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Jessica Armstrong vice president of administration for Delaware Valley Chemical.

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Too Much of a Good thing? Not long ago, Jessica Armstrong, vice president of administration for Delaware Valley Chemical Inc., a New Jersey–based multinational company, made a point of stopping by department head Darius Harris’s office and lavishly praising him for his volunteer work with an after-school program for disadvantaged children in a nearby urban neighborhood. Now she was about to summon him to her office so she could take him to task for his dedication to the same volunteer work. It was Carolyn Clark, Harris’s secretary, who’d alerted her to the problem...

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Too Much of a Good thing? Not long ago, Jessica Armstrong, vice president of administration for Delaware Valley Chemical Inc., a New Jersey–based multinational company, made a point of stopping by department head Darius Harris’s office and lavishly praising him for his volunteer work with an after-school program for disadvantaged children in a nearby urban neighborhood. Now she was about to summon him to her office so she could take him to task for his dedication to the same volunteer work. It was Carolyn Clark, Harris’s secretary, who’d alerted her to the problem. “Darius told the community center he’d take responsibility for a fund-raising mass mailing. And then he asked me to edit the letter he’d drafted, make all the copies, stuff the envelopes, and get it into the mail—most of this on my own time,” she reported, still obviously indignant. “When I told him, ‘I’m sorry, but that’s not my job,’ he looked me straight in the eye and asked when I’d like to schedule my upcoming performance appraisal.” Several of Harris’s subordinates also volunteered with the program. After chatting with them, Armstrong concluded most were volunteering out of a desire to stay on the boss’s good side. It was time to talk to Harris. “Oh, come on,” responded Harris impatiently when Armstrong confronted him. “Yes, I asked for her help as a personal favor to me. But I only brought up the appraisal because I was going out of town, and we needed to set some time aside to do the evaluation.” Harris went on to talk about how important working for the after-school program was to him personally. “I grew up in that neighborhood, and if it hadn’t been for the people at the center, I wouldn’t be here today,” he said. Besides, even if he had pressured employees to help out—and he wasn’t saying he had—didn’t all the emphasis the company was putting on employee volunteerism make it okay to use employees’ time and company resources? After Harris left, Armstrong thought about the conversation. There was no question that Delaware Valley actively encouraged employee volunteerism—and not just because it was the right thing to do. The chemical company had suffered a couple of unfortunate accidental spills in its recent past that caused environmental damage and sparked community anger. Volunteering had the potential to help employees acquire new skills, create a sense of camaraderie, and play a role in recruiting and retaining talented people. But most of all, it gave a badly needed boost to the company’s public image. Recently, Delaware Valley took every opportunity to publicize its employees’ extracurricular community work on its Web site and in company publications. And the company created the annual Delaware Prize, which granted cash awards ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 to outstanding volunteers. So now that Armstrong had talked with everyone concerned, just what was she going to do about the dispute between Darius Harris and Carolyn Clark? What Would You Do? 1. Tell Carolyn Clark that employee volunteerism is important to the company and that while her performance evaluation will not be affected by her decision, she should consider helping Harris because it is an opportunity to help a worthy community project. 2. Tell Darius Harris that the employee volunteer program is just that: a volunteer program. Even though the company sees volunteerism as an important piece of its campaign to repair its tarnished image, employees must be free to choose whether to volunteer. He should not ask for the help of his direct employees with the afterschool program. 3. Discipline Darius Harris for coercing his subordinates to spend their own time on his volunteer work at the community after-school program. This action will send a signal that coercing employees is a clear violation of leadership authority.

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Vice president J has a dilemma her employee D has been spending time outside of work volunteering at a local youth center, an activity the company strongly supports. However, he has been insisting that his employees should work for the center also, on an unpaid basis

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