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50 Case Studies for Management and Supervision

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Managers and supervisors will sharpen their analytical and decision-making skills with this new collection of fully reproducible case studies. Based on actual, real-life situations, these exercises prepare supervisors and team leaders for the challenging problems they face in today's complex workplace. Each case study includes: Summary of the case ´ Discussion questions that evoke thought and analysis ´ Suggested solutions to the problems presented.

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Case Study 1. How come they make more than me?


Case 1

How come they make more than me?

Background Information

Fran Jefferson began her job as the supervisor of the Training Department of Metro

Bank and Trust Company almost four years ago. She was generally pleased with the four trainers and one secretary in her unit. Indeed, Fran took pride in her ability to create a high morale and high performance unit. This was particularly pleasing to

Fran because they were constantly busy and barely able to keep up with the volume of training expected from them.

Then, early on Wednesday morning, Fran’s secretary, Judy Martin, knocked on

Fran’s door and asked to see her. Fran liked Judy and considered the secretary to be one of her “stars.” Indeed, in an effort to develop Judy’s talents and abilities, Fran had gone out of her way to give Judy special assignments, including her in all the major planning activities of the department and entrusting her with the administration of certain departmental programs, such as tuition assistance and evaluation follow-through. By now, Judy functioned more as an administrative aide than as a secretary.


Case Study 2. “She’s a Smart Enough Broad”


Case 2

“She’s a Smart Enough Broad”

Background Information

The young man glanced at the nameplate on his desk after closing the file cabinet drawer: James Washington, Center Manager. He leaned against the cabinet for a moment, smiling and thinking.

James really liked the way that title sounded. And why not? He was only 24 years old, had just completed the company’s Management Associate Trainee Program, and had just assumed the manager’s job at the Northview Servicing Center. He was eager to do a good job in this first assignment, and there was a lot about the job that he liked. However, there was one thing he didn’t like, and he could see her through the glass partition of his office, out on the service center’s main floor.

His problem was Dorothy Rogers, or more exactly, the way he felt about her. In his opinion, she was both pushing and resisting him.

Dorothy was something of an established figure at Northview, having worked there for over 12 years as an assistant manager. She was now 59 years old and had dropped hints occasionally about retiring. “If only…,” James thought to himself.


Case Study 3. Improving Performance in Business Services


Case 3

Improving Performance in

Business Services

Background Information

Two years ago, the State Department of Economic Development created the Business Services Group to provide special services to out-of-state businesses that were considering relocating in the state. Another key task of the group was to help those businesses that had recently relocated get settled and operating as quickly as possible. In that two-year period, the Business Services Group put together a good record of helping more than 35 businesses move into the state efficiently.

The Business Services Group was staffed with a complement of a department manager and five business development specialists, along with some secretarial and clerical support. The job of the business development specialists consisted principally of contacting and working with appropriate personnel in each business to identify the kinds of information or help they needed, then making sure that the correct assistance arrived. The specialists also served as “troubleshooters” for the business whenever there were problems with the “bureaucracy.” Specialists were responsible for keeping these businesses happy and efficient. As such, the specialists needed to be imaginative, persistent, and self-driven. Each specialist had a quota of contacts and services to make each month.


Case Study 4. “Looney Tunes on Parade”: Part 1—Getting Started on the Right (or Left?) Foot


Case 4

“Looney Tunes on Parade”:

Part 1—Getting Started on the Right (or Left?) Foot

Background Information

Republic Insurance Company is a regional, all-purpose firm with offices in a threestate area. The central headquarters office houses the staff that plans and controls the field-office operations. Because the company is in such a competitive industry, sales play a very important role in Republic’s efforts.

The group responsible for planning and controlling the sales effort of Republic’s three-state field force is the Strategic Management Division. There are two main components of the Strategic Management Division:

1. The Accounting Department pays the bills and keeps track of the income.

2. The Plans Department does the marketing, product and price studies, profit forecasting, budget planning, and similar duties.

The organizational chart of this Strategic Management Division is shown below. It depicts the structure of the division and the leadership roles within that structure which have a bearing on this case. It also includes the names of the individuals who filled those leadership roles in June 1987, the time at which the events in this case begin.


