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Real Deal: The Case of the Cursed Confidence

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[dropcap cap=I]t was March 10, and that meant that Elaine Craig had officially worked for Roger and Gina Keel for 15 years. She’d been an instrumental part of the growth at G&R Gems, and had become a good friend to the Keels – in their words, like a member of the family. Over the years, Elaine had spent a good deal of time with the Keel family, and she’d watched their son Daniel grow from a surly teenager putting in his time cleaning glass and vacuuming the floor into a strong and handsome young man, working hard to earn a leadership role in the successful business his parents built.[/dropcap]

Elaine remembered when Daniel started in the store full time after graduating from college with his degree in business and spending a year on the West Coast. He had come back to New England a newly minted G.G., ready to take over for the store’s retiring bookkeeper. That was four years ago. Since that time, Daniel had spearheaded the installation of a new POS/management information system in the store and built a highly effective inventory control process – all while G&R Gems, with the help of an amazing new marketing company and a talented sales team, doubled in volume to its current $5.8 million.

When Daniel first came back, Elaine was writing just over $1 million in sales and was the manager of a small sales team. As Roger and Gina (and their marketing plan) continued to draw additional traffic to the store, it seemed that there were never enough salespeople around to handle the flow. Elaine found herself in the middle of a near constant recruiting effort. Fortunately, G&R’s reputation had always been legendary in the Northeast, and good applicants were not terribly hard to find. Elaine was especially pleased with the performance of Hailey Arwood, a bright but inexperienced gemologist. Hailey had only started in October, but her sales for the holiday season ranked third in the store.

Elaine was proud of her team, and she worked hard, supported fully by Roger and Gina to keep them happy and to support their efforts. In fact, just after Christmas, the Keels threw a celebratory dinner party for the entire store team at a prominent local restaurant. Great food, great music and an open bar made the evening one that would not soon be forgotten.

The G&R team got along and worked together quite well. There were the usual minor snags from time to time, but for the most part, everyone was able to step up and resolve issues with genuine caring and professionalism. It helped that Elaine was as good with her associates as she was with her customers, able to be a friend while continuing to earn their respect as a leader. Between managing a high-powered sales staff and raising two kids of her own, she’d navigated through plenty of conflict, and was comfortable in the knowledge that her associates wouldn’t hesitate to bring an issue to her attention. She was totally unprepared, though, for the conversation Hailey brought to her office that early March morning.

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Elaine had noticed Hailey apparently upset on the sales floor and brought her into the office to talk. Hailey said that she’d just had a conversation with Daniel in which he had been very nasty and critical, accusing her of making a serious mistake on an inventory check-in form. As Hailey talked about the incident, insisting that she hadn’t even been the one to handle that particular shipment, she got more and more upset. Finally, she asked Elaine if she could speak in complete confidence, asking for Elaine’s word that the conversation would not get back to Roger or Gina – or especially to Daniel. Elaine agreed.

Hailey told Elaine that Daniel had been hitting on her since the day she came in for her first interview. She said that she thought it was all harmless flirting – right up until the evening of the post-holiday party. Hailey, like many of the others, had had way too much to drink that evening. So much that at one point, after going to the ladies’ room, she sat down on a chair in a dark hallway at the back of the restaurant and passed out. The next thing she remembered was waking up a short time later – on the floor, with Daniel, in a compromising position. She managed to shove him away, pull herself up and escape to the ladies’ room. When she finally felt strong enough to re-join the group, she saw Daniel acting as though absolutely nothing had happened. She said her goodbyes, got her coat and left, scared, embarrassed and humiliated. Hailey said that since that incident, it seemed that Daniel was doing everything he could – without being noticed – to make her life miserable in the store. She said that he told her in no uncertain terms that if she ever mentioned what happened the night of the party, he would deny it – and, of course, that everyone would believe him.

Just getting the story out into the open seemed to lift a huge burden from Hailey’s shoulders. Elaine repeated her promise not to violate Hailey’s confidence, while offering both help in the short term to insulate her from Daniel, and an open door if she ever needed to talk again.

As Elaine sat at her desk, she began to see the full impact of Hailey’s story, and even more, began to wonder exactly what she should do.

 

[h3][b]The BIG questions:[/h3]  Does Elaine owe it to her friends the Keels to tell them about their son’s actions? Does she owe a greater debt to Hailey’s confidence? Should she confront Daniel directly? Does Hailey’s description of the incident to Elaine make her responsible, as a member of the G&R management team, to take some sort of action? [/b]

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Editor’s note: Real Deal scenarios are inspired by true stories, but are changed to sharpen the dilemmas involved. The names of the characters and stores have been changed and should not be confused with real people or places.

[span class=alert]To be eligible for publication in INSTORE, responses must include your name, store name, and the city and state in which your store is located. [/span]

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