume a long period of time—Netter needs to delegate thoroughly and highly selectively, taking considerable time to instruct and motivate the employee, and be certain he is delegating something of significance and not something that will immediately be seen as “something I’m stuck with because Tom doesn’t like doing it.”

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R e s p o n s e 85


If Walt does indeed act as though he has all the answers, a few good doses of reality could go a long way toward tempering his attitude. Although Walt’s behavior change is obviously related to his recent educational experiences, he is nevertheless coming across as the typical know-it-all who plagues many managers. The surest way to deal with this or any know-it-all is to place him in a position in which his beliefs or ideas are tested in practice.

First, however, and already mentioned in the case description but of sufficient importance to repeat, Walt needs to understand that all criticism, whether of George or anyone else, must always be delivered privately, one-on-one. Whenever criticism is applicable to a single party, it is never appropriate to criticize that party in front of others. (This is so fundamental to interpersonal relationships that George may be tempted to suggest that Walt must not have yet heard that advice in his school program.)

When Walt advances an idea for doing something differently than it is being done, George might try putting the task in Walt’s hands if circumstances permit. Perhaps Walt is approaching a state of obnoxiousness, rendering George chronically annoyed. If George can overcome his annoyance long enough to do some thoughtful delegating, he can be placing Walt in a put-up-or-shut-up position. There is no better way to deal with the know-it-all than to let him implement his idea in his own way. If it fails to work, perhaps the know-it-all has learned something. If it works, perhaps the manager has learned something.

On the positive side, Walt, a good technical performer, is interested and enthusias- tic. If George can help Walt learn what often occurs when theory meets practice, Walt could further develop as a productive employee with potential for advancement.

As concerns Walt’s posture on some of the larger issues, for instance the organi- zation’s budgeting approach and performance appraisal process, Walt has to under- stand that these are processes for which so-called experts go in different directions. For example, from one teacher Walt may hear that anniversary-date appraisal is the only way to go; from another, he may learn that all-at-once appraisal is best. As to how such processes are addressed in this particular organization, it would perhaps help if Walt could meet informally with certain executives (finance director, human resource manager, etc.) to discuss why these are done as they are.

Overall, if George can suppress his annoyance with Walt and avoid feeling threat- ened by him, he can help Walt become all the more valuable to the organization.

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R e s p o n s e 86

no lonGER pullinG hER WEiGhT

Mary is correct in believing she cannot let matters remain the way they are because doing so could hurt the entire unit. Other employees may be sympathetic toward Eleanor, but that sympathy will begin to weaken when others start feeling increased pressure because of this person who cannot keep up with the unit’s demands. Elea- nor is apparently considered a “nice” person by the others, and Mary has probably already discovered that it is more difficult to deal with a problem employee who is pleasant and agreeable than one who is unpleasant and disagreeable.

All likely options should begin with Mary having a serious talk with Eleanor, putting the situation before her firmly but kindly: You have been unable to keep up with the increasing demands of the unit, and your inability to do so is placing extra burdens on the remainder of the staff. Something appears to be wrong, and we would like to make it possible for you to learn what the matter is and do something about it.

After acknowledging the presence of a problem, Mary could address Eleanor’s problem by:

• Suggesting that Eleanor seek transfer to another, less demanding unit • Offering Eleanor an assessment by Employee Health to determine what sort

of work—her present job or any other—she could capably perform • Suggesting that Eleanor seek help through the Employee Assistance Program

(EAP) in addressing any problem that might exist

Nice person or otherwise, Eleanor should be expected to keep up with the demands of whatever job she holds. Eleanor’s problem may be related to age; some peoples’ physical capacities decline more rapidly than others’ as they age. Or perhaps Eleanor is experiencing some health problem or personal difficulty of which Mary and others in the unit are unaware. In dealing with Eleanor, it is important that Mary remember to avoid asking Eleanor about her personal problems, if any. Eleanor may tell Mary whatever she wishes to tell her voluntarily, but as manager Mary should always avoid questioning an employee about personal matters. Mary, or any manager similarly situated, may—and should—refer an employee to a source of help (such as Employee health, EAP, etc.) but should never ask about the employee’s problems and never presume to give the employee advice (even if the employee asks for advice on a personal matter).

