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A Leadership Challenge

Information about case

Mary Herzen could not have been happier when she was hired to
supervise the Patient Services Department at North side Hospital.
At age 45, Mary had been in various patient and bookkeeping
capacities for more than 15 years, and she enjoyed both the work
and supervising others. This new opportunity came at a perfect
time: Just three months earlier, she had lost her job as part of a gen-
eral reorganization at Central Hospital.
As Patient Services supervisor, Mary oversaw a department
made up of a senior services representative and two service reps. It
had taken five months to fill the position. The delay was caused in
part by the internal job-posting process of notifying and
interviewing internal applicants before advertising outside the
Two North side employees had applied. Both worked in the
Patient Services Department. Juanita Ramirez, 32, had been with
North side for 10 years. She was the senior services rep, with over
eight years experience in this department. Sue Williamson, at 26,
had less time with North side and, therefore, less experi-
ence in the function. Although both were interviewed for the
position, neither were seen as strong enough candidates for
When Mary arrived for work on the first day, she met her
boss, Chris Sapiro, after completing the new employee paperwork
in Personnel. Chris was the one who had interviewed Mary and
decided to hire her.
After going over some general guidelines and providing further
details about the department and its personnel, Chris mentioned to
Mary that two of her employees had applied for her job.
Chris continued: "I just mention that because there could be a
possible problem with Juanita. I don't know, she might be
resentful. Handle it the way you see best."
Chris then took her to the Patient Services Department, where
he introduced her to the other employees and showed her the office.
Mary began to settle in.
Later that afternoon, Mary set up individual meetings with each
of the employees. She wanted to get to know them personally, learn
what their job duties were and how they did their jobs. All the
meetings went smoothly except the one with Juanita.
Mary could tell from the start that there would be difficulties.
Juanita came in reluctantly, sat down, and did not look at Mary.
Her crossed arms and unyielding stare at the ceiling conveyed the
message: "Don't mess with me."
Mary was barely able to get complete sentences from Juanita in
response to her questions.
Mary tried to press Juanita on what her job duties and
responsibilities were. After a few vague replies and more questions,
Juanita said: "Look, I've told you what I do. It's your job to tell me
what to do. I don't know beyond that."
This kind of exchange went on a little longer, until Mary
finally said: "Juanita, if this is as well as we are going to
communicate, we're going to have some real problems."
That seemed to catch Juanita's attention .
"Don't try to frighten me," Juanita replied tensely. Juanita was
clearly chewing over something in her mind.
Mary paused, unsure of what to say next .
"The only reason you got this job is because you're Anglo,"
Juanita finally said. "I should have had that job. This hospital is
afraid to promote a Chicano into management."
Juanita halted for a moment, her bottom lip starting to quiver.
She began crying.
"I've been discriminated against You're the boss. You're
the one who's supposed to know it all. I'm not going to answer any
more of your dumb questions. You tell me what I'm supposed to


1. How should Mary respond to the issues

Juanita is raising?
2. What are some general issues new managers
and supervisors may face when assuming
responsibility for a new job?
A Leadership Challenge
Mary Herzen felt lucky to be hired for the supervisory position in the Patient
Services Department at Northside Hospital. She had lost a similar job at Central
Hospital three months earlier. Chris Sapiros was Mary's boss and had con-
ducted the selection process. It took him five months to fill the position as a re -
sult of the internal job-announcement and job-interviewing procedures.
Two employees in the Patient Services Department had applied for the su-
pervisory job: Juanita Ramirez, 32, who had been in the department for eight
years, and Sue Williamson, 26, who had less experience. Both were rejected be-
cause they were not seen as strong enough to be promoted.
Chris told Mary about this when he met with her on Mary's first day on the
job. He suggested that Juanita might be a problem and told Mary to handle it the
way she saw best. He then took her to the department, introduced her to the
staff, and left her to settle in.
Later that day, Mary held meetings with each of her new employees. The
meeting with Juanita turned out as predicted: She was defensive, uncommunica-
tive, and noncommittal. For example, Mary wanted to learn what Juanita's job
duties were, but could not get adequate replies. Finally, in exasperation, Juanita
began arguing that it was Mary's job to tell Juanita what to do. Mary replied
that they would have problems if this was as well as they were going to commu-
nicate. Juanita then told Mary that she had not been promoted because she was
Hispanic, and accused the hospital of discrimination. She began to cry and said
she was not going to answer any more questions.
Answers to Case Questions
1. How should Mary respond to the issues Juanita is raising?
Mary cannot say whether in fact Juanita is correct or incorrect in her be-
lief that she was a victim of discrimination. It is a discussion that Mary
cannot win. Furthermore, she cannot prevent Juanita from taking action on
her complaint if she wishes to do so. Mary therefore should not try to
argue with Juanita. Indeed, Mary might simply say something to the ef-
fect that she cannot respond to Juanita's opinion but finds it difficult to
believe that there was discrimination.
Instead, Mary does need to deal directly with Juanita's intransigence and
belligerence. Mary should pause until Juanita is composed, then tackle
this matter head on. She should make it clear to Juanita that although she
cannot talk about the discrimination matter, she is concerned about
Juanita's current behavior. She should indicate that she expects employ-
ees to be forthcoming in dealing with her, just as she wants to be open
with them. That is, she should establish a standard of how she wants to be
treated by her employees. She should share any other information about
how she will supervise.
She should then indicate that while Juanita's behavior is perhaps under-
standable, given her beliefs, it is nonetheless unacceptable. She should
indicate that there can be serious problems if Juanita decides to follow a
course of action like this. She should present Juanita with a decision
about how Juanita wants to proceed. She should then tell Juanita that
they will meet again tomorrow, at which time Mary will expect a deci-
sion from Juanita.

2. What are some general issues new managers and supervisors may face
when assuming responsibility for a new job?
There are several common issues facing people when they move into a
management or supervisory job. These are issues beyond the traditional
orientation concerns facing any new employee.
First, there is the issue of understanding what the structure of the unit is:
Who is doing what? Second, there is a concern about evaluating both the
functions of the unit and the personnel involved. Third, the new manager is
interested in learning about any specific problems or opportunities
needing quick response. Fourth, the new manager is concerned about
how to begin influencing employees to receive results in line with his or
her goals and priorities.

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