Thanks for posting your ‘caselette’. You suggest through this word that the story is minor, but I think that if this series of events could be made public, you could easily write a book on it.
As we are discussing values, it may be a good idea to fully verbalise the values in play. This should be done for two reasons: firstly, elucidating the values helps our own development and ability to clarify in text more precisely what we know, how we know it and how we demonstrate that knowledge to others; and secondly, many of the assumed values, that is, values that are not clarified, may actually not be shared. The discussion may have the sense of being rich when in fact we may be talking at cross purposes. (The former reason is really important. These forum boards are the venue for us to think through writing.) So to push the discussion onwards, I’ll try to explicate a few of the assumed values in your story. (The usual disclaimer applies.)
(In story sequence order until I run out of space.) The first value in play is the prestige of expertise. The woman’s ability in French was a valued asset to the organisation. However, expertise in this case reveals a tension between language skills and managerial experience. What does this say about the nature and scope of expertise as it pertains to the institution? The next value is the undemocratic prioritising of the elite. Through her husband’s job, hiring this woman can be argued as a plutocratic action, the management of the poorer by the wealthy elite.
You write that the woman valued productivity over leisure and took up the position to avoid boredom. Can we impute motivation in this case? I’ll assume that we can and that her motivation was public knowledge. If it wasn’t, other issues come into play, such as the ethical question of imputing motivation when that the decision about that motivation is pejorative. The presentation of her use of delegation, similarly, runs the risk of being read as a pejorative judgement. The acceptance of delegation as a managerial technique. This can be read variously. In a negative sense, is it to hide technical weaknesses or further to mask any perception of laziness, or positively, does it point to an individual recognising one’s strengths and weaknesses and building a team around that balance? I presume that the woman would argue the latter. Rationalisation, or presenting one’s position in a good light, is usually possible, and as a reader of this caselette, I have an ethical obligation to be fair and reasonable in my assessment. Without hearing this woman’s side of the story, I need to rely on my imagination somewhat.
The final value I’ll discuss here (there are many more we could elaborate on) is about the mistakes she made. Everyone makes mistakes, and statistically, half the number of people screw up more than average. At which point do mistakes become ethical issues that threaten the integrity of the business ethos? Another way of stating this problem is that the mistakes may have been used to attack an individual for other problems that could not be said publicly.
I sense that there was a deep resentment against this lady from the beginning, probably due to the circumstances in which she was hired. Perhaps her perceived (or real) lack of genuine motivation towards the institution angered the staff who felt more deeply towards the school and held some bitterness against a (presumably) higher paid, higher up the command officer they had to report to. Very understandable, and highly reminiscent of the imperialist practices employed by colonists in the previous centuries.
This is a very good example, W. Thank you for sharing it.