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Mary might diplomatically suggest that Eleanor consider transfer if she felt she might cope better in another assignment, but that is as far as Mary should go.

All employees may reasonably be expected to meet the demands of their posi- tions. Regardless of an employee’s age or other status, what counts in the end is the person’s ability to meet the demands of the job; and because Eleanor seems no longer able to do so, some action needs to be taken.

282 Response 86: No Longer Pulling Her Weight

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R e s p o n s e 87

shE’s hAvinG A RouGh TimE

In this particular situation there may well be no single course of action available that does not have significant obstacles associated with it.

Janet Carling certainly seems aware that differential treatment—treating one employee differently from others based on that one person’s particular circum- stances—is inappropriate in the work place. Janet, and perhaps some of the other employees in the department as well, may be inclined to allow Dale Hamlin con- siderable slack because they like her and know that she has a legitimate chronic health problem. However, such treatment, no matter how well intended, can in fact be discriminatory.

The organization offers paid time off, such as sick time, vacation, and perhaps personal time; therefore, there are undoubtedly policies in place governing the use of these benefits. It is likely that there is also a policy addressing absenteeism. As dif- ficult as it may be for Janet to do so, she is obligated to treat Dale, with her legitimate problem, the same way she would treat another chronic absentee who was thought to be working the system for maximum time off. Janet clearly feels the need to do something because Dale’s behavior is noticeably affecting the other employees.

Janet has already outlined the alternatives that would ordinarily be most work- able in this kind of a situation; that is, change Dale’s hours or possibly make her part-time instead of full-time. Letting Dale continue indefinitely taking unpaid time off is not appropriate because it shifts the burden of completing her work onto the few others in the department.

Note, however, two potentially significant problems that could make it next to impossible for Janet to act reasonably: The character of higher management (recall the reference to Mister Indecision), and the likelihood that Mr. Miller is “pulling rank” on behalf of a relative. This implied behavior of Miller’s is of course inappro- priate, but as the old anonymous saying goes, The boss ain’t always right—but the boss is always the boss.

Probably the best direct action that Janet can take without openly defying her immediate superior is to factually report to Mr. Miller every legitimate problem or delay resulting from Dale’s situation and ask for direction. Other than that, she would be well advised to take her dilemma to the appropriate person in the human resources department.

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R e s p o n s e 88

DischARGE foR cAusE

It appears evident from the first two paragraphs of the case that the employees of Benton Memorial Hospital were subjected to a dramatic change of leadership style with the replacement of an easygoing, low-key chief executive by one who is fast-paced, brusque, and intimidating. Therefore, it is reasonable to suppose that Mrs. Jackson and other managers might be apprehensive about dealing with the new chief executive. Mrs. Jackson may have felt she had good reason to fear Mr. Short’s wrath, especially if she had already seen other managers adversely affected by this “new broom.”

Mrs. Jackson’s primary error, of course, was her failure to admit up front that policy and procedure had not been followed in approving overtime. There could have been a good chance that she might have escaped with no more than a reprimand and an admonition to follow proper practices in the future. However, in choosing to deny any wrongdoing and cover her tracks after the fact, she committed infractions that could well cost anyone their employment.

She was initially untruthful in claiming she had misplaced the logs, and it is unlikely that claiming she “saw no good reason why he should need them” would have dissuaded Mr. Short.

Mrs. Jackson’s after-the-fact creation of the overtime logs, definitely poor judg- ment on her part, constituted a clear case of falsification of information, a serious infraction in most organizations and one consistently addressed in policy.

