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Indispensable Employees?

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Most employees at one time or another have experienced the department head unable to relinquish control. He swoops in and offers assistance and advice, regardless of actual need, on a regular basis. To executives farther up the food chain, it seems as though this individual is all important. It appears as though the people beneath him would seriously struggle in his absence. Of course no one would consider this an example of effective management, yet it proves difficult to detect. Even more insidious, however, is when a department head causes problems in order to rescue the situation. It happens far more than frequently than ever imagined.

At a clinic in Pittsburgh, for example, insurance checks didn't go out as scheduled. The manager pointed to a problem with the computer system, which she then fixed. However, a search of her desk revealed the checks. There had never been a computer glitch, and she had simply hoped to get recognition from her superiors. In another case in Louisiana, a manager spread rumors that employees should expect layoffs. A few weeks later, he then told his staff that the situation had been resolved. Thanks to him, he had saved all their jobs from the axe. Unfortunately, the story turned out to be completely fictitious, and not a single layoff had ever been planned.

In both of the examples above, the managers acted deliberately. In many more cases, people's actions aren't so purposeful. Some employees get bored, others just need to fix problems, and more than a few enjoy the feeling of power. As a result, these people unconsciously start fires. They may withhold information, fail to send out emails or schedule meetings, or even pass on tasks to people ill-suited for the job.

This problem's prevalence requires managers to stress teamwork rather than individual performance. Managers need to have good communication and be aware of employees' needs. The alternative may be an "indispensable" employee.


Preview some of the lesson material:

Warm Up: Do you agree or disagree? Why?

  1. My boss is good at what he/she does.
  2. In the past, I have worked under a terrible boss.
  3. I have worked with someone who has caused problems.
  4. I have worked with someone who has deliberately caused problems.
  5. In the past month, I have caused at least one problem at work.

True or False?:Guess (before the article) or answer (after the article) whether the sentence is true or false. If false, correct the sentence.

  1. Employees who cause problems seem to be quite common.
  2. The manager in Pittsburgh broke the computer system and then fixed it.
  3. A manager in Louisiana laid off many employees.
  4. Employees cause problems because it's fun.
  5. According to the article, managers should encourage good communication.

post-Comprehension: Talk about the following questions in pairs/groups. Remember to support your answers!

  1. What would you do (or what have you done) if you worked with someone as described in the article?
  2. What would you do as a manager (or what have you done) if you oversaw someone as described in the article?
  3. How common a problem do you think this is in your home country? Please explain.
  4. What other problems have you experienced in the professional world? Please explain.
  5. What would you consider an indispensable employee to be like?

Google Search: Type "workplace" into Google. Look at the websites, and/or read additional articles on this topic. Discuss or write an essay about your findings.


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