Case Study 5. “Looney Tunes on Parade”: Part 2—Kicking into Gear


Case 5

“Looney Tunes on Parade”:

Part 2—Kicking into Gear

Background Information

Peter Gilmore, manager, hired David Randle in July 1987, to supervise the Pricing

Unit of Republic Insurance Corporation’s Strategic Management Division. The

Pricing Unit conducted important studies about the competitive posture of Republic’s various policy products. Once David was hired, Peter delegated assignments to

David often and easily. Peter expected these assignments to be completed and returned on a timely basis, although he did not check on progress during the interim.

Flares in the Night

In December 1987, six months after he was hired, things still seemed to be going smoothly for the new supervisor of the Pricing Unit, David Randle—at least on the surface. Nonetheless, Peter Gilmore was feeling uneasy. As he later put it: “It was nothing I could put my finger on exactly. I just didn’t feel comfortable trusting him.” In fact, Peter had been receiving some information about David that was giving him some cause for concern.


Case Study 6. “Looney Tunes on Parade”: Part 3—A Time for Action


Case 6

“Looney Tunes on Parade”:

Part 3—A Time for Action

Background Information

Just over a year after Peter Gilmore hired David Randle to supervise the Pricing

Unit Department of Republic Insurance’s Strategic Management Division, he was faced with a number of problems. The initial period of smooth sailing had deteriorated as revelations about David’s questionable conduct had surfaced. In response to these revelations, Peter completed an appraisal of David’s job performance, warning him that he needed to make improvements in this area. Peter was now watching David closely.

Peter’s new “get-tough” supervisory style yielded a number of results. It was now early July, 1988, and the Life Insurance Line Price Study for which David was responsible was a few months overdue. The head of the Customer Services Division had called Peter last week to ask him where it was. This time, Peter knew to ask

David for it.

David said it would be ready the next day and, sure enough, the following morning it was on Peter’s desk. At an early-morning coffee break, Peter asked Betty


Case Study 7. Mary Corey


Case 7

Mary Corey

Background Information

Mary Corey recently completed her fourth year with Statewide Services Corporation. In her position as customer support specialist, she consistently received high performance evaluations—until recently. Indeed, her most recent evaluation, completed three weeks ago, rated her as “less than satisfactory.” Her supervisor, Helen

Rowe, wondered why this previously strong employee had fallen so quickly.

Helen had just returned from a meeting with her boss, Betty Allen, when again the subject of Mary came up. Betty suggested that Helen look through Mary’s past work records to try to find some clues about what happened and what they should do now.

Helen closed the door to her office, sat at her desk, and pulled Mary’s personnel folder from her desk drawer. As she flipped through the materials in the folder,

Mary’s story came into better focus:

About six months ago, around Christmastime, Mary started taking longer lunch breaks. Given the cramped quarters in which Helen’s Customer Support Department worked and the demanding routines they had to follow, it was easy to notice Mary stretching her regular lunch period by 10 or 15 minutes. Once she even stretched it for a full 25 minutes. Since it was the holiday season, Helen took no specific action. However, her occasional remarks reminding Mary of the lunch break schedules would produce an uncharacteristically evasive, defensive response from Mary. On at least two occasions, she nodded off to sleep at her desk after returning from lunch.


Case Study 8. Shipping and Receiving


Case 8

Shipping and Receiving

Background Information

Midge Watson had been working in the Bookkeeping Department of the Best Fits

Sporting Goods Manufacturing Company for the four years since she graduated from high school. She was bright, attractive, and popular, and had done well in the company, as her recent promotion to senior bookkeeper proved.

One of her new job responsibilities required Midge to go to the warehouse once a week to check on and verify various inventory and shipment information. This meant that she often worked for three or four hours at a time in the Shipping Office.

In order to reduce the noise from the operations around it, the office was completely walled in. On these trips to Shipping, Midge worked closely with the shipping clerk,

Susan Adams. Susan, a veteran employee of ten years with Best Fit, was divorced.

Susan maintained all the shipping and inventory information as it was processed.

Since Midge had never before worked in an actual manufacturing and warehouse operation before, she was nervous at first. However, she was very relieved to find out that Susan was very nice and helpful. Midge found Susan easy to talk to because Susan seemed so interested in what Midge was thinking and doing.


Case Study 9. They Came from Docu-Max


Case 9

They Came from Docu-Max

Background Information

All six individuals in the clerical and correspondence pool were overjoyed when the long-awaited announcement was finally made: Their department would be getting the new Docu-Max Automated Production system. This word processing system was the best in the field and would make everyone’s job easier.