Clara Jackson was again untruthful when she denied creating the logs, and it is not likely that her subsequent admission of doing so could have erased the impact of the lie. Her admitted fear of relating the truth would not be likely to go far on her behalf in establishing a reasonable defense of her actions.

Also, Mrs. Jackson’s direct appeal to hospital trustees, a route often attempted in smaller communities in which everyone knows everyone else, would do nothing to endear her to management. (Any member of a board of trustees who attempts to intercede on behalf of an employee is out of line as a trustee by becoming involved in operational issues.)

It is most likely that the discharge of Mrs. Jackson would be upheld on the bases of violation of policy (by failing to follow the overtime authorization procedure) and falsification of records (by creating the overtime logs after the fact).

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R e s p o n s e 89


Alan has of course encountered significant resistance to change, deep-seated resis- tance stemming from his efforts to alter a pattern of behavior not only tolerated by his predecessor but actually instilled and encouraged by the retiring Fred. The prob- lem most likely became a problem because of Fred and his management style and approach. Although we are not told how long Fred was in charge of this group, the situation suggests that he was in place more than long enough to have hired all of the present staff and to have himself “set the pace” for the group. Fred apparently used the “difficult nature of much of the work” to rationalize a slow and supposedly care- ful approach to the work.

Fred let the employees “work independently at their own pace,” utilizing a hands- off style that many technical and professional employees naturally prefer. However, Fred seems to have avoided communicating any real concerns about productivity. We may have cause to wonder why “relations with the line departments . . . were generally good” if there was “always a considerable backlog of repairs and calibra- tion work.” It is likely that Fred was well liked beyond the borders of his department; one can bet that Fred would have been encouraged to behave differently if the line departments constantly complained about slow service. The department may well have consisted of “a cohesive group of people with high morale and upbeat attitudes” because Fred was a friendly individual who demanded little of employees and gener- ally let them have their own way. Fred had essentially conditioned the employees to accept their continuing low level of output as the norm.

It was fully appropriate for Alan to get involved in personally working together with someone in the group on the more challenging repair jobs; doing so could demonstrate that greater productivity was within their reach. However, his indi- vidual productivity reports may have been introduced too soon or perhaps called for too much detail. Alan should certainly have first expressed his observations to the staff and opened up a dialogue on productivity before starting to track individual productivity.

If he has not already done so, Alan needs to ensure that his immediate superior is up to date on the situation in biomedical engineering. A pair of simultaneous resigna- tions would no doubt raise some questions in administration and human resources

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because it amounts to one third of Alan’s staff walking out. Alan needs to convince his boss that he is right in trying to improve productivity, and then proceed cautiously with every reasonable effort to involve his employees in determining what should change and by how much. It could take Alan many months to cement a good working relationship with his employees.

Also, if Alan is correct about industry standards of productivity, departing employees who may be hired into another organization’s biomedical engineering department will quickly learn that more is expected of them than they have been accustomed to doing.

286 Response 89: The “Demanding” Manager

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R e s p o n s e 90

ThE uncoopERATivE collEAGuE

Melinda’s advice to Irene might legitimately begin with the suggestion that Irene start over again in trying to talk with Tami. This time, however, Irene should go armed with a written list of specifics. This is not to say that Irene should bombard Tami with all of her gripes large and small at one time; rather, Irene’s list of specifics should consist of the three or four most glaring problems, those with potential quality implications; for example, packs assembled incorrectly, work left half done, sterility requirements ignored, etc.

If talking specifics with Tami does no good, Irene should report this back to Melinda and talk about what to do next. Melinda may agree that it is time for Irene to discuss the situation with her manager, the person who is also most likely Tami’s manager as well. In talking with her manager, Irene needs to be calm and rational and not simply dump all of her complaints on her boss. Irene should attempt to get her manager sufficiently interested in her situation to make some personal observations, including dropping in unannounced on Tami’s shift. However, Irene must proceed cautiously; the manager should be paying sufficient attention to all of his or her sub- ordinate supervisors, but this may not be the case. All too often, a second-shift group in a service area does not receive sufficient management attention.

