Insubordination or Unclear Loyalties?*
Ellen, the program director of Omega House, a hospice, was wondering how to deal with the new development officer, George. He reported to her and was also part of a cross program task force on fundraising within the Social Action Consortium (SAC), the umbrella organization for a variety of service agencies located in the Midwest. Ellen was accustomed to working in a team and found George’s communicative approach disconcerting. She was puzzled as to how to deal with the situation. Was the problem with George structural rather than individual? George’s job seemed unclear, with him reporting both to her and the SAC development office chief, who headed the task force. Thus, she asked herself, “Is the problem George’s irresponsible and non-communicative behavior or is it confusion over who is to direct this effort or both?”
Omega House was established for those terminally ill patients who need to find inner peace and dignity as well as the best in hospice care in their remaining days. It had been started a group that had been unable to sustain it financially and had gone bankrupt and been closed for several years. Then, in the early 1990s, SAC agreed to assume responsibility for it. It is now one of many services provided by SAC. SAC brings together 17 different groups, including small social service agencies and donor organizations that wish to be involved in more direct service than contributing to a funding agency. For nearly 80 years it has provided service to the less fortunate and disenfranchised. It provides a wide range of services, in addition to Omega House, including the following: assorted special projects in the field of education, services to at-risk youth, shelters and apartments for those with special needs, services for people with HIV, addictions counseling, an intercity health program and emergency food assistance, consumer credit seminars, and political advocacy for issues that effect the poor and disenfranchised. Its expenditures and revenues in 1995 were roughly $8 million.
Ellen didn’t get much sleep. Before, when she had been a full-time nurse, she used to fill asleep immediately after an exhausting but satisfying shift; she could leave the problem at work. However, now that she had become a manager, she found that things tended to nag at her and keep her awake. Like today, George seemed to be insubordinate. She would never have a spoken to a superior in that tone. Why did he think he could get away with it with her? Did she appear unsure of herself? Was George confused over where his loyalties should lie?
Ellen began working at the hospice as a registered nurse in patient care five years ago. Then, just over two years ago, she became the temporary program director, after her predecessor had been dismissed. She assumed the managerial responsibilities for Omega House, in addition to clinical oversight of patient care. Given her lack of managerial experience at the time her temporary assignment, she had been promised managerial training, but after two years was still waiting. Ellen felt very comfortable dealing with clinical care and was fortunate to have a strong clinical staff, an excellent and devoted kitchen crew, and a dedicated volunteer coordinator who organized the extensive services provided by the volunteers. However, she was less comfortable with her managerial duties in relation to SAC. Also, the troubled financial history of the Omega House concerned her. To further complicate matters, the SAC administration had proven both arbitrary and autocratic, in her experience. Though she lived through the bankruptcy, she missed the lean administrative structure Omega House had enjoyed before the bankruptcy and subsequent SAC ownership. Her clinical staff had also worked at Omega House before SAC assumed control and were often skeptical of SAC-mandated changes....