Friday, April 15, 2011

Case study discussion in my Leadership & Culture class (Pt 1)

I am taking a Leadership & Culture class this semester. It's a required core course for my management major. The professor is teaching this for the first time on our campus although he's taught it before. I was a little hesitant to take the class (although I have to eventually to graduate) because I did not know what to expect of the class and professor. Without going into further detail and losing the point of my post, I must say that I have thoroughly enjoyed this professor and the school would do the students a disservice by not keeping him around.

Now, he sent us a case from Darden as an introduction to our discussion of ethics. The case starts like this:
You are a senior executive in the sales department of a large manufacturing company. A competitor’s technological innovation has disrupted your company’s production and has plunged profits into the red for the last three quarters. Your boss has made it very clear that if you do not make your profit projections for this quarter, you will be out of a job. One of your staff members makes a suggestion to you about investing in new equipment to better monitor and service clients. After some research you realize that this investment, if enacted quickly, could increase sales and help the overall health of the company. Each quarter that you wait to implement this equipment will reduce its positive impact, but investing now will cause you to miss your profit projections and lose your job. What do you do?
It goes on to say
Most people have one of two reactions after reading a case like the one above. Either they have a strong moral intuition toward one of the options, or they experience conflicting moral intuitions and cannot decide between the two. Moral intuitions or sentiments (as Adam Smith called them) are our gut reactions to a situation as to what is right or wrong. They are developed over time from our past experiences and social interactions. We may regret decisions that are based just on moral intuition when we find they missed the mark. It is only when we do the hard work of analyzing a case and meshing intuition with reason that we can be confident that we are making better choices. This is because our intuitions are determined by past experiences, which may be of little help in new moral dilemmas. In addition, apart from following the stronger moral intuition, we cannot decide between two conflicting intuitions without a standard or some criteria for what is better or worse. In both of these cases, we need to turn to ethics.
So, what would you do?

A few of the kids said they would invest in the new equipment and "hope" that the boss would see that you have made a good decision and keep you around. Others said they would invest in the new equipment and plead their case with the boss to keep them around. These kids are so ignorant and lost to the realities of the real business world.

My response: I do not invest in the new equipment. My efforts are only recognized if I make my numbers not if I show improvement.

My reasoning based on the given/known facts of the case: It's me, the boss, the company and my impending doom or firing from the company:
  • Sometimes it's about self-preservation. I would use the last quarter I have with the company to find a job and make sure I have a plan/job to maintain my income after being let go by this company.
  • Why did it take three quarters for the boss to react to a competitor? Whose fault is it really, mine, my bosses or higher? Yet, I'm the one getting the shaft. Great company to work for!
  • I am getting fired no matter what if I don't hit my numbers. So, investing in the new equipment improves the numbers but does not make me reach my numbers. This benefits the company but it does nothing for extending my career with the company.
  • The company didn't take into consideration the importance of performance maintenance. I've missed my numbers for three quarters and just now at the start of the fourth does the boss give a crap about my work? I don't expect to be micromanaged but if I'm liable for missing my numbers so should my boss.
  • My boss not looking into performance numbers failures sooner makes me wonder what kind of boss/company I was working for to begin with. If the numbers were more important until someone complained to him, is this who I want to work under anyway?
  • If the company isn't going to invest in me to help me better the company as well as better myself, why would I invest in the equipment and better the company in the long run when I will no longer be with the company?
I guess that's a long enough list.

The professor says, "Really?"

I say, "Yes, based on the minimal information we are given in the case."

He says, "What about the group that works under you? Their kids? Others in the company and their kids?"

I say, "I would still NOT invest in the equipment. I'm bitter towards the boss and the company. I would not do it out of spite. As for 'the others,' unless I worked closely with them I have no real relationship with them and therefore less concern for them. It's my ass on the line and the company will probably continue after I'm gone! As far as anyone that worked under me, I would decide who would be the best fit to replace me and lead the group. I would tell him to bring the idea of investing in the equipment to the boss. That way he'd look like a savior with a fresh idea. He'll get promoted and the team will be okay. I would not invest my time and effort knowing that my situation would finalize in my dismissal."

He says, "Hm. Interesting? Anyone else?"

The young-uns in the class stuck with their "the boss will see I tried and reward me with retaining my employment." Or "there has to be a way to talk to the boss and keep my job."

Clouded their judgment is. In the ways of corporate America, untrained they are.

There's a bit more so I'll end for now since this post is lengthy.

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