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Case Analysis Thomas Green: Power, Office Politics and A Career Crisis (Power and Politics)

PGDM Ex.2013-14

Group 9:

Sheshank Kumar (1303-041) Shubha Mishra (1303-042) Somyashree Khare (1303-043) Sougata Sarkar (1303-044) Sumati Arora (1303-045)

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Executive summary:

Thomas Green is a 28 years young graduate from the University of Georgia, with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics. Although Green has little experience, he aggressively seeks to advance his position in the organization. During his first four months he has done really well in Dynamics Display which was noticed by seniors of the organization. During his weeklong training session at corporate headquarter he met Shannon McDonald, the division vice president and found university connection with her. This helped him to get promoted to the un-usual promotion for him. Frank Davis, Green’s immediate boss has someone else in his mind to get senior market specialist position and did not intend to choose Green as the new senior market specialist so, he was very unhappy about Green’s promotion. In the first three months of his promotion, Frank Davis was not happy with the performance and working attitude of Green. Instead of pursuing the goals of the organization, Green only looks out after his own personal gains. Another problem of Green’s was his inability to connect with the organization and refusal to follow Davis’s instructions. Due to Green’s reluctant behavior, Davis has lack of visibility about the work done by Green. Also, Green was ignoring request from Davis for any documents or charts. Moreover, Green did not have enough managerial experiences so he was notable to deal with issues based on a structural and long-term view. After the first review he decided to avoid communication with Davis instead of making improvements or rebuilding his relationship with Davis. This has more worsened the situation and Davis has written a bitter mail to McDonald which shows that he doesn’t want Green to be any more in organization. Green was working with certain product which Davis was not clear about. Green has his own way of working which was not acceptable by Davis and he wanted him to present with proper documents so, that he can update his boss. Although Green is willing to achieve a high selling growth for the company probably not in 2008 but in future, he concentrated too much on achieving the goal instead of observing the surrounding situation. After Green learned that his boss had been emailing McDonald regarding his concern about Green’s performance, Green was very worried about the situation and did not know how he should explain his perspective to McDonald. He was thinking of the office politics which was going on, which he ignored and was only concentrating on his work. Even he met only twice with McDonald after he moved to corporate headquarter. Now Green wasn’t sure how to defend him and was not sure either if McDonald will still support him. Thomas Green was stressed and was under dilemma of what to do next.

Q.1 How personal work styles of Frank Davis and Thomas Green affected politics in the organization.

Working style of Frank Davis and Thomas Green were completely different. Frank Davis was a 45 years old with 17 years of working experience in Dynamic Displays. He has held positions as an accountant executive, market specialist, and senior market specialist. He was currently the marketing director for the Travel and Hospitality Division. He believes in documented process of working. He require memo and presentations to bring to their superiors that justify the work he is

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doing. And he assumes the same should be done by the other associates and his juniors as well. He believes in preparing supporting documents and details before the meeting. He wanted that his sub-ordinates should inform him about his plans well in advance and keeps updating about the schedules. Also, should provide all information asked then and there. But Thomas Green has different style of working. He doesn’t believe in documenting and presenting documents rather talk face to face for the issues. He believes in working the way he wants. He has foresightedness on which he was working but he doesn’t want to reveal until done. He doesn’t like to micromanage or get micromanaged. He doesn’t mix his personal and professional life. He had an impressive working style but that may be suitable where he can work on himself. Different working styles lead to the misunderstanding as Davis was not having required visibility of the work Green was doing and thus he can’t suggest or take credit of the achievement he will have. Davis was losing control of Green which he never wanted. Davis was earlier in the position of Green and he always informed, documented and presented his work to his boss so, he was expecting the same from Green. He needs someone at Green’s position who can oblige to his order and greet his as his mentor. So, Davis was noting every small mistake or dis-agreement he had with Green and was informing McDonald on regular basis so, that he should keep his boss under confidence. Green has just few years of experience and he not able to read the politics going behind him which can lead to losing his job.

Q.2 How do the actions of Thomas Green differ from the expectations of Frank Davis?

The relationship between Thomas Green and Frank Davis went awry from the word go. I think Shannon McDonald should not have given a heads up to Green, rather she should have resolved Davis' misgivings about her choice (Green) and then initiated an ice breaking meeting with the two of them. Why she didn't do it in the first place is questionable? Did she believe so strongly in Green that she though he can handle everything smoothly or did she think 'let's throw him in turbulent waters and see if he swims or drowns'. Either way, her initiation process of Green to the new position isn't helpful to anyone in the situation.