It almost always makes one uneasy to go “telling tales” on a colleague, so Irene should first make every reasonable effort to deal with Tami directly before going to their manager. In the process of meeting with her manager, Irene might suggest the use of a log in which various problems and conditions can be described by any super- visor for consideration of the following shift.

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R e s p o n s e 91

ThE infoRmAnT

In frustration, Estelle might wish that the “informant” would never bring her any information at all. This assumes that Estelle is aware that it is likely that she cannot directly use anything Edwina brings to her, for two reasons: first, repeating what Edwina said could put this valuable volunteer at odds with some staff members and create dissension within the group; and second, an inviolable rule of discipline, action must never be taken based on secondhand information, that is, hearsay.

Most managers whose departments that make use of volunteers would regard a steady, reliable, hard-working volunteer as an asset to be nurtured. Therefore, Estelle will most likely want to keep Edwina in place and so may do nothing to upset her, such as flatly telling her to say no more about what she observes.

This could be one of those occasional situations that the manager might best qui- etly tolerate or address only peripherally and extremely diplomatically. Consider the “scary part” as stated by Estelle, “—every time I’ve been able to check out something she’s told me, it turns out that she’s absolutely correct.”

Estelle should listen carefully to what Edwina has to say and try to differentiate between what is substantive and what seems to be gossip. Perhaps she can gently discourage the gossip; surely most thoughtful supervisors have had experience in squelching rumors—the substantive information she should keep to herself. It will be sufficient that what she has heard will raise her awareness of certain potential problems, and she will be all the more attuned to what is occurring and will experi- ence some of it firsthand.

In brief, Estelle should continue to listen to Edwina, discourage gossip and rumor, and remain tuned to potentially legitimate observations.

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R e s p o n s e 92

mAnAGinG ThE DRAmA quEEn

Although we can understand her frustrations, Janice’s casual reference to Helen as the “drama queen” is a personality judgment that amounts to name calling, never part of a constructive approach in employee relations.

Based on just the information given in the case, we can only guess at the rea- sons for Helen’s behavior. Anyone who has managed people knows that there can be vast differences in attitude and behavior in even a small group. Whether or not we know “why” a person acts or reacts in a particular manner, we still have to deal with the individual and address the behavior. Helen may simply be a sensitive indi- vidual whose lifelong reaction to criticism has involved resentment, defensiveness, and perceived injury. Or perhaps Helen is the occasional employee who has been so conditioned by unpleasant relations with previous managers that her every reaction to criticism is negative.

Unfortunately, some managers who are ill at ease addressing employees’ emo- tional reactions compensate by diluting their criticism to the point of ineffectiveness or avoiding criticizing altogether. However, rarely does a problem that’s unaddressed go away of its own accord, and more often than not it worsens as time goes by. So ignoring or soft-pedaling deserved criticism is never appropriate.

In dealing with Helen, Janice must initially ensure that any criticism she deliv- ers is truly constructive; that is, it should always include suggestions for correction or improvement. Also, it is evident in the case information that Janice is well aware of the need to always address criticism with an employee one-on-one, in private. In dealing with someone who appears as sensitive to criticism and prone to defen- siveness as Helen, Janice should take great pains to be factual, specific, and totally objective in both the rendering of the problem and what must be done to correct the situation. Janice must stick to facts—never, as most managers are aware, relying on hearsay—and proceed diplomatically; and proceed she must, without being put off by frowns, anger, defensiveness, or tears.

Our best advice for Janice in dealing with Helen is to be certain she is always focused on the problem, not on the person. She must look at the results of behavior— “This is what was incorrect” —and never attempt to second-guess the cause of the behavior that led to the results; for example, “You’re stubborn and careless.” Name calling and personality judgments are never appropriate.

