Designers involved in the development of “modular furniture”. A young and dynamic person by the name of Martin Starker was chosen for the newly created position. Starker was well respected in the industry for his designing ability, and had come to the company with excellent credentials. It was believed that he would bring new vitality to the group and would be responsible for the training of his workers. It was also expected that his work group would gradually increase in size, as there appeared to b a strong demand for the kind of furniture they were designing .
In the ewe organizational structure, Starker was responsible to Gilbert for his work, but as usual he would have free access to Carson, the head of the department. It was assumed that the other employees would report directly to Gilbert and also receive their instructions from him. During the next two years, some interesting practices and patterns of relationships developed in this organization. While it was understood that some of the employees would report to Gilbert and some to Starker, it did not seem to work that way in practice.
The designers had acquired the habit of keeping in touch with Carson for almost everything they did and they looked to her for all sorts of decisions. They even approached Carson with relatively insignificant work-related problems that could have been handled by Gilbert or Starker. The six designers working under Starker kept on going to Carson for every little detail. With the best of intentions, or perhaps for expediency, Carson went along with this by resolving their problems. Carson never turned the designers away or referred them to the supervisors concerned.
Perhaps because he had been hired by Carson, or, more likely, because e was easier to talk to, Starker also frequently approached Carson directly with his problems, rather than going to Gilbert. As time passed, Gilbert began to show signs of resentment towards Carbon’s policy of discussing work with the designers, but he never lodged a formal protest or confronted Carson. Since Starker was fairly new to the company, he preferred to lie low and adopt a do-nothing approach. In fact, he had never seriously tried to assert his position as a supervisor, except recently when he had a showdown with his group, who were now openly defying his authority.
As a result of this incident, Carson arranged a meeting attended by the six designers, Starker, Gilbert and herself. During the meeting, Starker was accused by the designers of not being around when help was needed. They also complained that Starker had made very little effort to train them in design techniques. Two of them complained of not getting straight answers from him to many of the questions they had raised in the past. Starker responded by saying that he was involved with a lot of other work, which caused him to overlook some of the immediate routine activities.
He apologized to the team and promised to develop a “think tank” type of training program for his designers. Starker took a defensive approach during this confrontation. Strangely enough, Gilbert never said a word. Carson pointed out to the designers that, in accordance with the organizational structure, they were responsible to Starker and they should go to him with their problems. It was also suggested by Carson that another meeting should be arranged to be attended by the remaining employees, Gilbert and Carson, so that the departmental policies could be clarified with them. D informed Carson that the company would soon undertake a major expansion program, creating an additional position for a vice president. The president had made it clear that he would like Carson to take over the new position. But Carson realized that if she were to move into the vice president’s office, a gap would be created in the design department, because in her estimation Gilbert was not ready to assume the responsibility of department head. Carson felt that Gilbert had lately become quite uninvolved and uninterested in the affairs of the department.
It was Carson herself who was dealing with all of the administrative work as well as carrying out the necessary supervision of the employees. The only things that Gilbert attended to were those of a semi-clerical nature and, on occasion, answering simple questions raised by some of the customers, It seemed to Carson that, because of Gilbert’s apathetic attitude, the employees preferred to come directly to her. Also, they seemed to be quite satisfied with the answers she gave them.. However, Carson was now spending too much time supervising the tasks being reformed by various people in the design department.
In fact, some of them should have been dealt with by Gilbert and some by Starker. Together these two should have run most of the departmental activities, leaving Carson free to attend to other developmental work. Carson realized that there was something wrong with the organization of this department, and some action had to be taken. She decided to have a quiet chat with Gilbert and Starker to remind them of their main responsibilities and of the fact that the morale of the entire department was being effected.
She told them over coffee to assert the necessary authority over their subordinates and insist that they come to them for instructions and decisions and not to her. Both the supervisors gave certain reasons for their present dilemma or predicament and promised to put things right for the future. Over the next few months, Carson failed to perceive any change in the prevailing practice followed by the design employees, nor did she notice any change in the attitudes of Gilbert and Starker.
Employees continued to come directly to Carson, and hen she tried to discourage them, they explained that they had come to her after failing to get a satisfactory answer from the supervisor. Motivation and morale had gone down considerably in the past few weeks. It was virtually impossible for Carson to deal with her own departmental work, which had been increasing all the time, and to relate to market developments and at the same time be involved in organizational changes. She had to make her choice now and set priorities that would be acceptable to her as well as to others.
She had to encourage Gilbert to use discretion and take control. She had to also ensure that Starker, a brilliant man in many ways, would come up to his expectations as well as to the expectations of his subordinates. Both these men had to perform as supervisors or team leaders by taking the initiative, demonstrating ambition, and making decisions. Carson knew well that there was no lack of technical knowledge on the part of these two; they had the ability. But did they have the will power? If things remained unchanged, it would not be possible for Carson to move up to the new position likely to be open soon.