The Corner Office

The curious personnel case of Carla Minetti


I was recently helping sort through some old papers and came across an unexpected business challenge. The situation itself was not overly complex, but it involved managing personnel, which can be a fraught subject even in the simplest of circumstances. Specifically, it can be hard to balance your desire to do right by the company with your desire to do right by your people.

In going through these old documents, I uncovered an old case study from March of 1969 that, as it so happens, was penned by my father. While reading the document, I knew he was a fair and even-handed man who had earned much respect from his employees at a major financial institution, so I was very interested to see some of his work.

The situation outlined in the brief is this: There is a woman named Carla Minetti, age 36, whose quality of work has dropped off in the past three to six months. She has been with the institution for 10 years. She started as a bank teller before working her way to a middle management position where she managed the new tellers, most of whom were younger, married women. Carla, the brief notes, was not married.

The report also stated that Carla’s managers had posited that the cause of the dropoff in productivity could be attributed to Carla's resentment at managing younger, married women who were more successful. (One assumes these women were "more successful" because they were married with children).

I am proud to say that my father, at least, did not default to the above sexist assumptions. Instead, he outlined a better path to resolving the issue.

My father suggested that, since Carla had been a great employee for a decade, the company should make a significant effort to help her. To this end, he recommended having an interview with Carla and discussing her mental well-being and any potential new developments in her personal life.

From there, if it looked like a medical issue (of the physical or psychological varieties) was the cause of this new behavior, the company could explore its options to find help for Carla so that she could return to being the great employee she had been.

Curiously, nobody, not even my father, suggested talking with Carla and asking her what the issue was. There was certainly no evidence that the manager with misogynistic assumptions did this either, which I found surprising and concerning in equal measure.

What I found reassuring, however, was the spirit behind these deliberations. At the end of the day, the company wanted to get help for their employee and resolve whatever issue she was dealing with. Yes, many parts of this could have been handled better, and the prevailing sexism of the time does tinge a lot of the conversation. Regardless, I can appreciate the spirit of wanting to support your people.

And as I look around today, I fear that I see less and less of that. If this same situation were to happen today, yes, there would (hopefully) be fewer assumptions about a 36-year-old woman’s resentment of her married staff, but would there have even been a conversation at all?

I think the culture is now more focused on fixing the issue without having any uncomfortable conversations that could end up as fodder in a discrimination lawsuit. In this sense, I found my father’s recommendations refreshing, and it made me appreciate the many places I’ve worked where management is mainly done via informal conversations.

So, while the norm right now may be to fire people with sticky issues so that you can get a new body in place and move on, I think there’s value in investing time and resources into taking care of your people — especially the people who have been with your company for a long time.

In this way, while the social mores were starkly different at the time, I think this report from 1969 has a lot of insight into how we should approach managing today.

Doug Phares is the former CEO of the Sandusky News Group. He currently serves as managing director of Silverwind Enterprises, which owns and provides management services to small businesses. He can be reached at


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