Beverly Marshall, a typist who had entered the department 18 months ago, had worked with a Docu-Max system at her former place of employment. She was particularly looking forward to the semi-private workstations each typist would receive. An attractive 28-year-old mother who had returned to work after her youngest child began school, Beverly liked her work and got along well with her coworkers.

Installation of the system began the week following the announcement, on

Monday and was expected to take a full week to finish. The Docu-Max Corporation assigned three of their installation technicians to do the job. The technicians were men in their mid-thirties. Once the basic plans are agreed to, these men work without any on-site supervision from Docu-Max.


Case Study 10. He’s Just Not the Same


Case 10

He’s Just Not the Same

Background Information

In the same month, Bill Connors turned 47 years old and began the start of his eleventh year with the Bay State Service Corporation. Bay State Service provided various maintenance, cleaning, and repair services for apartment complexes in the greater metropolitan area. Bill had been hired initially to work in the Transportation

Department as a driver. About four years ago, he moved to a job in the mail room.

Even though the mail room job required more lifting and carrying, in Bill’s mind, the salary increase more than justified the added work.

It turned out to be a good move for him. The pay increase really helped, and although the pace was hectic, Bill kept up with the work. His performance was always acceptable; he consistently showed up on time and was always busy.

When on vacation last year, his tenth year with Bay State, Bill injured himself in a nasty fall while hiking during a family camping trip. His family took him directly to the hospital, where an X-ray showed both a broken leg and ankle. The doctor told him he could not return to work until the bones were fully mended, a five-week rest at the minimum. However, just before he was scheduled to go back to work, he called his boss, Ken Pierce, to tell him that since he was still in a lot of pain, the doctor wanted to put a brace on his leg and keep him home a little longer.


Case Study 11. Special Checking Is Handed a Loss


Case 11

Special Checking Is Handed a Loss

Background Information

Sammy Benson supervised the Special Check Sorting Unit of the Greater Downtown Bank and Trust Company for over two years. The Special Check Sorting Unit processed all the “special” checks that came into the bank, such as odd-sized, foreign, or damaged checks. Once the checks were sent to his unit, they were manually interpreted, recorded, entered into the appropriate account transactions, and filed for return.

Sammy supervised three check sorting clerks in his department. These jobs were staffed by relatively untrained, entry-level individuals who had just graduated from high school. People who did well in this unit were often promoted into other positions in the bank. As such, turnover tended to be high and there was a fairly steady stream of employees through this unit.

During the summer, Greater Downtown Bank hired low-income, disadvantaged young people for various jobs throughout the company as part of its Community

Upbeat campaign. To participate in this effort, representatives from the Human


Case Study 12. Beverly Comes Full Circle


Case 12

Beverly Comes Full Circle

Background Information

Beverly Wyman took her job as supervisor very seriously. Though only 33 years old and somewhat new to the company, she liked her work and believed she did a good job. Beverly was in charge of the Consumer Credit Sales Group of the First

Union National Bank. She was in charge of seven credit sales representatives

(CSRs). Her sales group was formed six months ago to aggressively sell and market the bank’s various car, boat, and other personal loans. Beverly was promoted and became group supervisor shortly after the group was started, moving up from an assistant manager’s job in the nearby Credit Analysis Section. Some problems in the Analysis Section kept her there longer than was anticipated, and she joined her sales group after it had already started operating.

Even though she was generally pleased with the progress her sales group was making, she did have a problem: Bob Watson. As she thought back, she knew why this was so painful now.


Case Study 13. It Was Really So Simple


Case 13

It Was Really So Simple

Background Information

Brenda Galway leaned back in her chair, sighed heavily, and slowly rubbed her eyes in big circular motions. “I don’t need all this aggravation,” she thought to herself. She had just finished reviewing the report she had requested from her new employee, Bill

Stanley. The entire report was incorrect and would have to be redone.

Brenda supervised Unit B of the Audit Department. The Unit B team had earned the nickname of the “Mod Squad” because the team was given unusual, special audit assignments that cropped up. Unit B also had ongoing audit duties over certain operations departments within the company. The five auditing specialists in

Unit B had to complete certain reports every month on those operational units.

Normally, this workload was manageable enough. Unfortunately, this was not one of those times.

About three weeks ago, Brenda’s manager, John Rockland, gave her a major project to complete in three weeks. The “rush priority” nature of the project stemmed from the decision of the company’s Executive Management Committee to implement a new type of auditing procedure and install a program. In large part, this meant adapting to an automated information system. Currently, most of the information the company needed and used was being collected and processed manually.


