CASE Study – Fear of Being Passed on the Corporate Ladder

Mark Wells is the evening shift warehouse supervisor for Sanders Supermarket, a large grocery-store chain. Over the past twelve years, with only a high-school education, Mark had worked his way up from being a laborer to a supervisor. The 35-year-old Wells was married with two school- age children, and he had wanted to move to the day shift so that he could spend more time with his family.

Two days ago, Mark’s boss, John Swanson, told him that the current day-shift the job. This would be a lateral move; there would be no change in title and no pay increase. Actually, Mark would take a $20 per week reduction because the evening shift salary included a premium shift differential. Never the less, Mark Wells was very interested because he saw it as his only near-term opportunity to move to the day shift.

Mark’s assistant, or leadman, on the evening shift was Sam Melton, and energetic and intelligent young man in his med-twenties who had been with the company for three years. Sam had been attending a local community college, and he recently completed a two-year management certification program. Mark felt some what intimidated be Sam’s credentials, his easygoing personality, his exceptional communications skills, and his ability to get work crews to go the “extra mile.” On several occasions, Sam was able to get work crews to complete difficult projects that Mark could not accomplish. Mark knew that if he took the day-shift position, Sam likely would be promoted to evening-shift supervisor. Then Sam would be able to demonstrate to upper management his superior supervisory skills. Because opportunities for advancement beyond the supervisory position were limited, Mark was concerned that Sam would soon pass him by on the corporate ladder. Thus, Mark would be forever trapped in the first-tier supervisory position with little hope for advancement.


  1. What factors account from Mark Wells’s apprehensions in this situation?
  2. What should Mark do if the day-shift supervisory position is offered to him? Why?
  3. Is it realistic for supervisors like Mark Wells to expect that younger, former subordinates will not pass them on the corporate ladder? Why?
  4. What specifically could Mark Wells do to increase the value of his services and potential (e.g., increase the SKAs he brings to work each day?

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