We see that Green and Davis are from two opposite school of thoughts. We see Green to be a fresh/quick thinking, too self confident, and believes in his ideas too strongly to take any other perspective in account. We see Davis as a professional with 20 years of experience, who is used to a very systematic, disciplined, and conservative style of working. Such different style of working are bound to clash.

Green was to self occupied in believing that the sales goals set by Davis are grossly overstate the current market environment and he suggests, rather publicly, that they change their strategy and focus. This is an immature and unrealistic suggestion, especially when it's not backed by hard data. Green is not interested in learning about the organizational culture, work style of his boss, his KRAs and structure of his job.

Shannon McDonald had told Green that "this position requires you to think strategically as well as tactically — and to work across layers of management. I expect you to seek guidance from

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some of our seasoned managers." And did he ignore this completely! He forgets that each profile has a different approach, style, and decorum.

Frank Davis on a contrary is what we say a seasoned player. He's been promoted from the position Green has been promoted to. Ideally Green should've asked Davis for advice on how to handle the job. Davis' is all about memos, presentations, and playing by the book. But, his weakness is that he is rigid and can't adjust to the different working style of new generation-fast, on the feet thinkers, least bothered about paper work, etc.

Davis expected the following from Green:

Focus on regional strategy development

Be a team player

Clear communications up and down the chain of command

Change his attitude and try to adjust to the working style that already exists for a smoother and efficient output

Align his goals with organizational/team goals

Green's actions were far from the expectations Davis had from him. Let's hope that the opportunity that McDonald's mail (asking him to respond) has given him can transform the situation and make it positive. Green and Davis need to understand that the most important thing is trust when working in a company and collaborating with other people.

Q.3 What are your analysis of Green’s actions and job performance in his first five months?

After the initial five months Thomas Green doesn’t have much to show. Although Mr. Green was very effective for the first few weeks till Budget Plan Meeting October 8, 2008, during the meeting in my opinion he made his biggest mistake by openly disagreeing with Mr. Davis’ sales growth projections, which perhaps indicated to others that he is not a team player. His performance keep on deteriorating after this meeting and he spent the next several months complaining about the inflated sales goal, and trying to get others in Dynamic Displays to see his point of view.

Green makes no further attempt to prove to Davis or McDonald his belief that the sales forecasts are overstated. Green does not provide his boss with specific information about the forecast inaccuracies. So far, we have no evidence that Green’s suspicions are valid.

Green seems to ignore McDonald’s reservations about his lack of experience and suggestion to seek out guidance from more seasoned managers in the group.

Green has taken no responsibility to establish any relationships in his immediate work group during his first months.

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Most important, he has failed to cultivate his relationships with Davis and McDonald. These relationships would be crucial in providing Green with best practices for his new role, and in helping him navigate through the political environment. Green’s actual job performance is questionable. He seems to have positive responses from client meetings, there is little evidence of any tangible work product, which is highly prized by his boss. We are not aware of any reports/findings from his software development project. In addition, no new marketing strategies have been documented (e.g., power point presentations or memos).

Green’s strategy for dealing with the problem is avoidance and dissociation. The alliances he builds with “managers outside the group” are acceptable, given this job, yet he has not established any in his own department where he really needs them.

Green missed a big opportunity by not reaching out to McDonald to develop a deeper connection. McDonald promoted him believing him to be capable. Green could have translated this initial relationship into something stronger.

Davis’s second email again points out Green’s independence, lack of enthusiasm, and absence of tangible work product. Green had done nothing yet to improve these areas, although they are obviously important to Davis.

Despite knowing that Davis prefers to have information in writing, Green’s neglecting to do so results in Davis’s assessment that he has not produced. Davis’s assessment, in fact, seemed to be accurate. Green shows lack of definitive output, and had documented no new marketing strategies in four months.

Ever independent, Green feels that Davis is out to get him and does not try to reach any common ground. He doesn’t try to understand his boss’s needs& pressures, and to help him with these issues. Green neither perceives nor understands Davis’s needs, nor does he develop the relationships required to survive at Dynamic Displays.

Expert power and referent power could have been used to Green’s advantage.

Expert Power–Green could have utilized this power base to some degree by becoming an expert in market forecasts. By providing tangible data, detailed market studies, and complex models, Green could have gained some power as an authority in this area. Referent Power –Green’s main failing was to not exploit this power base. As we can infer from his impressive sales record and positive impression made on McDonald, Green has the ability to persuade others and is charismatic. Green could have made vital linkages between himself and McDonald, key clients, and others in the organization. Coercive Power –If Davis’s negative performance evaluation is a direct result of Green’s disagreement with the Budget Plan forecasts, then Davis is utilizing this power base to try to keep Green in line. Reward Power –This did not come into play in Green’s situation. However, Davis could have formally offered Green an independent special project assignment to explore the software

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development opportunity as a reward for developing innovative marketing strategies for his region and working through the forecast issues.

