Oak Brook Medical Systems is facing an issue concerning the role of a valuable and experienced employee who is having trouble moving up in the company. Jaqueline Harris has been working for Oak Brook for 12 years. A year and a half ago, she became director of strategic planning for the Hospital Supply Division. During this time, Jackie’s strategic planning was widely credited for the development of a $40 million business. She has been highly successful in all her endeavors with the company and has a very impressive educational history, yet Jackie keeps getting overlooked for promotion.
Jackie has been receiving some bad publicity from her coworkers and managers, yet she hardly knows anything about it being a problem. Jackie believes her managers can see value in having her in a management position, but she is becoming very unhappy the longer she continues to get ignored. The main problem here is a lack of communication throughout the organization. Management thinks Jackie lacks the communication skills to be promoted, but has never voiced these concerns to Jackie herself. In her mind, Jackie sees that she is well qualified for the job, but is being passed over based on racial or gender discrimination.
While her assumptions are based mainly on the lack of communication, there seems to be a degree of discrimination involved in this case as well. From what I can see, the interaction problems the employee’s perceive Jackie to have reflect the same type of communication style’s of many white, male business managers. Perhaps Jackie’s colleagues are not opposed to her directness, but just the fact that the curtness is coming from a black woman. Jackie herself states that her communication style is modeled after that of the successful people who preceded her.
The lack of communication and these biases combine to form a very negative situation at Oak Brook. As Jackie’s management, you are responsible for alleviating this situation quickly and efficiently. First and foremost, a meeting must be scheduled in which a representative from upper management will speak with Ms. Harris about these pressing issues. Jackie must be informed about the issues that are causing management’s hesitation in promoting her to a higher position. These issues must be brought up in a straightforward and direct manner and this meeting should serve as an informative conference.
Beyond this issue of communication, management must take a thorough look within themselves and their organization’s culture to see what forms of covert racism may be influencing people’s perceptions of Ms. Harris’ capabilities. Many claim that they feel like they are being ‘talked down’ to when they meet with Ms. Harris, but her supervision is creating great results. She gets things done, albeit at the sake of other employee’s pride and self-esteem. Perhaps there is an available upper-level position that would require minimal dealing with employees within the company which would better suit Jackie’s strengths.
Otherwise, perhaps it is the lack of a title that makes Jackie’s directness seem rude and overbearing. Employees have trouble being ordered by fellow mid level employees. I believe that in a position of management, Jackie’s curt communication style will have much more appeal. It does not seem to me that her communication style is that much different from other strict, white male bosses and key decision-makers. It is the job of management to make decisions and direct employees in how best to act on them, and it seems Jackie is doing just that, only without the management title.
Ms. Harris’ value is exceedingly linked to the success of the company as a whole. It would be greatly detrimental to the company to lose her services completely as a result of mishandling this situation. In addition, it is currently disadvantageous to the company not having an employee like Jackie as part of the upper-management decision-making process. As a strong willed black woman, Jackie could bring an array of new ideas concerning Oak Brook’s minority customers as well as the knowledge and productivity she has displayed as the company’s strategic planner.
Jackie is a key player in the success of Oak Brook Medical Systems and the company cannot afford to lose someone of her caliber. I strongly suggest a look at currently available upper level positions and consider Ms. Harris’s attributes during the promotion process. If management cannot find any current position which would fit Ms. Harris’ management style, she must be told why there is no room for her promotion at this time and how she can better prepare for a move into the upper tier of the company’s ranks. Communication must be maintained at all costs and all concerns need to be addressed throughout this entire process.
This must not be a race or gender issue but merely an issue on finding the right person for the job. I urge all those in management to look at themselves and their fellow managers and find any correlations between the company’s current effective management styles and Jackie’s own. If one can see the value in someone like Jackie being amongst the ranks of management, consider that option. If not, she must be told explicitly why she is not considered for promotion based on her communication style and not on any other insubstantial factors.