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R e s p o n s e 93

ThE holiDAy sWiTch

One in Dana Daniels’ position might consider advising Carrie that although this appears to be an obvious planned occurrence, two infractions do not constitute enough of a pattern to assume that Sue is pursuing this practice deliberately. This especially holds true if the nurse manager can recall only one other occurrence. Many people want to be with their families on holidays and some are inclined to claim ill- ness on these days. Sue may not have been sick, but there is no way of knowing for certain.

Carrie should consider holding an informal counseling session with Sue. With- out making accusations, Carrie should advise Sue of the inconvenience created when she fails to honor her revised schedule in full. Depending on the state of Sue’s overall attendance record, Carrie might need to suggest that chronic or consistent absence can become cause for disciplinary action. Yet Carrie cannot take any action against Sue at this time; she must take Sue’s claim of “illness” at face value and move on.

Carrie might also try to stimulate interest in revisiting the organizational policy that allows taking the alternate day off before the actual holiday. If the alternate day must be taken after the holiday, this closes what some employees may see as a loophole in the organization’s attendance policy. Such a policy change might be seriously considered if the “holiday switch” problem seems to arise with noticeable regularity.

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R e s p o n s e 94

ThE ElusivE EmployEE

In some organized activities, and especially in certain areas of health care, it is not unusual for some employees who work evenings, nights, or split shifts to be off on their own for extended periods. Such employees are admittedly often more difficult to supervise. However, given the nature of some healthcare organizations, particu- larly hospitals, these different shift assignments are essentially necessary. Therefore it falls to the immediate supervisor to determine how to oversee such employees.

Claiming that Dan “seems to be” getting the work done but that it is “hard to tell because I just don’t see him” may suggest that Dan is indeed elusive, and it can also suggest that perhaps Vera has not done all that she should be doing as supervisor. It is not enough to make a couple of attempts to telephone Dan from home; Vera should make an effort to occasionally “drop in” during Dan’s shift to see how he is doing. As long as Dan is technically Vera’s employee, Vera bears a measure of responsibility for Dan’s performance.

As to whether Dan is actually responding to stat calls when he says he is, the truth could be established if he was required to maintain an activity log that provides a record of such calls and the times they were received.

There are two ways available for Vera to stay more closely in touch with Dan’s activities. One is the provision of more direct supervision by Vera herself. This may consist of occasional unscheduled visits by Vera, her implementation of the afore- mentioned activity log, and—quite important—crystal clear productivity expecta- tions communicated to Dan. The other way is one approach often taken under such circumstances: The individual who works the off-shift without benefit of immediate supervision is required to report to whoever is in charge of the “house” at that time, in this instance, perhaps the night nursing supervisor. If Vera does indeed see Dan for only about 10 percent of the shift, Dan should be required to answer to someone else during the other 90 percent. With this more complete coverage, Vera and the night nursing supervisor may be able to keep better tracks of the “elusive” one and also collaborate on a reasonable performance evaluation.

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R e s p o n s e 95

This plAcE oWEs mE

Human resources representative Ellen Francis would most likely be advising Darlene to effectively start over in dealing with Jennifer Wilson, especially if there is nothing contrary in Jennifer’s personnel file. We are told that there have been no disciplin- ary actions, and if informal counseling sessions are documented at all, such notes will likely reside in Darlene’s personal files. Therefore, if there is no record of any difficulties or any attempts at correction, for all practical—and legal—purposes, she has never done anything wrong. If something is not on paper, it is regarded as never having occurred.

It should be obvious that Darlene could have avoided or at least minimized the present problem by using the organization’s progressive discipline policy, which usu- ally begins with counseling, to address chronic absenteeism or sick time abuse when Jennifer’s conduct first reached the problem threshold; and of course Darlene should be applying such policies equally to all other employees who exhibit behavior similar to Jennifer’s. It would also be helpful if Darlene were able to implement a rotational scheme for covering vacations or illnesses or assigning overtime.

