Why would a supervisor find it difficult to communicate with a black employee

Principles and Practice of Management


Why would a supervisor find it difficult to communicate with a black employee


CASE STUDY (20 Marks)

You are the head of a large department and several supervisors report to you. Recently you were confronted with a knotty problem. It seems that one of the supervisors had gotten into a loud and disagreeable argument with an employee. You called the supervisor to your office to hear his story. The supervisor admitted losing his temper and shouting at the employee, but he believed it was justified. He had been observing the employee over the year the man had been with the company. During this period the employee had been frequently late, and his absentee rate was above average. In addition, the supervisor went on to say that the employee was a socializer on the job, frequently leaving his work to talk to other employees and to use the telephone for personal calls. The supervisor then said that the proverbial last straw caused his outburst. The employee had come in late, and after about an hour of work he made a telephone call which the supervisor had timed as lasting 14 minutes. The supervisor then started his tirade. The employee denied being on the telephone that long, the supervisor called him a liar, and they continued the vituperative exchange which ended when you called the supervisor to your office. After listening to the supervisor, you asked him if he had disciplined the employee before, since apparently he had a poor record. You also asked if the employee had been placed on probation or had been warned. The supervisor looked at you sheepishly and seemed reluctant to answer. You pressed him, for an answer, and he finally blurted out that he was afraid to discipline the employee because he was black. He stated that the impression he had from you and higher management was that black employees should be given special treatment so that they would feel welcome and not discriminated against. He felt the company wanted to impress the public with its forward looking employment practices and didn’t want any trouble with the black community. As a result, he was lax in discipline and had kept a hands off approach with all black employees until his outburst. He said he couldn’t stand it anymore, and the 14mintue telephone call caused him to lose his temper.

Answer the following question.


Q1. Why would a supervisor find it difficult to communicate with a black employee?


Q2. Could the company have done anything to offset the misunderstanding the supervisor apparently had about the treatment of black employees?


Q3. To what extent did the supervisor’s lack of communication encourage the employee to think his behavior was satisfactory? Explain.


Q4. What would you now tell the supervisor?

Why would a supervisor find it difficult to communicate with a black employee

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