Case 16
Kathy Showers
Background Information
Gene Jenkins has been acting supervisor of the Accounts Servicing Department of
Wilson’s for the past two months. Wilson’s is one of the premier department store
chains in the region, and the Accounts Servicing Department is responsible for
maintaining, updating, and adjusting the credit accounts of Wilson’s 20,000 charge
customers. Gene was moved into this position after the previous supervisor left
abruptly in anticipation of a reorganization. Gene was told to keep the operation
running until final decisions about a reorganization could be made.
There are four account service representatives in the department. All four are
women in their mid to late 20s. They have been in the department for an average of
five years. Each representative is responsible for approximately 5,000 accounts. In
order to complete their duties, they must often deal with other employees through-
out the chain of stores as well as with the customers themselves. Thus, in addition
to the skills needed to manage, adjust, and service the accounts, the “reps” must be
very polite and tactful when talking with others.
Before being promoted into his current supervisory capacity, Gene worked as a
rep for three years. During that time, he mastered the job and knew that with a little
concentration and discipline, it could be both challenging and satisfying. Therefore,
he could not quite understand Kathy Showers.
Kathy, 27 and single, has been in the department for a little more than two years.
During that time, she learned the job well. She can process the paperwork quickly
and without error and, indeed, will often finish her work before anyone else.
Because Kathy commutes to work over a long distance via public transit, she often
arrives early. This explains in part why she finishes her work ahead of time: she
frequently starts working a half-hour early.
In spite of a good record, though, Kathy’s performance has started to slip
recently. In fact, Kathy has become a big problem for Gene since he became acting
supervisor. As one of her coworkers put it when complaining about Kathy the other
day: “She’s enough to drive you crazy.”
Kathy has become very unpredictable and moody. When a customer or coworker
irritates her, her first reaction is to give everyone the silent treatment. Since her
behavior is so obvious and affects everyone who works in the same office space
with her, the tension level in the office has risen significantly. When dealing with
customers or other employees over the phone, she tends to be abrupt and curt to the
point of being rude. Or, when she must deal in person with someone, she will often
sigh impatiently as the person approaches her desk or simply continue talking on
the phone while they wait. Gene has started receiving complaints from both cus-
tomers and coworkers about this. And when she becomes really upset, she loses all
control, shouting and sometimes swearing to whomever is nearby.
50 Case Studies for Management and Supervisory Training
Case 16 (continued)
The problem seems to stem from Kathy’s boyfriend. Gene learns from some of
his coworkers that she makes personal phone calls to him several times during the
day. On a number of different occasions, she has ended the phone conversation by
yelling into, then slamming down, the phone. She then will jump up from her desk
and leave for a long time, and when she returns, she will cry very easily when asked
where she has been.
Some of the other employees in the department now “walk on tiptoes” around
her, while a few others enjoy fighting with her. Although things are far from
smooth and harmonious in the unit, Gene knows that something must be done but is
not sure how to proceed.
1. Is there a problem?
2. What should Gene do?

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