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Academic Career Experience & Service Learning

NEGATIVE CHEMISTRY

Gunther Wortman looked forward to a career as a quality specialist. He began working for Micro Tech as a quality control inspector. As a result of hard work and additional study, he was promoted to quality control technician, and then to quality control supervisor. As a supervisor he now reported to Alan Tombak, manager of quality assurance. Four other supervisors also reported to Tombak.

Gunther approached his new job with his usual enthusiasm. He was proud to be a supervisor, and believed that his big career break had finally arrived. Gradually Gunther began to sense that things were not going so well for him in his new position. One day he felt particularly despondent. Ten days previously he had sent Tombak a detailed proposal for the use of a new inspection machine. So far Tombak had not even acknowledged his proposal.

Concerned about his feeling that things were not going so well between himself and his boss, Gunther decided to call Diane Garcia, a personnel specialist. He asked Diane if she would join him for lunch to discuss a career problem he was facing. Gunther and Diane agreed to meet for lunch the following Friday at a nearby sushi restaurant.

As the two dug into their fish, Gunther began to talk about his concern, "Diane, maybe you can help me," he said. "I just don't seem to be hitting it off with my boss, Alan Tombak. He hardly acknowledges my presence. He usually ignores my suggestions. He doesn't even laugh at my jokes. When I'm at a staff meeting with the other supervisors, he acts as if I don't even exist. Do you have any suggestions for handling this situation?"

Diane said, "Gunther, it sounds like you do have a problem. Either you're paranoid, or you have failed to impress Tombak. I know you well enough to be sure that you're not paranoid. So there must be a real problem between you and Tombak. What have you done about the problem so far?"

"I've put my nose to the grindstone like I have in every other assignment with Micro Tech. Nothing about me seems to impress Tombak. That's why I've asked for your help."

After thinking for a moment, Diane responded, "I have a plan. This month I'm supposed to help the managers in your area with their human resource planning. This usually involves a discussion of key employees. I'll see what Tombak has to say about you. I'll then get back to you with my findings."

Ten days later, Diane did help Alan with human resource planning. The conversation led naturally to a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the supervisors reporting to Tombak. "What is your evaluation of Gunther Wortman, your newest supervisor?" asked Diane coyly. "Good question," said Alan. "I don't really know what to make out of him. He does seem to try hard. But there's negative chemistry between us. The guy just doesn't turn me on as an employee. I think he's overrated. Maybe I'm missing something, but he's just a neutral entity to me. Yet, I'm certainly not trying to get rid of him. That's all I can say."

Diane thought to herself, "Tombak has been brutally honest. Gunther and he just don't hit it off. I guess it's my duty as a friend to tell Gunther about his problem, but I wouldn't want him to leave Micro Tech over it."

  1. Should Diane give Gunther a full report of her feelings?
  2. What should Gunther do about this problem of negative chemistry between himself and his boss?
  3. Is Diane acting ethically in her method of helping Gunther?
  4. Should Gunther confront Alan directly about his problem?

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