The case starts with the result of a problem that has been brewing for months-Thomas Green’s faltering career has transitioned from the fast track to a destination of potential unemployment. We sought to analyze the factors leading up to this rapid downward spiral and what other challenges were present in the situation. We identified some of the underlying causes, and developed potential solutions and how to apply them to rectify the challenges Green is experiencing.
Current Problems: The tension has developed between Davis and Green in part because of Green’s very public opposition to Davis’s next year’s projections of the 10% market growth, and in part because Green did not meet Davis’s expectations for the person who will be holding his previous position. According to Davis, Green has failed. Both in 1:1 meetings with Green and in interactions with his boss Shannon McDonald his ‘surface’ story has remained the same. He says Green is doing a poor job of communicating; not keeping his boss updated of his travel plans and current location.
He also complains that when Green is on the road he doesn’t check in with the office enough and fails to send Davis information he has requested in a timely manner. Moreover, Davis feels that Green’s strategies and way of working with clients needs to be more concrete; that Green needs to provide factual data and reports to his clients instead of just ideas. In addition, Davis refers to Green’s negative attitude (as expressed at the goal-setting meeting) indicated that Green lacked the enthusiasm needed for the job. Deeper Problems & Underlying Causes for the Conflict: 1.
Power Politics & Dynamics at Work: Davis’s public complaints do not reflect the full story. His perspective seems to be skewed by some common fallacies of thought that often plague business organizations. Davis has seen Thomas’s objection in front of the other employees as challenging him. This may be a case of Schadenfreude where Davis, who now has reason to dislike Green, finds everything possible wrong with his work as a way to discredit him. He may be jealous that Green jumped a few rungs on the corporate ladder, and incensed that he wasn’t consulted in the hiring decisions.
Attribution can come into play where, instead of believing that there is a reason Green was promoted and maybe he did have value to bring to the table, a cognitive bias making him think Green’s previous successes were due to luck, and that he is a rookie who can’t be relied upon. That becomes a self fulfilling prophecy of perception, where Davis sees all the little things Green does wrong as insurmountable flaws confirming his original opinion of Green being the wrong man for the job.
Many tenured workers feel that ‘paying ones dues’ is an important part of building a career, and that those on the fast track aren’t truly deserving of their positions. Since Green took over Davis’s former position, projection can also come into play, where Davis compares everything Green does to how he would have handled it. Davis does seem to be biased against Green, and rather than helping him to be the most successful he can, he appears to prefer firing him and starting over. A reverse halo effect has come into play, where nothing Green does is right. 2.
Structural Problems in Hiring/Training. There are some structural problems in terms of chain of command and in how Dynamic Displays does their hiring and training. McDonald even identified this huge jump in positions and expressed her reservations. She openly admitted that her biggest concern was the increased level of managerial responsibility with no experience. This huge jump bypassed positions of needed training and practical work experience. Upper management had not initially counseled Green on expectations of communication, direction, report, and etc.
Davis was not giving Green any real direction and guidance on how he wanted the reports until after it was identified as a problem. Davis did finally show how the other senior market analyst generated her reports and the approved method for relaying data. Another critical error was the fact that McDonald endorsed Green’s promotion with no input from Davis. The relationship between Green and Davis was to some extent doomed from the start. When on Green’s first day Division VP McDonald tells him “Tom, you are walking into a tricky situation with Frank Davis.
Frank had expected to choose the new senior market specialist and it would not have been you. You’ll have to deal with any fallout that might result from that. ” Davis was not able to pick the person who he may have been molding for the position. This is demonstrated in the incompatibility of work styles and no working relationship between Davis and Green. McDonald did not set Green up for success when it came to working under Davis.
