MANAGING DIVERSE GENERATIONS IN A SERVICE INDUSTRY

MANAGING DIVERSE GENERATIONS IN A SERVICE INDUSTRY

Pat, age 55, is Vice President for Customer Services at the Davis Employment agency. Pat started working for the company 33 years ago, right out of college and advanced to a position under the mentorship of the founder, Harry Davis. Harry’s son, Jeff, 33, is now in charge of the agency. Upon retiring, Harry announced, “I leave the company under the capable direction of my son and the sound management of Pat, who we all know is knowledgeable about the ‘Davis Way’.” Pat, known for loyalty, commitment, and dedication to the company, is valued and respected by many in the agency.

Recently, billings have begun to decline noticeably, even though industry billings are up. In response, Jeff has hired several new employees to provide new and creative responses to clients’ needs. One of the new employees is 32-year-old Alex, Assistant Vice President for Customer Services under Pat. Alex manages the office and deals with clients. Alex has only been at Davis four months out of a six-month probationary period. He is having difficulty adapting to his coworkers, many of whom have been at the company for more than 10 years, and who are familiar with Pat’s management style. Alex has many good ideas, but is not empowered to enact any changes. This is frustrating to him because he believes incorporation of these ideas would bring the company “into the technological era of efficiency.” Alex cannot convince Pat that these ideas would enhance efficiency and more effectively meet clients’ needs.

Some of the office employees say that “Pat’s Way” may seem antiquated by today’s office procedures and technological advances, but Pat is very competent and on top of everything. Pat knows operations and each client’s history. However, Pat’s procedures create confusion with newer employees, who find them cumbersome and often overlapping. The workers do not appreciate all memos and correspondence being done on paper versus electronic messaging, and the endless number of informational meetings. They prefer charts and aggregated data to long, detailed memos and keeping each other informed via email, not face-to-face meetings.

Pat sees the procedures as time proven and cannot understand why Alex does not value going through channels, following the company procedures for manually documenting details, and articulating the “big picture” before proceeding. Pat believes in getting things done efficiently, using technology to enhance productivity, finding shortcuts, and avoiding wasted time by being overly cautious. When Alex tries to explain how procedures could be improved or done more efficiently, Pat listens politely, expresses a look of frustration, and tells Alex to, “Do it my way.” Alex sighs and leaves the office, mumbling.

One week, Alex was working under a lot of pressure on projects Pat had assigned with tight deadlines. Alex took charge, completed the assignments in the style to which Pat was accustomed. All the projects were completed on time. Alex did not ask to have Pat approve each step. “Surely, Pat will appreciate me now,” thought Alex. One night when Alex was working late, Jeff stopped by the office and Alex explained the sophisticated charting of one project and how the data was presented in an easy-to-follow manner using spreadsheets created on Excel. Jeff was interested and commented about finally being able to communicate with clients on their wavelengths. The next morning, when Pat asked Alex how the projects were progressing, Alex stated that they were all done and on the way to clients. Pat’s temper flared and a heated dialogue ensued.

Pat wrote a disciplinary letter to Alex citing insubordination. In addition, Pat wants to start documenting Alex’s performance in order to terminate him eventually. Alex has requested a formal hearing regarding the disciplinary letter. The committee is composed of three members of the Human Resources Department:

Lou, age 56, Vice President for Human Resources

Fran, age 37, Assistant Vice President for Human Resources

Jan, age 23, Human Resource Specialist

Both Pat and Alex have been asked to come in individually to meet with the committee.

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