Needed policies are primarily those that address employee counseling and pro- gressive discipline, especially as concerns attendance.

The problem Jennifer presents is one of attitude as much as behavior; and it is a fundamental premise of discipline that one cannot discipline for “attitude,” but must focus on behavior. The organization “owes” Jennifer certain considerations that have been extended as part of the employment relationship, but Jennifer owes the organization reasonable job performance and adherence to rules and regulations. Should Jennifer be treated more favorably than other employees who do the same work simply because she has worked there longer? Perhaps in some small ways like observing seniority in vacation scheduling or such, but not to the extent of exempting her from rules and regulations that others must observe.

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R e s p o n s e 96

hE DiDn’T WoRk ouT

This is one of those instances in which we might see considerable truth in the adage, The boss isn’t always right—but the boss is always the boss. Certainly, Jackson dodged responsibility by ordering Young to get rid of Kelly, although one might try to build an argument to the contrary because Kelly was indeed Young’s employee. Still, Jackson chose to exercise the authority of his position in the hiring process, reasoning that Young, being new to management and never having interviewed and hired, needed to learn about the employee selection process. When Kelly did not work out and had to be released, Jackson behaved as though there was nothing to be learned about terminating an employee so Young could handle the task. However, most everyone who has hired and fired will concede that although interviewing and hiring require a certain amount of insight and caution, firing someone is much more troublesome to the person who has to do the firing. Jackson deferred the unpleasant task to Young.

The most obvious alternative approach would be for Jackson and Young together to explain to Kelly why it was felt that he could not continue in the job. After all, they interviewed him together, so why not terminate him together?

This incident would probably make Young wary and cautious in his future deal- ings with his manager. Jackson seems not to hesitate to exercise the authority of his position but he is apparently inclined to back away from responsibility when matters do not go his way. It is fundamental to management that with acceptance of author- ity comes an equal measure of responsibility. In avoiding responsibility, Jackson is avoiding some of the less pleasant or less favored parts of the management role. This represents a weakness that could at times make life trying for Young in answering to Jackson. If Young is intelligent and conscientious, he will soon learn to regard some elements of Jackson’s behavior as lessons in how not to manage.

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R e s p o n s e 97

TAkE youR choicE

There is only one reasonable choice that is consistent with the fundamentals of man- agement and the rules of proper delegation, whether ad hoc or formal, through the creation of an organizational hierarchy, and that is the first choice: You step into the job with the full authority and responsibility of the position as experienced by your predecessor. It is absolutely fundamental in any management position or delegated activity that the authority to decide and act and the responsibility for doing so exist in equivalent amounts.

Concerning the second choice, assuming the full authority of the position but with somewhat reduced responsibility, might be appealing to you, but it would be bad for the organization. Under this, you could often act or decide at will and not have to answer for results.

The third choice, having equal responsibility and authority but at a lesser level than your predecessor, would actually weaken the position to the extent of reducing its effectiveness.

The final choice, assuming the full responsibility of the position but exercising less authority than your predecessor, is a poor choice for the organization and the worst possible choice for you. This choice would leave you responsible for results over which you had no authority, effectively holding you responsible for actions in which you have no voice.

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R e s p o n s e 98

Why shoulD i?

“Because I said so, that’s why!” is of course not a legitimate response, and it is not surprising that it can increase hostility in the party to whom it is spoken. It might spur the individual to action, but compliance will be unwilling at best. A reasonable response to her question might be, “Because this has to be done, and it falls within your capability.”

