1. Should Laurel confront Curt? Why or why not? If so, how should she handle the situation?
Before confronting Curt, Laurel should conduct her own investigation and clarify Curt's behavior, get details and take notes. I would suggest Laurel get together with Curt and travel with him on a few meetings and/or presentations. Laurel can say she's just taking the opportunity to evaluate sales performance or that she just wants to get out of the office. I feel it is important for Laurel to treat Curt with respect and not assume the worst. If Laurel does observe erratic or unacceptable behavior, she needs to sit down with Curt and explain the issues she has noticed. She needs to explain to Curt that she is concerned with his behavior and the changes in his attitude. She needs to try to determine the basis of his issues; stress, marital or financial? Managers have both the opportunity and the responsibility to define acceptable behavior in the workplace.
I have experienced conflict at work and in the past I have tried to avoid them. I would rather not be forced into a situation where I feel uncomfortable or under stress. However, when conflicts do arise, I try to handle them in a way that I look at both sides. I try to determine what I need and what they need, my goals, methods and values as well as their goals, methods and values and the overall needs and goals of the company. I look at the issues involved and try to get as much information as I can.
Today's managers realize that "conflict is not always negative. In fact, it can be healthy when managed effectively. Healthy conflict can lead to growth and innovation, new ways of thinking and additional management options." http://www.ctic.purdue.edu
2. Should Laurel speak to Janice? Why or why not? If so, what should she say to her?
Laurel should contact Janice to let her know she received her letter and that she is concerned about the issue and that she will look into it. A personal phone call would be a great way to get additional details on what she has observed. Laurel should make notes and document the call and details and thank Janice for bringing this matter to her attention. I feel perception of the situation is the most important issue. Two people can look at the same thing and have two different viewpoints. In a conflict situation, managers must realize there are many different points of view and consider each one. When speaking to Janice, Laurel should consider the following:
* Show empathy.
* Remain calm and respectful.
* Apologize without accepting blame.
* Agree with the person who is concerned, upset or angry.
* Debate the facts.
* Ask "why" questions.
* Jump to hasty conclusions.
3. If Curt is taking drugs, what do you recommend that Laurel do? How can she prevent problems like this in the future?
If Laurel discovers Curt is taking drugs, she should refer him to the company's Human Resources department for explanation of the Employee Assistance Program.
For the future, Laurel should focus on the Leader-Member Exchange model which would encourage a relationship built on trust between herself and her sales people.
Laurel should manage by walking around and being involved with her sales staff. She should have a relationship with clients and survey them periodically to gauge their satisfaction. In addition to surveys, Laurel should consider lunches and brunches with clients to keep an open line of communication and a relationship built on trust. Being an active manager and leader will allow employees to build a relationship with Laurel and her sales people will be more apt to approach her with problems and issues, even personal ones. Not only will Laurel be more approachable, she will hear and see things that never make it in the reports on her desk.
I feel it is important as Laurel builds her ability as a leader and changes her management process; she needs to realize people adjust to change at different rates. Once she begins interacting with employees on a one-to-one basis, she will build rapport and trust, which will help her understand her employees, what drives them and possible causes of stress.
Ingram, Thomas N. and Raymond W. LaForge and Ramon A. Avila and Charles H. Schwepker Jr and Michael R. Williams. (2004) Sales Management: Analysis and Decision Making. Mason: Thomson-SouthWestern.