Employee Supervision - Case Studies


An effective manager walks a fine line in micromanaging his employees' initiative, and giving him sufficient creativity. If the employees don’t find your working style interesting, it will reduce the productivity of your team. On the other hand, if you give your staff too free a hand, you will not be able to keep an adequate check on what targets have been met. The following two case studies effectively explain the following points −

Case Study 1

A team of management consultants was engaged by a bank to clean up a bookkeeping department. The bank people tried cost-cutting as much as possible by using inferior automation, sloppy procedures, minimal controls and stingy pay that attracted only low-quality personnel.

One of the new bookkeepers found out that an ex-employee had been forging reports and making up numbers for months and this action of his had gone undetected by his manager.

When an internal investigation was launched, it was found that the manager used to operate in a very “hands-off” manner and left his team-members to their jobs completely. His style of working was largely influenced by the enormous size of his team, which didn’t allow him time or tools to micromanage and co-ordinate with each and every member of his team. This situation was created because the management had unnecessarily piled on too much work on the manager to save costs.

It took the bank months of overtime and auditing to clear up the mess. In the end, the bank had to shell out millions to its depositors to make up the botches in their account records and these sums far outweighed the petty savings that they had managed to make through cutting corners so blatantly.

Everything said and done, the manager was found out as a convenient scapegoat and was fired. A few years later, the bank closed down.

Case Study 2

A new departmental controller had very nominal responsibilities of budgeting and expense reporting. However, an opportunity came up, and he got the chance to handle valued-added tasks like departmental strategy and market research. The new controller had neither experience nor interest in those tasks so he started delegating all responsibilities to his subordinates.

The subordinates didn’t have to face any queries or didn’t have to answer for their actions as the controller was too ignorant to start asking questions on the process. Putting all faith on the subordinates, the controller started enjoying his new-found authority. He freely promoted and recommended those people as they were willing to do all the hard work, leaving very little for the controller to worry about.

All was good till the subordinates completed in question got things done without any apparent hitches, and the controller had a lot on his plate, so he never bothered to delve deeply into exactly how the employee did what he did. This was a big mistake. For one, this exposed the controller to a potential crisis if the key employee took ill and had to be out of work for an extended period, or if he suddenly quit.

Those crises never came to pass, but the controller made a shocking discovery after the employee moved to another job within the company. Because of staff reductions, the controller had to split the departed employee's tasks with one of his remaining employees.

It soon came to light that these tasks required only a fraction of the time that the departed employee had led the controller to believe was necessary during his 16 month tenure in the group. It was, by then, too late for the controller to take back the top performance reviews that he had given to the departed employee, and which had led to the latter's promotion. For the controller, this was a lesson learned the hard way in supervising employees adequately.