Mark Colvard, a United Parcel Manager in San Ramon, California, recently faced a difficult decision. One of his drivers asked for 2 week off to help an ailing family member.
But company rules said this driver wasn’t eligible. If Colvard went by the book, the driver would probably take the days off anyway and be fired. On the other hand, Colvard chose to give the driver the time off. Although he took some heat for the decision, he also kept a valuable employee.
Had Colvard been faced with this decision 6 months earlier, he says he would have gone the other way. What changed his thinking was a month he spent living in McAllen, Texas. It was part of a UPS management training experience called the Community Internship Program (CIP). During his month in McAllen, Colvard built housing for the poor, collected clothing for the Salvation Army, and worked in a drug rehab Center.
Colvard gives the program credit for helping him empathize with employees facing crises back home. And he says that CIP has made him a better manager. “My goal was to make the numbers, and in some cases that meant not looking at the individual but looking at the bottom line. After that one month stay, I Immediately started reaching out to people in a different way.”
CIP was established by UPS in the late 1960s to help open the eyes of the company’s predominantly white managers to the poverty and inequality in many cities. Today, the program takes 50 of the company’s most promising executives each summer and brings them to cities around the country.
There they deal with a variety of problems from transportation to housing, education, and health care. The company’s goal is to awaken these managers to the challenges that many of their employees face, bridging the cultural divide that separates a white manager from an African American driver or an upper-income suburbanite from a worker raised in the rural South.
1. Do you think individuals can learn empathy from something like a 1-month CIP experience? Explain why or why not.
2. How could UPS’s CIP help the organization better manage work life conflicts?
3. How could UPS’s CIP help the Organization improve its response to diversity?
4. What negatives, if any can you envision resulting from CIP?
5. UPS has 2,400 managers. CIP includes only 50 each year. How can the program make a difference if it include only 2 percent of all managers? Does this suggest that the program is more public relations than management training?
6. How can UPS justify the cost of a program like CIP if competitors like FedEx, DHL, and the U.S. Postal Service don’t offer such programs? Does the program increase costs or reduce UPS profits?