The Case of the Complacent Employee—Case for Chapter 12
Sharon B. Buchbinder
It was the end of an exhausting Wednesday for Bob Miller. He had spent all day with a 10-year-old girl who kept saying she was going home and taking all the pills she could find to kill herself. He had kept talking with her, trying to determine what had triggered this response, as he’d simultaneously searched for her mother by phone. When the mother had arrived at his office, panic-stricken and crying, she had also been in need of support. It was four o’clock by the time the mother and daughter left. Now he had to document everything.
Bob looked up from the pile of papers on his desk as his office door opened. His boss stood there in her signature lime green suit, looking grim.
“Harriet! What brings you out today?”
She closed the door and looked around the cramped office.
“Do you have a chair, Bob? It would be good if I could sit down and chat with you.”
“Um, sure, hold on a minute.”
Bob stood up and grabbed a pile of papers off the threadbare visitor’s chair. “There you go.”
This couldn’t be good. Not only were Harriet’s visits rare, but when she did appear at Louisa May Alcott Elementary School, they were always grab-and-grins, and then out she went. This was the first time she’d ever sat down in his broom closet of an office.
“So, Bob, how are you doing?” Her eyes bored into his head.
“Well, you know, we’re really busy here. Lots of kids with problems, families in crises, almost nonexistent support systems, no money, no resources, the usual.”
Harriet nodded, still staring at Bob.
Sweat trickled down his back. The office air-conditioner had broken two weeks before. He’d meant to write up a work order but had been too busy. Today, for certain, after Harriet left, he was doing it.
“Bob, I feel really badly about this, and it’s not as if we haven’t given it a lot of thought. Administration has decided to cut your position.”
“There doesn’t seem to be enough work here for a full-time child psychologist, Bob. This school will be covered part-time by a psychologist from Melville Middle School.”
This can’t be happening to me, Bob thought. I’ve fallen asleep at my desk and I’m having a nightmare. He pinched his leg under the desk. Nope. That hurt.
“I’ve been overworked here from day one,” Bob said. “I never leave here before six o’clock. The principal told me the teachers and the kids love me! How did administration make this decision?”
“Remember those e-mails we sent out, asking you to complete those workload reports? You never answered them.”
“Who has time to fill out workload reports when a suicidal child is sitting in your office, crying her heart out?”
“How about the monthly forms we asked you to complete, describing the population you serve and the kinds of problems you’re seeing?”
“I have a hard enough time trying to keep up with the Medicaid paperwork so we can get some kind of reimbursement for the work I do here!”
“And, the newsletter, Bob? We never got any submissions from you.”
“That piece of trash?”
Harriet flinched. “Some people think it’s a very important form of communication for our school mental health professionals.”
Bob had forgotten Harriet was the editor of “that piece of trash.”
“Have you spoken to the principal? She loves me,” he said. “The teachers love me. The kids love me! What are they going to do without me?”
“Principal Daniels did tell me she thought you were working hard, Bob. But, she also said she had no idea how many kids you were seeing, or how often. She said you pretty much kept to yourself.”
“Kept to myself? Yeah, you could say that! I’m up to my eyeballs in work, I spend every day with kids in crisis, the most emotionally draining work in the world, and I have an air-conditioner that died two weeks ago! When I eat lunch, it’s at my desk, because I’m trying to keep up with the paperwork between crying, screaming kids, or being pulled into classrooms to help with a crisis, or to evaluate kids that teachers are worried about. Keep to myself? I can’t even find myself!”
“I’m sorry, Bob. It’s nothing personal.”
Harriet stood to leave and Bob jumped to his feet.
“Why didn’t you say something sooner? I’ve been doing my job! What could I have done differently?”
Whose responsibility should it be to complete those reports? Explain your answer.
Is Bob right? Was he really doing his job? Provide a rationale for your answer.
Describe what Bob should have done differently.
Did Harriet handle this termination properly? Explain your answer.
What part did Harriet play in this scenario? Is she a good manager? Provide a rationale for your responses.