How should Rita deal with Molly Nelson and the information she furnishes? Specifi- cally, should Rita:

doN’T Tell Them I saId so

Primary Topic—Employee Problems and Problem Employees

Additional Topics—Authority; Communication; Leadership

Admitting supervisor Rita Malloy occasionally stayed an hour or so after normal business hours in search of some quiet time to catch up on mail and project work. The majority of the department’s staff went home at 4:30 pm, leaving two admitting representatives to cover later hours. However, one admitting representative had been making it almost a habit to seek out Rita on her late days and talk about other mem- bers of the department. This tale-carrying employee, Molly Nelson, worked a differ- ent shift from all others, starting at noon and ending at 8:30 pm, straddling two regular shifts to provide needed additional help during the afternoon and early evening.

Last Thursday, Rita had barely gotten organized and into her planned after-hours activity when Molly showed up at her door. Molly began as she usually did, with a pained expression and urgency in her voice, “Rita, there’s something I have to talk with you about for the good of the department.”

Molly proceeded to relate what went on when Rita was away at an all-day conference 2 days earlier, how three specific people—Molly named them without hesitation—had overstayed their lunch break by fully a half hour and how they could be counted on to do this every time Rita was absent.

Rita noted that Molly made regular reference to “the group,” an apparent clique of employees that centered about the three alleged lunchtime abusers. Rita had to agree that her staff seemed divided between the “ins” and the “outs,” with Molly, perhaps at least partly because of her unique schedule, definitely one of the “outs” as far as “the group” was concerned.

Although the lunchtime-abuse story was quite specific, complete with names, Molly’s comments became more general as she continued, “And I swear I don’t know how some of them have time for any real work, what with coupon clipping and all those personal telephone calls!”

Close to 10 minutes of reporting included, in addition to the foregoing, a strong suggestion that someone in the department was an active substance abuser while at work and a direct accusation that members of “the group” had been actively and openly criticizing Rita’s management of the department. When she had apparently exhausted her supply of information for this particular visit, Molly concluded with, “Really, Rita,

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some of these people have really got it in for you. They’re hurting this department, and something ought to be done about them. But don’t tell them I said so!”

Instructions:

How should Rita deal with Molly Nelson and the information she furnishes? Specifi- cally, should Rita:

• Take any action concerning the abuse of scheduled lunch breaks? • Do anything—if indeed there is anything she can do—about the effects of

“the group?” • Encourage Molly’s reports, but ask her to be more specific? • Discourage Molly’s reports altogether? • Initiate any follow-up concerning the alleged substance abuser?

Case 51: Don’t Tell Them I Said So      113

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