Advice from Dean Davis-Blake

Alison Davis-Blake (BS ’79, MOB ’82), dean of the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, recently told us a story about how her work and religious beliefs interact. She had just started working at a location when the manager of an important unit was diagnosed with cancer. “We didn’t know each other well; I’m sure he was quite afraid,” she says.

As months went by, the manager kept telling everyone he would be returning to work soon. However, it became apparent that he wasn’t coming back. “He was almost certainly dying,” she says. “This became stressful for all those who worked for him as they realized too that he was not coming back.”

Dean Davis-Blake sought advice from HR to handle the situation. “I had taught about how to deal with an employee with a serious illness, but I never taught a case where the person, for such a long period of time, was not being truthful about the nature of an illness that was most likely terminal. I entertained the thought that for the good of the whole, we needed to require him to go on long-term disability with all his medical benefits.”

This decision was very difficult for Davis-Blake. “I gathered every piece of evidence I could, and I thought we should require [the manager] to go on long-term disability, but I wasn’t sure. I made it a matter of prayer. I finally felt that this was right.”

When the day came to talk to the manager, Davis-Blake didn’t know how to have the conversation. She closed her office door to prepare for the meeting. “I just knelt down right there in my office and said, ‘Heavenly Father, I have tried everything and I need you to give me some words. I don’t know what to say.’ Nothing came to me.”

A little confused as to why no answer came, she proceeded to invite the manager into the meeting. Before she could say a single sentence though, he spoke. “I know why we’re here. It’s time for me to go on disability,” he said.

“He laid out every concern that I had,” Dean Davis-Blake says. “I thought, ‘Lord, that is why you didn’t give me the words; you gave them all to him.’ That was the last time I saw him. That moment was a gift. He had been given the inspiration for me.”

Full Name: 
Alison Davis-Blake
Grad Year: 
BS 1979, MOB 1982
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