Management Skills for Supervisors

Management Skills for Supervisors

Case #1 -The E-Mail Firestorm

Purpose: This case is intended to help you identify obstacles to effective interpersonal communication and applying principles of supportive communication.Step 1: Read the following email message sent by a CEO to 400 company managers at a high tech company called Cerner:

“We are getting less than 40 hours of work from a large number of our K.C.-based EMPLOYEES. The parking lot is sparsely used at 8 A.M.; likewise at 5 P.M. As managers—you either do not know what your EMPLOYEES are doing; or you do not CARE. You have created expectations on the work effort that allowed this to happen inside Cerner, creating a very unhealthy environment. In either case, you have a problem and you will fix it or I will replace you. NEVER in my career have I allowed a team that worked for me to think they had a 40-hour job. I have allowed YOU to create a culture that is permitting this. NO LONGER.”

The above email messages goes on to list six potential consequences for not having the company parking lot mostly full at 7:30 A.M. and 6:30 P.M. on weekdays. It also sets a deadline of two weeks for managers to make changes.

Step 2:  You are one of the managers receiving this communication and answer the following questions:

  1. What do you think the CEO expected to achieve by sending this message? Do you agree with the CEO’s focus on the parking lot as a reflection of work commitment and productivity? Explain your answer.
  2. Did you react with defensiveness or disconfirmation to this message? Explain your answer.
  3. In this situation, what effect do you think your reaction had on your ability to listen? Explain your answer.
  4. Do you think this message conformed to the principles of supportive communication? Explain your answer and refer to specific attributes in your answer.

Step 3: After the email was sent, someone from the company posted it on the Internet and the company’s stock dropped by 22% in three days.  The CEO quickly sent out an e-mail apology, saying he was exaggerating to drive home his point and only wanted to spark discussion of the issues. Now you are the CEO and answer the following questions:

  1. Is this situation an opportunity for coaching or for counseling? Explain your answer.
  2. How might you have used descriptive communication to highlight the issues in this situation?
  3. How might you have used validating communication to encourage understanding, flexibility, and two-way exchange of ideas?
  4. How might you have encouraged listening and responding in this memo?
  5. In your role as CEO, rewrite the memo to communicate supportively in a way that will achieve the objective of improving productivity.
  6. Other than sending an e-mail message, how might you have managed communication in this situation?

This section should be 2-3 pages maximum.

Case #2 – The Networking Attempt

Purpose: This case illustrates the mistakes that people often make when they attempt to build their professional network through personal contacts. The case is an actual email exchange between an MBA student and a former work associate. Names have been changed to protect confidentiality.Step 1: There was a series of emails initiated by a student while he was sitting in a class on power and politics.  Read the following email:

Hi. Good to see you last week. I am sitting here in the middle of a Power and Politics course at the MBA program and we are discussing networking. We are reminded in class to keep up our network. So, here is my attempt to do so.

How are things? Any great trips lately?How is your new role? We seem to be doing well in our new market but are still struggling with some restructuring issues (and the people issues associated). But who isn’t facing some sort of transformation challenge?

So, how is your group? Even though I am only a couple hundred feet away from my old group, I find I am pretty removed. I hope all is well.

Have a good weekend.

Kerry Waters

Step 2: Answer the following questions:

  1. What is your reaction to Kerry’s email?
  2. What mistakes do you think Kerry made in attempting to strengthen his relationship with Doug?

 Step 3: Read the following response from Doug.


My answer noted below is not the typical answer I would provide others—in fact in most instances I would have simply responded with some quick updates and that would have been the end of the exchange. But for you and what you want to achieve I am going to provide another answer in the context of networks.

Networks are crucial because we all need help. To be included in an individual’s network—fundamentally you must be of help to them. It is about the help you can be to them that determines whether or not you will be in their network. [Don’t listen to this with moral antenna—it’s about power—not morals].

This is commonly misunderstood. Networking is not about keeping in touch, it is about helping. In fact, simply keeping in touch is a form of creating costs to others if it does not include help.

Most people approach networking in the same manner in which you attempted with me. That is a weak approach that over time will ensure that you are not in the networks you want to be in. Take more time, figure out how you can help others, make an offer, and build obligation. You want others to want you to be in their networks.

It was nice to see you and I hope all is well with you.


Step 4: Answer the following questions:

  1. What principles is Doug trying to teach Kerry?
  2. How can students who are attempting to build their network offer help, as Doug suggests?

Step 4:  After Kerry received Doug’s response, Kerry decided to try once again to strengthen his professional network through personal contact. Read the following email:


I came across an article in Newsweek the other day and it made me think of your new project in the South Asian market. Specifically, there was some information about demographic trends on p. 38 (second paragraph, right side) that seemed like it might be useful for you. Here’s the link: http://www.coolnewsweekarticle.com/.

Give my best to Purni and the kids!


Step 5: Answer the following questions:

  1. How has Kerry improved in his networking efforts?
  2. What is Praveen’s response likely to be?
  3. Which sources of power will Kerry’s email likely enhance?
  4. How might you implement the principles Kerry learned?

This section should about 1-1.5 pages.

Case #3 – Power in Science?

Purpose: The purpose of this case is to illustrate the extent to which power resides all over every organization.Step 1:  Read the following case:

Doug Hall started as a research scientist at Corning, located in a small upstate New York town. Corning was originally known for the cookware division it divested in 1997, when the company began looking to its research laboratories for the spark that would drive its future growth. Hall has been directly involved in Corning’s recent success. During his career, he has been responsible for breakthrough technologies that dramatically improved the optical fiber network products Corning sells for use in telecommunications and Internet systems.

Although many scientists prefer to concentrate on pure research and leave the commercial development of their discoveries to others, Hall agreed to become a development manager and spearhead the effort to turn his first invention into a marketable product. After successfully getting this technology to market, Hall returned to his research science position—and followed the same course of action when he came up with a second invention. Today, Hall is Corning’s division vice president and technology director for an optical technologies product line, and his inventions and products yield $1 billion in sales for Corning. Here are two quotes from a recent interview:

Step 2: Answer the following questions:

  1. Which sources of personal power can you identify for Hall? How do you know these are present?
  2. Which sources of position power can you identify for Hall? How do you know these are present?
  3. If Hall had chosen to remain a research scientist, how do you think this decision would have affected his power inside and outside the organization?

Personal Assessment

There are several assessment throughout Chapter 1 -7.  Choose a personal/pre assessment instrument (not the same one from Assignment #1).  Complete and examine your scores of at least one of those instruments. Include a copy of the completed instrument you used.  Based on your assessment and your readings write a 1/2 page (double spaced) narrative of what you discovered about yourself.

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