Delegation; Employee Problems and Problem Employees; General Management Practice

oNe persoN’s word aGaiNst aNotHer’s

Primary Topic—Criticism and Discipline

Additional Topics—Delegation; Employee Problems and Problem Employees; General Management Practice

You are second-shift supervisor in the food preparation area of the dietary depart- ment. Your normal hours are from 3:30 pm to midnight. However, about half of the people who report to you are finished for the day at 7:30 pm; for the sake of having maximum help available over the lunch and dinner hours, a number of food prepa- ration workers are assigned to a shift that begins at 11:00 am and ends at 7:30 pm. Because of these differences in work schedules, the persons who report to you from 3:30 to 7:30 have a different supervisor—the day shift supervisor—before 3:30.

You have felt that a problem was developing with Janet Mills, a kitchen helper assigned to the 11:00 am to 7:30 pm shift. Janet frequently asked to leave early, as much as an hour or more before 7:30. It seemed to you that the more readily you accommodated her requests—you usually let her go unless you were short of help for the work remaining to be done—the more frequent her requests became. When you finally realized that Janet managed to punch out early at least twice a week, and when some grumbling about special treatment came to you from other employees, you decided it was time to start discouraging Janet’s early departures.

After you had refused permission twice in the same week, Janet did not ask again to leave early for several days. You thought that perhaps the problem had been easily corrected. However, on Monday of this week the problem resurfaced in a somewhat different manner.

At about 6:00 pm Janet came to you and said, “Mrs. Carter said I could leave at 6:30 today. I’m supposed to tell you.”

You could not imagine why Mrs. Carter, the day supervisor, would grant such permission on a day like this when all shifts were short of help. However, you did not want to contradict another supervisor so you simply let Janet leave at 6:30.

The next day you asked Mrs. Carter about Janet’s early departure. When you told her what Janet had said, Mrs. Carter responded, “That isn’t everything that was said. I did say, ‘You can leave at 6:30,’ but I also said, ‘if the work is under control

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and the evening supervisor agrees.’ I also told her that we were short of help and it was a bad day to leave early, but she said there was something very important that she had to take care of.”

That day you spoke twice with Mrs. Carter and twice with Janet Mills. Their stories remained the same: Janet claimed that she had clear, unmistakable permission to leave early; Mrs. Carter claimed that Janet had distorted what was said to her and had in effect left without permission.

One day later, Mrs. Carter advised you that she was issuing a written warning to Janet Mills for her “distortion or misrepresentation” of what she had been told. She asked you to cosign the warning with her.


Consider the problem in terms of the following questions:

1. What is your immediate reaction to Mrs. Carter’s request for you to partici- pate in the warning?

2. What course of action would you follow if you are convinced that the employee is actively playing one supervisor off against the other?

3. How would you suggest attempting to minimize the communications prob- lems that are bound to develop when an employee reports to more than one supervisor at different times?

52 Case 12: One Person’s Word Against Another’s

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