Take a close look at the individual’s job description; you may be able to point to that often used but frequently forgotten clause that in one fashion or another calls for the performance of “all other tasks as directed by supervision.” If no such clause is present, revise the job description to include it. A reasonable job description for a technical or professional worker cannot possibly include everything the individual might legitimately be called upon to do, so a catch-all requirement is fully appropri- ate. If the job description must in fact be revised, invite the employee to participate in the revision. However, whether she does or does not choose to participate, do not give up the addition of the catch-all requirement. If her job description is one of a kind, you might consider making it extremely detailed, although this is more of a stop-gap measure than a solution.

If she continues to balk, politely suggest that her behavior is approaching insub- ordination, which it will in fact become if she directly refuses to comply.

There is one set of circumstances under which she might legitimately refuse to do something not listed in her job description: If she belongs to a union that has in its contract a strict requirement to adhere to the contents of job descriptions.

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R e s p o n s e 99

ThE DRop-in visiToR

Many supervisors seem to feel they are being rude if they do not welcome drop-in visitors, be they sales representatives or fellow supervisors or others. However, it is the visitors who are being rude or at least presumptuous by dropping in unan- nounced and expecting the normally busy supervisor to drop all else and make time for them.

Some organizations do not allow sales persons to go directly to department supervisors and managers but rather require them to go through the purchasing department. However, many sales representatives seem to believe they are more likely to meet with a favorable response from individual managers, so some often try to bypass purchasing.

The first suggestion to offer Janet and other supervisors who are similarly situ- ated is to require sales persons to visit purchasing, or, if going through purchasing is not a requirement, to call the department secretary in advance and make an appoint- ment. Supervisors do not have to feel they must make time for any outsider who drops in without an appointment.

Other supervisors will often drop in to socialize or perhaps address a small item of business, the discussion of which wanders off into social conversation. However, you do not need to let others waste your time. It is always possible to limit the time that others tie you up with nonessentials, and to do so with tact and diplomacy.

Returning to consideration of Janet’s problem, she could have not agreed to see the drop-in sales representative. She was certainly in a position to honestly state that she was trying to finish something important before going to a meeting in 1 hour.

Your time can be consumed by your employees, other employees, other super- visors, vendors and other outsiders, and higher management. Without being abrupt and without ignoring anyone, you can generally control the extent to which others consume your time. The one exception to this, or at least the direction from which demands on your time are hardest to regulate, is higher management. It is often extremely difficult to control the extent to which your immediate superior wastes your time. That, however, is a completely different problem.

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R e s p o n s e 100


This case represents circumstances in which numerous workers find themselves upon promotion to supervision: being placed in a position of authority over persons with whom they have worked for a prolonged period of time and with whom they have perhaps even socialized as friends.

Some of the advantages you find in your new position are obvious: You know the department and its tasks, you know how this department relates to the rest of the organization, you know the hospital’s management structure, and you know the employees as individuals. These are all advantages that would not be available to a new supervisor coming from outside the organization.

The disadvantages of you new position are obvious as well: You must now direct the activities of, give orders and instructions to, and perhaps even discipline, former coworkers, acquaintances, and friends. Some resentment over your appointment is to be expected; it is likely that one or two of the other employees would like to have received the promotion.

If you do your job as you should, it will not be necessary to consciously “pull away” from these people with whom you have worked for so long. The job will do that for you; there will be expectations of you that will necessarily pull you partially away to the extent of making you part of a management group as well as part of the department.

As far as your relationships with former coworkers are concerned, the most important term to apply is consistency. You should consider it essential to be con- stantly aware of the need to treat everyone in the department equally, apply all poli- cies consistently to all individuals in all cases, cultivate a one-to-one relationship with every employee, and avoid all appearances of favoritism. It can become extremely troublesome if one or more of your “friends” expects or demands favored treatment. If this occurs, it is time for you to reexamine individual relationships: A true friend will understand your position and not presume upon your friendship.

© Jones & Bartlett Learning, LLC. NOT FOR SALE OR DISTRIBUTION. 8645

© Jones & Bartlett Learning, LLC. NOT FOR SALE OR DISTRIBUTION. 8645


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