Academic journal article Journal of Behavioral and Applied Management

Grin and Bear It? Jill's Dream or Demise

Academic journal article Journal of Behavioral and Applied Management

Grin and Bear It? Jill's Dream or Demise

Article excerpt


This case is about a professional woman nearing retirement age who was put on a performance improvement plan (PIP) and eventually was offered a severance package to leave her company. The reader explores the issues facing the employee and the employer as they navigate this difficult terrain. Was this a forced or voluntary separation? How did Jill go from her dream job to her demise? Did Jill deserve to be separated based on performance? The Teaching Note (TN) provides expert opinions from the legal and human resource perspectives on the topics of discrimination, employment law, and unjust dismissal. A series of case questions and answers, three suggested teaching activities, and additional resources are included in the teaching note.

Walking Into a Mess

It was my dream job and I loved every minute of the workday. I was in an interface role between the Information Technology department and the accounting department of a major insurance company that employed thousands of employees worldwide, with hundreds of employees at our headquarters in Hartford, CT. As a result, I had access to important company information such as sales, financial results, payroll information, and our clients' and customers' insurance claims. I am a hard worker and a very conscientious employee. At age 58, I've been in the workforce over forty years and I have high expectations for myself and others. Therefore when I observed my coworker Janice throwing away client claims or simply ignoring them in order to reduce her workload in order to meet her numerical targets for the month, it really bothered me. I blew the whistle on Janice, and since the company had a policy that claimed no retaliation, I knew I would be protected. They fired Janice after investigating her claims' log. Luckily the company was able to reestablish those claims that she had physically destroyed.

There's One in Every Company and I Found Her

I was promoted after I blew the whistle and was noticed for my commitment to the company and attention to detail. I really wanted to get ahead in the company so I went back to school to earn a bachelor's degree in Business Administration. My boss in my new job, Carole, only had a GED. After working for her for about two years, it became apparent that she was envious of my education and achievements. When she left on maternity leave, I took over her job. During that time, I received a great performance evaluation and got a huge salary increase that tripled my pay. Immediately upon Carole's return I was promoted over her, and Carole stayed in the same position. I skipped two grade levels and felt that I was finally being noticed and appreciated by upper management as a result of my job performance during Carol's maternity leave of absence.

In Group or Out Group?

The culture at the company was very stressful: tight deadlines, constant pressure, and long hours to meet month-end, quarter-end, and year-end financial 'closes.' I worked long hours and many times had short notice of when I would have to stay late to get a job done. It was not uncommon for me to be told by my new boss, Marilyn, at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon that I had to come in Saturday morning to finish the books. Marilyn treated me like I was a non-person who had no life outside of work. Not only did she infringe upon my personal time, but also she asked me to 'cook the books' and change a few numbers in our month-end reports and make other unusual accounting adjustments. I guess she assumed I did not know the difference since I am not an accountant, or worse they needed a safe person to blame if they were caught misrepresenting the financial results.

I felt conflicted and guilty when I was asked to do unethical tasks at work. I've always been the type of person that respects authority. And questioning a superior seems disloyal to me. I like to think that they know what they're doing and I don't demand that they explain everything to me. …

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