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The Scenario

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Your student team is a human resource consulting group, T&D Consulting (T&DC). T&DC has been asked to assist Company XYZ with some employee concerns. The in-house human resources team was recently downsized, and the remaining director of HR (Genevieve Lesst) has hired your team to assist. Your job is to review the situation, consult with each other openly, and then provide recommendations. Director Lesst has asked for a full recommendation from each of you singly, not just one from the team, because she wants to review all of your solution ideas and pick from them. Further, she wants to watch your consultation process and method, because she feels this will give her better insights as to which approach will work the best. She is also considering whether to hire your group for a longer term project in the future.

For this project, you are provided background on four employees who have moderate to serious performance issues. She wants your suggestions on how to assist them, because there are legal, ethical, and workload concerns at this time, and termination is not an option for any of the four for reasons that may make sense to you soon.

Employee #1 and Employee #2

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Jerry Dial and Francesca Corlione: International Accounting Department

Jerry Dial is 35 years old and is the vice president of the International Accounting Department, reporting to Betty Farragher, group vice president of accounting. Betty reports to the CFO, and both Betty and the CFO are frustrated with Jerry’s productivity over the past few years. They feel that they should not toss him out yet. Jerry is the son of the CFO’s best friend and fraternity brother, and Jerry practically grew up in the CFO’s house.

Jerry started working for XYZ 14 years ago directly after graduating from Penn State with a degree in accounting. He earned his CPA soon thereafter. He moved up the ladder of management quite quickly, becoming the director of international accounting at age 28. When all director positions were retitled vice president in 2008, Jerry became the company’s youngest VP. While working at XYZ, Jerry also got a master’s degree in business administration (MBA), for which the company paid.

In 2009, Jerry was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and took FMLA leave for 6 weeks. When Jerry returned, his production level markedly decreased, and his personality had changed from being a driven but easy-to-get-along-with kind of guy to cynical, snappish, and often overwhelmed. His role requires long hours and frequent travel. His illness has impacted his ability to travel, so in line with his authority as VP, he has delegated a good portion of the travel to a member of his team, Francesca Corlione. Jerry manages a department of 25 accountants, three of whom are direct reports to him; those three manage the others. Francesca manages 10 accountants, and her frequent travel means that her team sees her very little. Her team members have a lot more free time and flexibility than the other two teams do. When she is out of the office, she has one of her folks “oversee her flock,” as she puts it, and most of them goof off.

Francesca enjoys travel, perhaps a bit too much, because she spends a great deal of her work trips shopping and seeing the sights, and a few of XYZ’s global partners and foreign department heads are complaining that she is very hard to pin down when she is in their locations. Francesca was selected for this role because her ability to speak multiple languages makes it possible to send her overseas without an interpreter, which saves the company considerably; thus, Jerry has overlooked her penchant for play. Further, Jerry is concerned that if he comes down too hard on Francesca, the travel role will fall back to him, and his wife has forbidden him to travel more than once a year as his doctor has recommended. Even that trip seems to set him back in his treatments and condition’s stability each year.

Francesca is 38 years old and has an associate’s degree in accounting and bachelor’s degrees in Chinese, French, and German. She also has her CPA license, although the license lapsed last year due to her not completing her continuing education requirements. (One of the company requirements for all senior level accounting employees is that they have valid, current CPA licenses from at least one state in the United States or an equivalent license from a foreign country.) The company pays for all continuing education requirements for required licensing.

The HR director is mainly concerned because the project Francesca and Jerry are working on with their global partners and foreign departments is behind schedule—seriously behind schedule. The entire company is trying to switch from the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) to Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) methods. The goal was to have the entire accounting system shifted by 6 months ago, and the board of directors is concerned. It appears the entire project may need to be restarted. Due to Jerry’s illness and Francesca’s knack for finding other things to focus on besides work and school, neither of them is up to speed on the changes, and it is time to get things redirected. Further, as a result of the HR department’s downsizing, no performance appraisals have been done for the last 3 years, and Jerry’s other two direct reports are starting to threaten to quit. Each has filed confidential complaints with the HR department because Francesca is not managing her team (because she is doing Jerry’s work) and her team is not doing its share of work.

Your consulting group has been asked to come up with some solutions and ideas on getting this project and department back on track through training and/or development of Jerry and Francesca.