The last thing she mentioned to Green on that first day was “don’t let me down. It would have been more effective should McDonald have included Davis in the hiring process, and meeting with both Davis and Green before or during Green’s first week so they could discuss expectations, and what McDonald viewed as Green’s strengths and areas of opportunity so a plan could immediately be put in place to address them and get him properly trained. 3. Thomas Green is not a blameless victim in this circumstance. There are a few areas in which he tripped up that have contributed to the severity of the current situation.
This is an excellent case identifying the Peter principle where a great salesman is identified for exemplar performance and promoted to a position of incompetence within the company. Perhaps because (aptly named) Green was so new, he did not fully understand the dynamic of the specific situation he walked into. The 2008 Budget Plan Meeting did not appear to be an open forum, and Green misjudged it. Normally applicable to managers and coaches, the ‘Praise in public, criticize in private’ concept would have been useful in this case as well.
Many of the most successful corporate climbers recognize the benefit of making ones higher-ups look good. Publically disagreeing with Davis in that open meeting was an act of insubordination. If Green knew the subject of the meeting and that Davis would be speaking for him, a certain onus fell on his shoulders to know what the goals were being set at ahead of time and giving him a chance to discuss in a more appropriate setting with Davis. Power conflict/ Stylistic Differences:
Communication between Davis and Green was not the only issue. There were multiple misunderstandings between Davis, Green, and McDonald in terms of really acknowledging the issues at play. Green was a bit misled with regard to what was most important to his direct manager. The sample PowerPoint slides and organizational charts one of the other market supervisors had created should be something Davis showed Green early on, while setting expectations of those types of reports being created on weekly or monthly basis.
Going over communication expectations is also really important, as that varies widely from manager to manager. Green’s autonomous “I’ll get it done my way” attitude clouded his ability to see why it might be important to keep communication up with Davis. He should have asked Davis the best way to check in with him and how often that was expected. Davis should be more clear-if he asks for a report while Green is on the road, be specific about the expected turnaround time or due date for the information.
Green’s ego and inexperience hurt him in the transition to such a responsible and politically sensitive role. He is intelligent and talented but he was also over confident and he abused his “Legitimate Power which is defined as the position power based on a person’s holding of a managerial positions rather than anything the manager is or does as a person” (Phillips & Gully, 2012). Green did things his way rather than respecting the path laid before him, and the superiors with tenure who had legitimate advice to give. Davis possessed a mix of Expert and Coercive powers. Expert power is a personal power based on an individual expertise in some area” Davis has done the same job in the past and he presented the successful projections for the company marketing future.
“Coercive is a position power based on fear or a desire to avoid punishment” Green did not follow directions and rules, Davis reported this to McDonalds and threatened to end Green’s position. McDonald holds the ‘Reward power’: “A position power that involves the use of rewards to influence and motivate followers”. She is the one who appointed Green at this position based on his intelligence and talent. Phillips & Gully, 2012). Applicable OB Theory Two of the most fundamental aspects of Organizational Behavior are process, where there was a communication breakdown, and behavior in terms of evaluating, rewarding, and managing, as well as managing conflict/power and politics. Because Green wasn’t properly trained and mentored he was unable to do the job according to Davis’s preferences. The company seems to have a classic Scalar chain of hierarchy in place, that was upset by McDonald hiring Green for a position he wasn’t prepared for. The chain of command started off broken because it jumped over Davis.
Innacurate assumptions followed, as Green thought McDonald would look out for him and retained a direct connection to his career, where in fact the traditional hierarchy was back in place without Green realizing how he fit in. The other thing that is easy to miss when analyzing this case is the positive opportunities that exist. McDonald ‘took a chance’ on Green because she felt the group needed a new perspective. The company did have the chance to improve results from what Green brought to the table, but his natural talent needed to be harnessed to take best advantage of that potential.
Davis’s initial dislike and distrust of Green set the relationship off on the wrong foot, and at some point Green was more focused on keeping his job than on improving sales and helping the company. If Davis were focusing on making the most of Green as an employee, he would work on ways to accomplish multiple goals while encouraging Green to do his best work. Green is motivated by success as measured by his relationships with clients, ability to connect with company higher-ups, and having the autonomy to keep up that momentum. Davis’s management style does not reward Green’s independent thinking.
