The New Career Development Program That Ruins Careers Case
The training department of AMEX Corporation was well respected for the quality of programs its staff developed and regularly presented to the over 10,000 AMEX employees. Department members were always ready for new challenges and prided themselves on developing the best training programs in the industry.
Jane Johnson, director of the AMEX training department, was excited that her presentation to top management had been well received. She believed, along with her senior staff, that the AMEX career development program was out of date and needed new materials and a new training format. The changes she and her staff wanted to make would cost around $100,000, requiring management approval and agreement that the program was a top priority for the coming year. The new career development program would be the first such program to be made available to all 10,000 employees.
During her first staff meeting following the management presentation, Jane became aware that although all four senior staff members agreed on the importance of the program, there was little agreement on who should have the lead responsibility and how other work responsibilities should be divided to provide time for program development. Although no open disagreement had been voiced, Jane came away from the meeting with the sense that she had considerable work to do to determine how project assignments might best meet the needs of the entire group.
Jane believed that Denise Giles, her senior staff member in charge of management development programs, had the best experience for the job. Denise had been with AMEX for over seven years and had developed, staffed, and implemented seven new programs for managers at all levels in AMEX. Her program evaluations were consistently outstanding, and top management held her work in high regard. Yet Jane also knew that John Martin, senior staff member in charge of manufacturing training programs, wanted the assignment. John had less overall program experience than Denise, but the work he had done in quality training was truly outstanding. In fact, he had been asked to lead a workshop describing his program at the International Manufacturers Convention in London. Jane was proud of John and believed he had an outstanding future in training and development. The other two senior staff members, Jill and Roger, had not yet introduced their first programs. Although able trainers and good program managers, neither had the development and writing experience necessary for the career development project.
Jane decided to devote her next staff meeting to a discussion of project allocations for the coming year. She was not prepared for the tenseness she felt as the meeting began.
Jane: As you know, today’s agenda deals with our program planning for the next year. Obviously, if we are to undertake the career development project, we will have to evaluate workloads on all our projects. I would also like expressions of interest in which parts of the career development project each of you would like and ideas on what type of team should be established to manage its development. As we talk, please keep in mind not only your own interests but also the strengths and overall workloads of each of your individual staffs.
Denise: Jane, this issue is troublesome for us as a group. We all want the career development program to work, but we know it takes one lead person, not all four of us working independently.
John: Denise is right. One of us has to head up the group and be responsible for the lead. I guess I should say right now that I want to take that lead responsibility. I have worked with the largest group (manufacturing) in all AMEX and believe that experience qualifies me for developing a program that reaches large numbers of diverse people. My manufacturing folks represent almost 6,500 of our total employment.
Denise: (In a tense voice) I don’t think we should be declaring who wants the job until we decide how the project might ideally be developed with all our other responsibilities.
Roger: Well, I think we need to get down to facts. Neither Jill nor I have the experience to lead the project and we know it. Everyone knows the lead job is between Denise and John. We can’t really divide the other work and decide how we can support the project until we choose a leader.
Jill: Roger is right. I would love to lead the project but with about five years more experience.
John: Well, I just stated that I want the lead job and that I think my experience is best suited to the job. What do you think, Denise?
Denise: I think this is an unprofessional way for us to be entering into this decision. After all, the final decision is Jane’s and she should not be forced to choose this way. Her agenda was a discussion of project assignments, not announcing who would take the lead assignment. Isn’t that right, Jane?
Jane: Yes, that was the agenda, but I am not averse to hearing what each of you really wants to do. Denise, how do you feel about the lead role?
Denise: How do I feel? How can you ask me that? I am the senior member of this team. Everyone expects me to lead this project. If I don’t get the job it will be a slap in the face. Sure, John has done a great job in manufacturing, but what about the management programs? They may reach fewer people, but the people they do reach drive the entire company. What about that experience? Frankly, I resent being put on the spot. This issue is not for general discussion. It is (to Jane) your responsibility to make that decision.
John: Denise, you are doing it again. I have never raised this point before, but you just won’t confront things openly. Sure, you have a good record, but I am willing to say openly that I want the job, not just expect someone to hand me the assignment. It is too important to give it to someone just because they expect it.
Jane: Wait a minute, you are both out of line. We are going to adjourn this meeting right now and I will see both of you individually later in the day. We will meet again as a staff tomorrow morning.
Denise: (Under her breath as she leaves the room.) This career development project is already ruining some careers.
ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS (USE THE TEXT FOR REFERENCE)
1. What conflict preferences do we see in the case?
2. What strategies and tactics are in use?
3. What can Jane do to resolve this conflict?
4. How is emotion contributing to this conflict?