Case Study 14. Pain in Claims


Case 14

Pain in Claims

Background Information

Sandy Jones supervises a clerical and secretarial pool of eight employees at the

American Standard Insurance Company. Her group is responsible for typing and filing the insurance claims and registrations for Standard’s customers in the Southern region. It is high-volume work that, although requiring speed and accuracy, is often tedious.

Sandy is proud of her unit because they get the work done well. Generally, Sandy enjoys her job and likes the people she works with. Most of her subordinates are young women who recently graduated from high school, some from the same school. By and large, this is their first regular job.

Sandy has one headache, though, and that headache is Katherine Bruskowicz.

Katherine is a very good worker, perhaps quicker and more accurate than anyone else in the unit. She learned the job very quickly and now finishes her work before the others. The only problem with Katherine, as Sandy told a friend at lunch one day, is that “she’s just a pain in the ass.”


Case Study 15. Don’t Let Her Get Behind You


Case 15

Don’t Let Her Get Behind You

Part 1—Making Adjustments—NOT!

Background Information

Lynecia Jackson was a supervisor of the Secretarial Support Unit in Monumental

Services Corporation. The primary responsibility of her unit was to provide secretarial support to the three groups making up the Administrative Support Division: the Property Services, Purchasing, and Auditing departments (see the organizational chart below).

Administrative Support Division

(Bud Fuller)

Property Services

(Helen Mahan)



(Jerry Corder)





(Lynecia Jackson)

(Betty Rolander)

Lynecia supervised the four secretaries in the unit, and during her first year as supervisor, she had to face a major personnel problem with Betty Rolander. Betty,

28, had been with Monumental for almost six years, holding various clerical and secretarial positions during her career there.

Betty had a “bad attitude” problem that drove Betty crazy: Betty was haughty, abrasive, and even antagonistic when dealing with other people. For example, when


Case Study 16. Kathy Showers


Case 16

Kathy Showers

Background Information

Gene Jenkins has been acting supervisor of the Accounts Servicing Department of

Wilson’s for the past two months. Wilson’s is one of the premier department store chains in the region, and the Accounts Servicing Department is responsible for maintaining, updating, and adjusting the credit accounts of Wilson’s 20,000 charge customers. Gene was moved into this position after the previous supervisor left abruptly in anticipation of a reorganization. Gene was told to keep the operation running until final decisions about a reorganization could be made.

There are four account service representatives in the department. All four are women in their mid to late 20s. They have been in the department for an average of five years. Each representative is responsible for approximately 5,000 accounts. In order to complete their duties, they must often deal with other employees throughout the chain of stores as well as with the customers themselves. Thus, in addition to the skills needed to manage, adjust, and service the accounts, the “reps” must be very polite and tactful when talking with others.


Case Study 17. Forgetting Claims


Case 17

Forgetting Claims

Background Information

Betty Warren, 36, has been supervisor of the Claims Adjustment Unit for the State

Department of Unemployment Insurance for over two and a half years. The Claims

Adjustment Unit is responsible for processing claimant appeals concerning either incorrect payments or administrative judgments made on their application.

Although the work was often frustrating and difficult, Betty nonetheless enjoyed her job and her work until June Williams joined the unit. That is why the current situation with June is so irritating to Betty.

When the department went through a cost-cutting reorganization not long ago,

Betty inherited June Williams, a 54-year-old employee who had been with the agency for over 28 years. June was pleasant enough to work with and could do certain parts of her job fairly well, but, as Betty came to discover, she just could not seem to master one of the key tasks of the unit that all employees needed to know: how to complete the Adjustment Determination Form 1293.


Case Study 18. Answering the Phone


Case 18

Answering the Phone

Background Information

Jim Mullens likes supervising the Customer Service Unit. This unit is responsible for updating customer accounts and files as well as for providing information to customers and other employees. Typically, the customer service representatives

(CSRs) he supervises answer questions about the services offered, provide information about the customer’s account, and modify the files so that they are up-to-date and correct. This unit was formed only recently, to handle the increasing volume of direct customer calls more efficiently by using the newly installed online customer information system.

Unfortunately, planning for the new unit was not done well. The online computer system was purchased and installed before the actual operations people were brought in. As a result, Jim was given the responsibility for getting the unit up and running within one week. He had to make some quick personnel selections and take care of a lot of administrative details within a short period of time.


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