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Needing help with answering discussion questions





ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION The ten-member Carlton City Council Office of Research serves the city council, which appoints the director of the Office of Research. ABOUT THE CHARACTERS Elena Torres has been the director of the Carlton City Council Office of Research for the past three years and is in the final year of her four-year term. She is the first woman and first Hispanic to serve as Director of the Office of Research. She has an MPA and worked previously for a major bank. BACKGROUND Carlton City is governed by the mayor, who is head of the executive branch of city govern- ment and the city council, which sits as the legislative branch of city government. The population of Carlton is approximately 150,000 and is ethnically diverse: 40 percent Asian (Filipino, Japanese, Chinese); 30 percent Hispanic (Mexican, Puerto Rican, Portuguese); 10 percent Pacific Islander (Hawaiian, Samoan, Tongan); 10 percent African American; and 10 percent European American. The Carlton city council consists of nine membens, each elected from one of the citys nine council districts. The city council appoints three directors, each with day-to-day management responsibilities for one of the three offices: City Council Services; City Council Research; and City Elections The City Council Research Office is responsible for Drafting legislation at the request of the city council Drafting reports of council committees and meetings * Conducting program reviews and audits of city departments at the request of city council members, committees, or the full council
Responding to requests for information as directed by city council members tion from constituents in their respective city council districts Performing other duties as requested by their appointing city council member Assisting city council members in responding to complaints and requests for informa- Elena Torres is the director of the Office of Research for Carlton City. She super- vises ten staff members. The staff of the office consists of nine researchers (seven posi- tions are filled, two are vacant) and one secretary. Each researcher is appointed by a city council member and the secretary is appointed by the council chair. The researchers and secretary serve at the discretion of their appointing authority. The following details the tenure and educational background of the seven researchers Two researchers were appointed eight years ago, prior to Torres appointment. They are col lege graduates (BA, Psychology and Sociology, MPA). Two researchers were appointed three years ago, one of whom is a college graduate (BA, Political Science) and the othe one has a high school diploma. Three researchers were recently appointed. All are high school graduates but do not have college degrees.
Torres is well respected and highly regarded by city council members and city government personnel. She was well credentialed and was highly recommended when she joined the city council staff. She prides herself on putting out very high quality work and has a no- nonsense style of management. Her professionalism is apparent and her formal working re- lationship with council members is defined by a behind-the-scenes approach and low public profile. She believes that her job is to make city council members look good by do ing the best job she can. In years past, the city council involved Torres in hiring the staff. However, during re- cent hirings and after the election of new city council members, the new city council felt that, as the appointing authority, it would hire staff that would best serve its individual needs. As such, the council did not consult Torres in the most recent selection process. Still council members had assured Torres that she would have full responsibility and authority for researchers once they were hired. However, Torres believes that many of the newly ap- pointed staff do not have the knowledge or skills necessary for their jobs. They were hired because of their family and/or political connections to their appointing city council member, not their abilities. As such, Torres recently approached members of the city council individually. She ex pressed her concerns regarding staff attitudes and work performance. First, she made clear her concern regarding the staffs numerous typographical and grammatical errors in reports and legislation. Second, she stated that she has received complaints from staff of city departments that researchers are making multiple requests for the same type of information. Depart ment personnel have asked that the City Council Office Research better coordinate re quests for information.
Third, Torres expressed frustration regarding her numerous attempts to train s schedule regular staff meetings, and establish clear timetables and guidelines for completing assignments. Some of the researchers have rešisted these efforts, telling Torres that city council response to constituents complaints, and work on assignments of an urgent or immediate nature. As a result, they are often unable to attend staff meetings or meet project deadlines. In addition, staff frequently attend social gatherings on weeknights and weekends on be half of, or with, city council members. They thus complain that they put in long hours and find it difficult to attend early morning staff meetings. members repeatedly contact them directly to run errands, make field inspections in Fourth, Torres criticized the attitudes of the newly hired researchers. Some re searchers maintain that since the city council member is their appointing authority they feel it is more important for them to take direction from their city council member than from Torres. Torres is also concerned about the tension that has surfaced bet he new staff and the old staff. For instance, the four longer serving staffers are very loyal to Torres. In general, they work as a team, consult Torres frequently, and good work. The three newly hired researchers resist Torres efforts to educate and train them. The old staff complains that the new staff is incompetent and disloyal to Torres But the new staff complains that the previous hires are disrespectful to their appointing authority Torres asked for the city councils help in maintaining the integrity of the Office of Re search and improving office morale. She asked that the city council members not assignments directly but instead route all assignments through her, informing them that this approach would allow her to better manage her staff and provide city council members with higher quality research and supports. sta City council members responded to this by reminding the head of the Office of Re search that it is her responsibility to manage her office. The two eldest council members
City council members responded to this by reminding the head of the Office of Re search that it is her responsibility to manage her office. The two eldest council members became rather irritated with Torres during the exchange. The council assured her that they would route assignments as she suggested and talk to the researchers about working more closely with Torres. But council members maintained their need to be able to work closely with their appointees in order to respond to the many constituent calls they receive each day. Good relationships with the people of their district, after all, are essential for their election. Six months have passed since the meeting between Torres and city council mem- bers, and things have not changed. Researchers are still receiving assignments directly from their appointing city council member. Moreover, the city council has just informed Ms. Torres that they have appointed an assistant director-a position that was created fifteen years ago but never filled-to help Torres better manage the office and expedite work. They will also soon be hiring two researchers to fill the vacant positions. Torres has also found the two senior members of the council unwilling to work directly with her. She cannot put her finger on a specific example that would hold up in a court room, but she suspects the poor relationship is partially in response to her sex and race The two senior councilmen are Caucasian and have always acted uncomfortable around their younger administrator. Torres did not think that the appointment of an assistant was necessary. However, city council members filled the assistant position in spite of her objections. As a result, she fears
that the city council will once ągain hire incompetent staff that will create problems lik some of the current staff. Torres feels pressured to make changes in her office, not only fo the benefit of the city council,; but in order to protect her reputation in the communit Good working relationships with city council members and the staff of city departments ar necessary for her to be able to do her work. At this point she feels that both relationship are being threatened and she fears that she may not be reappointed when her term expires PLAY AsSIGNMENT You have been hired as the assistant director of the Office of Research. Torres has informer you of the current situation and has asked for your help in improving the management o the office and improving the quality and quantity of work. Specifically, she requests tha you submit a management plan to the city council prior to them filling the two vacant re er positions
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION 1. What problems exist in the Office of Research and city council? What are the 2. What ideas do you have for the management plan to improve office operations 3. What are the implications of this plan on the relationship between you and your 4. What barriers do you anticipate regarding the implementation of your plan for sources of these problems? and staff morale? boss, the director? among the staff of the Office of Research? between city coun- cil members and their appointees? change? What are your strategies for dealing with each of the barriers? What supports are necessary for the plan to be a success? 5. Torres has confided in you her suspicions about poor treatment of her owing to her race and sex. How do you respond to her request for advice? Are there any gender or cultural issues that may be impacting the dynamics of the Ofice of Research?
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