Analyze the foregoing occurrence of incomplete delegation, criticizing the conduct of both employee and supervisor as necessary.

The INdepeNdeNT employee

Primary Topic—Delegation

Additional Topics—Authority; Leadership, Motivation

Maintenance supervisor Jim Wood often felt that he has his hands full getting elec- trical repairman Bob Trent to follow his instructions. A case in point: On Monday of this week Wood realized that the laboratory air conditioning unit was due for its semiannual servicing and inspection, a task that either Bob Trent or the one other mechanic usually accomplished. He further realized that if this job was not done by the end of Wednesday it was not likely to get done for some time; some new equip- ment was scheduled to arrive on Thursday, and Trent’s fellow mechanic would be gone on vacation the following week.

Wood customarily tried to assign Trent 2 or 3 days’ work at a time, because once he was underway Trent could usually be found (or not found, as often was the case) just about any place in the building tackling his assigned tasks—and often a number of unassigned tasks—in seemingly random order.

Wood gave Trent the file on the laboratory air conditioner and said, “You don’t necessarily have to do this first, but I’d like you to take care of it today or tomorrow. In any case, it has to be finished by noon Wednesday.”

Trent simply shrugged and took the file. Wood did not see Bob Trent again until Thursday morning coffee break. The laboratory air conditioner had not crossed Wood’s mind until the sight of Trent reminded him of it. He approached Trent and asked, “Any trouble with the lab air conditioner?”

“Haven’t done it yet,” said Trent. “Why not? I specifically told you it had to be finished by noon Wednesday.” “I almost got started on it,” said Trent, “but the assistant administrator collared

me and told me he wanted the fan coil unit in his office fixed right away. I had to tear the whole thing down to do it, but I figured that was more important than the air conditioner in the lab.”

Wood felt a sense of frustration. he said, “Bob, this is the fourth time at least that I can think of when I told you specifically to do something and you went and decided something else was more important. Just what do you think I mean when I delegate something to you, anyway?”

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Trent shrugged and said, somewhat defensively, “I don’t know, Mr. Wood, but I figure when I see something that’s more important than what I’m doing at the moment I better take care of it. Anyway, if the lab air conditioner was so all-fired important, how come you didn’t say anything about it until now?”

Instructions:

Analyze the foregoing occurrence of incomplete delegation, criticizing the conduct of both employee and supervisor as necessary. Spell out those steps you believe Jim Wood should take in the future to assure that Bob Trent does not decide that other tasks are “more important” than duties specifically assigned by Wood.

132      Case 63: The Independent Employee

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