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Question: jack adams mind wandered as he sat outside bill squires...

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Jack Adam’s mind wandered as he sat outside Bill Squire’s office awaiting his yearly performance review…

[Jack thinking.] Well, it’s 8:25. Five more minutes to go. Fifteen years with the company, and this new district manager, Squire, couldn’t even call and request this meeting personally. These annual performance appraisals are tough enough, and here I’ve got a bad sales record for the past 12 months. Surely he’ll be able to understand that the sales decreases were a result of the new territory assignments. Two major accounts taken away – not to mention all of the smaller ones. It took me years to develop those accounts and now someone else reaps the benefits. I know my capabilities. I work hard. Next thing you know, Squire will probably tell me to stop playing golf with the customers from my old accounts. Who was it that thought this territory reorganization would be an improvement anyway? So what if some of the reps increased their sales records? Come to think of it, I was kind of surprised that the rep over in the eastern counties increased his sales by over 30 percent. Wonder how he did it? Well, no concern of mine. Somehow, in the next 60 minutes, I’ll have to make Squire understand my 18 percent deficit. This is ridiculous. I’ve met this guy twice…

Meanwhile, inside his office, Bill Squire glanced at his watch, which read 8:30. Doubting that the salesman Adams would be on time, he glanced over the data sheets nervously…

[Bill thinking.] Certainly hope this meeting doesn’t take more than half an hour. So much work to do today. I waited years for this promotion – just never knew it would be so much work. Incredible! Sometimes the other sales managers seem so calm. Bet they’re faking it. Now I’ve got these darn performance appraisals to do. Lucky for me I’ve got these computer printouts. Let’s see…who is this guy? Adams, huh? Eighteen percent below quota. Well, he’ll have to explain that! Isn’t he that tall redheaded guy? I suppose it would be easier if I’d had more chance to meet him. Well, these printouts will have to suffice. Actually, look at this – overall district sales are way up. This Adams is one of four whose sales are down. I’m sure he’ll think of something really creative to explain this. Some of these reps just never learn that sales is a matter of sweat and blood – good old fashioned work. These printouts always tell the final story…

At 8:40, Bill Squire buzzed his assistant. “Arthur, is Adams…ah let’s see…Jack Adams here yet?”

Yes he is, Mr. Squires,” replied Arthur. “He’s been here for some time now.”

With some hesitation, Bill Squire asked his assistant to send Jack Adams in.

Bill [shaking hands]: Good morning, Jack. I hope this meeting doesn’t interrupt your appointment schedule. I made it early in the morning, figuring your clients don’t do business before 10 anyway.

Jack: No, Bill, this time is just fine. [Looks around the office.] You’ve made some changes in here since Mary (Jack Adam’s former sales manager) changed jobs.

Bill: Yes, well, I prefer things a certain way. I think this is more in line with the company’s efficiency image. We want the customers to realize we are always on our toes, right?

Jack [quietly]: Sure thing.

At this point, Bill Squire got up from his chair and walked to a table nearby and poured himself a glass of water. Returning to his desk, he picked up the computer printout lying in front of him.

Bill [clearing his throat]: Well, Jack, we better get to it, right? What I’ve got here is a printout of all sales personnel in my district for the past 12 months. Have you seen any of this information?

Jack: Well, I’ve seen some of it and…

Bill [interrupting]: Good, then you probably realize we’ve got a problem here. Over the past year, your performance has been eighteen percent below the quota that was established for you. You’re one of four reps whose performance is poor. Thirteen other reps beat their quota. Have you had any problems that I’m not aware of?

Jack Adams was now looking out a window beside Bill Squire’s desk. His palms were damp and his lips dry. He tried to put his thoughts together but his mind just seemed to race.

Bill: Jack, did…?

Jack: Yeah, yeah. I heard you. [Folds his arms.] You know Bill, you’re new to this district, and perhaps there is something you need to realize. I’ve worked for this company for 15 years and I think, if you check the records, I’ve always been a pretty good sales rep. No, I’d say one of the best. I work hard. I get along great with my customers and…

Bill: Jack, now that you mention it, I had a complaint about you a couple of weeks ago. Kathy Burgess in purchasing at McGabe Company wrote me a not saying you hadn’t been in contact with them in over a month. Andrea, who used to have that account, visited them weekly. How can you hope to make your quota if you don’t make contact with the customer?

Jack: Okay, Andrea had that account when the territory was one-third as big and…

Bill: All right, Jack, I realize the territory reassignments have affected the reps a little bit, but…

Jack [frustrated]: A little bit?!

Bill [raising his hand]: Hold on, hold on, let me finish. As I was saying, the territory reassignments have meant adjusting. But Jack, that means hard work, you know, good old fashioned effort. Come on now, Jack, have you been giving it your best shot? Are you sure there isn’t something personal going on? Everything okay at home? I’m trying to be helpful – just open up with me here a little bit.

Jack felt a lot of pressure at the back of his neck. His face felt flushed. Open up, he thought to himself. I don’t even know this guy! This is what I get after fifteen years… He breathed deeply.

Jack [calmly]: Okay. Okay… I may have had more trouble than others with the change in territories….[pause]…. I guess it is possible. But maybe, just maybe, the reassignment did affect me more than some of the other reps—maybe I didn’t get a fair shake with the new territory, maybe…

Bill [frustrated]: Back to that again, Jack? [Picks up the printout.] Look at the facts! You can’t avoid these numbers, Jack!

At this point, Jack rose from his chair. He trembled as he pointed his finger at Bill and said “I don’t give a curse about your numbers!” He turned and walked out of the office. From outside, Bill heard a door slam. Noticing that his watch read 8:57, Bill sighed. He thought, at least it didn’t take over a half hour. Lots of work to do today. [Bill picks up the computer printout.] It’ll be nice to talk to these 13 reps. They know what sales and hard work is all about. [Shakes his head.] If only Jack had been able to open up!

Questions

  1. Describe Jack’s perception of Bill. Describe Bill’s perception of Jack. How do they differ? What are some reasons influencing the perceptions of one another?
  2. Provide a full account of any stereotypes and attribution issues going on in this case. What are the attributions that Jack makes to Bill, and what are the attributions that Bill makes to Jack? Which attribution biases are at play here?
  3. Based on an understanding of the perception and attribution issues in the case, what could Bill have done differently? Describe a performance review session that would have been successful, focusing in particular on how both parties could be aware of and correct their perceptual biases and attribution errors to improve their communication.
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