Advise Myrna how she could best approach getting “off the fence,” balancing her concerns for relations with the work group with the needs of her manager.

GeTTING off The feNce: JUmp, fall, or pUshed?

Primary Topic—General Management Practice

Additional Topics—Decision Making; Leadership; Motivation

Without being aware she was doing so, Myrna Wallace was actually summing up the concerns of a number of her fellow supervisors in the Supervisor Skills Development Program when she said, “As a first-line manager I always find myself ‘straddling the fence.’ I came up out of this same group that I’m supervising. Because I have to work so closely with all these hourly employees—most of whom were my peers for a long time, not to mention my friends as well—I’m considered by many to be one of them, to be treated as they’re treated.”

Encouraged by several nods of assent within the group of 15 mostly new supervi- sors, Myrna continued, “On the other hand, my boss expects me to act like a member of management and certainly to perform as a manager.”

“On the fence is a lonely and thankless place to be,” came a mutter from the rear of the room.

Myrna smiled and added, “I wouldn’t put it quite that dramatically, but it can be an uncomfortable position. I really don’t like this on-the-fence feeling. I want to know how to handle my situation, given that I’d like to continue getting along with these people I’ve known for so long, but I’d also like to do what my boss expects me to do.”

The voice from the rear of the room said, “First thing, you’re going to have to get off the fence.”

Myrna turned and asked, “How?” Myrna turned again as the group’s instructor said, “You can jump off the fence as

you choose, fall off if you’re not careful, or get pushed off from one side or the other. Only partly your choice, but if you don’t jump down on your own you’ll eventually fall or be pushed. How do you want to do it?”

Instructions:

Advise Myrna how she could best approach getting “off the fence,” balancing her concerns for relations with the work group with the needs of her manager.

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