Communication; Criticism and Discipline; Delegation; Leadership

tHe iNHerited probleM

Primary Topic—Employee Problems and Problem Employees

Additional Topics—Communication; Criticism and Discipline; Delegation; Leadership

Shortly after she moved into the position of kitchen supervisor, Donna Wayne decided that a food service aide named Sandra Cleary was emerging as a problem employee. Sandra, nearing the end of her 6-month probationary period, was frequently idle. She would apparently do what she was told to do and then do nothing until specifically assigned to another task. Donna grew especially sensitive to the situation when she began to pick up grumblings from several other workers about Sandra not doing her fair share of the work.

Because she did not want to be unduly influenced by what others might have said, Donna did not look at Sandra’s record when she drafted Sandra’s 6-month review. She tried to avoid focusing on the employee’s attitude, which at best seemed to be distant and disinterested, and instead attempted to focus strictly on Sandra’s performance. Even this approach yielded a highly uncomplimentary review; Donna had already decided that Sandra was probably the department’s worst performer.

Donna set up an appointment for Sandra. In opening her conversation with Sandra, Donna said, “I’ve deliberately avoided looking at your 3-month review, but I’ll be surprised if it’s much better than the one I have to give you now.”

Sandra responded with, “What 3-month review? I didn’t know I was supposed to have one.”

Astonished at this response, Donna dropped her plans to discuss the 6-month evaluation. Instead, she turned the conversation to Sandra’s experience over the pre- ceding 6 months. In her discussion with Sandra, and through personal investigation and a review of Sandra’s record, Donna learned that:

• Sandra indeed had never been given a 3-month review, and in all probability had never been told there was such a review.

• Sandra had never been told that she was performing unsatisfactorily. • Sandra felt that she was expected to wait for instructions before beginning any

new task. • There were no warnings or other indications of trouble in Sandra’s personnel

file.

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It was with dismay that Donna reviewed the problem: The employee’s perfor- mance was below standard, apparently through no fault of her own, and yet the pro- bation period had expired and the employee was expected to be fully functioning.

Questions:

1. What probably caused the problem with Sandra to develop? 2. What should Donna do to try to correct the problem? 3. What should Donna tell Sandra about the apparent happenings of the past

6 months?

42 Case 7: The Inherited Problem

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