Employees #3 and Employee #4

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Sara Sigfried and Harry S. Potterfield

Sara Sigfried, assistant vice president, was recently promoted to take over the customer service department of XYZ. The customer service department has five divisions: (1) online chat, (2) call center, (3) store-based live, (4) online returns, and (5) vendor warranty interface. Each of the divisions has a manager who reports to Sara, and all are stationed throughout the country in one of the company’s headquarters.

Sara works from the home office, which is located in Pittsburgh, PA. The head of online chat, Frank Doughboy, works from home (remotely) and lives in dual locations—in the summer he lives in North Dakota and in the winter he lives in the Bahamas. One of the drawbacks to his working from the Bahamas is that the Internet there can be somewhat iffy. When he is down, it makes working with him quite difficult, although he does have an iPhone and an iPad, which are typically able to access cellular networks. He has 20 employees scattered throughout the country who are all part-time and all work remotely. The online chat team has a benchmark metric process, and the team has not met their goal numbers this year. Sara and Frank have a very close working relationship because Sara used to work for Frank, and every year she has spent her 3 weeks of vacation with him in the Bahamas. Her promotion meant that Frank did not have to consider relocating to Pittsburgh, for which he is very thankful. It also means she has 6 weeks of vacation now and plans to spend it, free of charge each year, staying with Frank in the Bahamas. Sara’s boss is starting to come down on her for Frank’s team’s metrics. A meeting is scheduled regarding the same in a few weeks for Sara’s boss, the HR director, and Sara to discuss.

The call center head, Melissa Mayweather, is a new hire and is the boss of Harry S. Potterfield. Melissa inherited the problem of Harry S. and has asked HR for some help. She wanted to fire him right away, but Harry was involved in a harassment situation earlier in the year before Melissa was hired, and the HR director said that she is concerned Harry will sue the company (and potentially win) if he is fired at this time. Melissa’s predecessor was an outspoken homophobe who bullied Harry (an openly gay man who lives with a domestic partner, a prominent local lawyer) and who permitted others on the team to bully him as well. After Harry filed a complaint with the EEOC and an investigation ensued, Harry’s previous boss retired suddenly and Melissa took over the team.

Since filing the complaint (and receiving a confidential settlement with the company), Harry has been very critical of the company publicly on social media sites and has also started openly speaking with union representatives to discuss unionizing the call center operation. For the last 6 months, Harry has badmouthed the company on customer service calls and has been openly rude to customers who call, including hanging up on a few who were immediately irate when he answered the phone. Part of the call center job duties are to warmly transfer calls to other departments when absolutely necessary, but the call center staff are supposed to try to handle issues up front when possible and only escalate when the content of the call is beyond the knowledge or skills of the call center person.

The service level agreement for call center staff is to handle all calls deemed minimal concern within 3 minutes, billing concerns within 5 minutes, and technical concerns within 10 minutes. Harry has met his time requirements all year, but by listening to recorded calls (which Melissa implemented for quality control purposes in the past few months), it has been determined that Harry meets these goals by disconnecting the calls 30 seconds before his required times are up. He also refuses to give out his badge number when asked by customers.

Harry (and the rest of the team) knows that Melissa implemented the recorded call requirement recently but figured she would not have time to listen to the calls. Unbeknownst to the team, she hired her son as an intern recently and has had him listening to all calls and determining issues in the department. Her son is 16 years old and a high school junior, but he is very bright. The HR director is somewhat concerned because her daughter goes to school with Melissa’s son, and he has been heard discussing with his friends at school many of the details he hears on the recordings and has talked about Harry in a derogatory fashion. He told one of his friends (who told Director Lesst’s daughter) that he heard Harry calling one of the customers a “B-word” on one of the calls. The HR director has asked your team to keep this information confidential and not share it with any of the employees, because she is concerned it could create more liability issues for the company.

Questions to Consider

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Please consider the following issues when posting.

  1. Consider what other information the team might want to have to assist with the process, the manner in which you may want to go about collecting more information, and the steps of doing so. You may want to discuss this in your feedback loops and first posts.
  2. You will need to make all recommendations based on the information provided here.
  3. You have all training and development tools you can think of at your disposal for suggestions.
  4. If you decide to use a performance improvement plan for any of the four employees, be sure to include the details (at least in outline form) in the suggestion. (It is likely that at least one employee needs a PIP.)
  5. Be sure to only make suggestions for the four employees listed in the problem. Remember that you are paid contractors and Director Lesst is watching your interaction in the consulting thread.
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