Also it is interesting that one of Davis’s criticisms of Green is that he is “thinking like an account executive” when in fact most of their struggles stem from Green being a ‘big-picture’ thinker, and from Davis taking a detailed line-by-line approach. Solutions: There are two angles that should be addressed: both how the key players in this case should have handled things, and what can be done now and going forward. Green should have handled the Budget Meeting differently. He was wrong to talk about the issue to others in the company in that forum, even if unintentional; it did appear like he wanted to make Davis look bad.
Green should have requested a one-on-one meeting with Davis to talk about the issue and to try to understand why things went so wrong. Because he feels strongly that those projections are unreasonable, he will also need to collect information to support his opinion about the numbers. He must try to build a relationship with Davis; recognizing that he put his boss in a bad position and what that did to him politically, he needs to eat some crow and work to rebuild a strong working relationship with Davis. This is the time to take McDonald’s original advice to heart, and ask for help.
His going to Davis might feed into Davis’s ego enough to help: he can re-tie his success to the experience and knowledge base of his boss. Only then will the two of them be able to communicate and will Green have a chance to have his opinions heard. 1. Mentoring/training Both for Thomas Green at this moment, and for employees in the future, there needs to be a priority of setting up a more formal manager training and mentoring program. Part of Expectancy Theory states that the first level requirement of managers is to ensure employees are adequately trained and ave a clear understanding of what is expected of them.
It seems Davis and Green were consistently not on the same page because of a failure to properly lay the groundwork during Green’s first few weeks on the job. For Green, McDonald’s advice of “I am hoping you compensate for your lack of experience by seeking out guidance from some of your more seasoned managers” was lacking in form and direction. A more formal mentoring program put in place could be very successful. Managerial training that includes working for a short time in the positions that were bypassed by the promotion would be particularly effective.
The company should also assign one of the other senior market analyst as a mentor. Green could shadow with that senior market analyst for a short time to get a feel for company politics and best practices. In the future when a candidate is promoted from a sales role into management, they should be assigned a mentor who can help and guide them in the realities and expectations of the new position. There should also be a transition period if at all possible to easy the new manager into a position before giving him free reign.
2. Level setting Because of Green’s nontraditional career path, additional guidance on the front end was required to set him up for success. Initial counseling on performance and work ethic expectations was a necessary piece that was missing in Davis and Green’s interactions early on. Clear expectations on preferred communication methods such as report presentations including charts and graphs should have been given to Green right away. Green should have been provided a thorough job description and clearly defined goals. The first few weeks in the new position were critical in showing Green what was important to upper management.
Davis bringing Green on joint client appointments emphasized being hands on and meeting the right people. Davis missed an opportunity to show Green the type of detailed numbers and reports he would like to see. Also, rather than thinking Green needed reports to present at those meetings, should have partnered with him to create the concrete data he feels is most effective to use in working with a potential client. That was the only training Green received, and it was unfair to expect he would inherently understand an expectation that was not expressed to him by his boss.
Davis should also have coached Green on his other expectations including form and frequency of communication. Assumptions were detrimental to the relationship; some of which may have been due to generational differences leading to varying expectations. This could have helped with the communication issues between all three parties due to their age differences. 3. Structural changes within Dynamic Displays In the future Dynamic Displays needs to adjust its hiring practices to set everyone involved up for success.
It is short-sighted to think that employees must always take the most traditional path, as out of the box candidates come up at times and can benefit the company. They should make the hiring process more structured to avoid this type of issue in the future. The promotion process needs to be reviewed and improved upon. All parties who will be affected by the promotion should have input on the decision. Had Davis been included in that choice and in brainstorming on ways to get Green up and running, this issue may have been avoided altogether. Work relationships clearly can have a huge impact of production.
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