Reference no: EM132184563
Mary Corey recently completed her fourth year with statewide Services Corporation. In her position as costumer support specialist, she consistently received high performance evaluations-until recently. Indeed, her most recent evaluation, completed three weeks ago, rated her as “Her supervisor, Helen Rowe, wondered why this previously strong employee had fallen so quickly.”
Helen had just returned from 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, ls, around Christmastime, Mary’s started taking longer lunch breaks. Given the cramped quarters in which Helen’s Customer Support Department work and 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 returning from lunch.
In January and February, she was 10 to 20 minutes late for work on six different days and called in sick on four other days. It was this time that Mary’s dealing with her coworkers deteriorated. Normally quit yet sociable, Mary’s became increasingly short tempered and given to periodic outburst of anger belligerence. Since Mary’s 36, was a single mother of two teenage girls, almost everyone in the office assumed there was something going on at home.
On February 23rd, though, things took a disturbing turn. Mary left for lunch at her usual time, but did not return. She called in three hours later to say she had gone home because she had suddenly become ill. Her speech seemed slurred, somehow not quite right. She returned to work two days later, with a doctor’s note explaining she had been sick with a stomach flu.
Nonetheless, the pattern of lateness continued. Two weeks later, Helen gave Mary her first written disciplinary notice regarding her attendance and punctuality. During the discussion, Mary confessed to Helen: “I know I’ve been a little different recently. I’m just having some problems at home with my children. “She didn’t elaborate, and Helen didn’t’ probe. For the next few weeks, Mary was on time every day and rarely left her desk during working hours. Her level of performance improved, as did her interaction with coworkers.
By April, however, Helen noticed Mary slipping back into her negative habits of lateness and irritability. Helen began to notice something else in Mary’s after-lunch behavior: She seemed to have real difficulty completing her work, making decisions, and solving problems. On one occasion there was a big argument between her and several coworkers. Mary went home, claiming she was “too upset to work.’’ She continued coming in late to work and was absent on two successive Mondays. However, after each absence, she produced a doctor’s excuse.
In early May, Helen issued a second written warning, this one concerning not only Mary’s punctuality and attendance, but also her deteriorating work performance. At this time, Helen made it clear that Mary’s continued employment was on the line: “I don’t know what’s going on, but you’re in danger of losing your job. I’ve tried to be understanding, but I’m losing my patience. You need to get straightened up and soon, or I’ll have no choice but to let you go.”
During the following weeks, Mary again improved her productivity and performance. She was obviously concerned about losing her job. By mid-July it was time for her formal performance evaluation. Although her evaluation was “less than satisfactory,” Helen did note that there had been some improvement in all areas recently.
Then, last week, the bottom fell out. On July 23rd, Mary returned from lunch 45 minutes late, glassy-eyed and weaving slightly, fumbling with things and smelling strongly of peppermint. She sat at her desk for a full 20 minutes, rummaging through drawer, moving paper, nodding, spilling things, and creating quite a distraction among the other employees.
Helen came to her desk: Mary, what’s the matter here? Something’s wrong, and you don’t seem able to work at all. Are you ill? Can you work? Are you drunk? Tell me right now!”
Mary slowly looked up, taking a while to focus on Helen. After what seemed like a minute or so, during which time she appeared to be again listening to Helen’s remarks, Mary burst into tears. She grabbed her purse, pushed and stumbled pas Helen, and left.
The next day, one of Mary’s children called in, saying Mary couldn’t work because she was “in bed sick” Helen checked and Mary had only three remaining days of accrued sick leave available to her.
Mary did not return to work until today. She went to the ladies room for an hour. When she emerged, she went into Helen’s office and asked for an immediate transfer to some other department “where the pressure isn’t so great.” She seemed very agitated and would not look Helen in the eye. Helen told her to return to her desk and pick up on her work as well as she could until Helen could look into things more closely.
It was then that Helen met with her boss, Betty Alden. They were trying to decide what to do.
In thinking about where things stood now, Helen knew that Mary’s presence in the unit was becoming a source of contention and disgruntlement. Everyone knew that she had some kind of problem, and most people thought it was due to drugs or alcohol, or both, although no one had ever personally seen her use or abuse either. Since her work was now so erratic, the other employees in the unit had to regularly back up her work by either finishing it or correcting it. She seemed to have no remorse about her conduct and could not presently be counted on to make an effort to correct it.
Helen wanted to fire her. As she explained to Betty: “When she’s here, she fights with everyone, and I’ve never sure when she’s coming to work or how long she’ll stay. She’s hopeless. I hate to do this, but she has screwed up just too much.
Betty, as unit manager, could see that a previously valued and productive member of her department had for some reason, fallen well below accepted work standards. Both Betty and Hellen believed there must be some serious, extenuating circumstances affecting Mary, although they didn’t know for certain what it was. Betty was concerned whether there could be any legal problems in firing someone in this condition. Betty reminded Helen that the company did have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and wondered whether they should try to involve Mary in the EAP before taking further action.
1. What do you think is causing some of the problems in the company? Do you think transfering Mary to another Department would help solve the problem?
2. Identify at least two specific functions of HRM that are invoved in the case and explain their involvement.