Q.4 What are the possible underlying agendas of Davis and McDonald?

Davis was unhappy as he recommended some other candidate for role of senior market specialist in place of Green Davis was always assessing Green negatively and escalated the matter to Mc Donald without giving much time for Green to change and adapt new working environment. Davis‘s agenda was very clear as he wanted Green to move out because he feels that Green was not competent enough for the role. Davis never motivated Green and not working in coaching style. There were multiple instances in short span which made things worse for Green.Davis was unhappy with Green’s working style as his approach was entirely different. Davis always preferred documenting meeting and focused on hard data & presentation to justify his claims unlike Green who consider documentation secondary. Davis was also upset with Green as he openly challenged his sales goal estimate for Eastern region that is handled by Green. Davis sometimes felt that Green was still trapped in his previous job profile and need to work on developing strategies as required by new job profile.

Mc Donald’s promoted Green into a new role as she wanted fresh perspective in team

compromising on managerial experience. Using her authority, Mc Donald ignored the fact that

Davis was not happy with Green’s movement in his team which made situation difficult for all of them. It is also observed that Mc Donald climbed organizational/career ladder at faster pace than Davis

and was supporting Green in following her foot prints for the same, ignoring Green’s lack of

competencies. Mc Donald and Green had college & native connections which benefitted Green, as he was moved to a better role without much training & induction.

Q.5 What actions, if any, would you take if you were Thomas Green?

If I were Thomas Green, I would have taken following actions:

I would have immediately responded to McDonald’s email & informed about my recent performance in the company and also asked for an appointment to meet him at her office to discuss the matter in detail.

During meeting with her, I would have informed McDonald that I was working on a new up-selling and cross-selling software program that would benefit the airline passengers. By using this new technology, the passengers would be able to upgrade seating, to choose the books or magazines delivered to the flight and also to book hotels or cars as per their choices etc. For this purpose, I spent and worked independently most of the times of last three months and travelled to meet various market specialist and clients.

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would have informed her that the sales targets Frank Davis set for my region were

totally impossible to meet and also those targets had been developed without input from

me. Because of the financial distress in the Air Line industry and preference for web check in, I did not foresee a lot of growth in the next year. As I raised my doubt on the projected figures that Davis presented in the Budget Plan meeting, he was very upset that


openly challenged him at the meeting.

would have given justifications against each point what Frank Davis communicated to McDonald through emails regarding my performance and asked for her recommendations on all those issues I had with Davis.



would have documented the hard data on which I was working for last few months and

kept it ready before meeting Frank Davis next time and updated him on my progress then onwards.

Q-6 Evaluate strategies for constructive conflict resolution and how to develop productive relationship with one’s boss. Share your experiences briefly focusing on the incident, experience, behaviour change & outcome.

together and building a rapport. It's actually how

one deals with conflict that makes it positive or negative. Conflict is the result of difference in values, motivations, perceptions, ideas, or desires. We work and deal with people on a daily basis in personal and professional capacity; we need to develop a sense of empathy in order to have a healthy relationship in all spheres of life. This is all the more important in today's high stress work environment.

Conflict is a natural part of growing/learning

A healthy relationship with one's team members and boss is very crucial to one's career growth a 'emotional professional health'. No one can snip off conflict completely at work but one can surely be effective and efficient when it comes to conflict management. No matter how modern our work culture becomes, no matter how much we talk about diminishing 'power distance', there is always an invisible line defining who's the boss. Not that I'm conservative, but I believe one must follow a certain protocol, hierarchy, and organisational structure, work culture in order to have semblance of discipline at work place.

Following are some suggestions as to how to have a healthy/productive relationship with one's boss:

1. Understand his/her strengths and weaknesses and try to learn the best you can from him.

Everyone has something you can learn from, so be positive and look at the bright side (unless

he/she is so negative that you can't look upto him ever)

2. Listen to what he/she says from a neutral perspective

3. Maintain a cordial relationship

4. Keep him/her abreast with changes at your end, so that you both can be on the same page

5. Try to gauge his/her bad mood from good mood, and ensure that you talk important issues

when he/she's in a good mood

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6. Make sure that you are up-to-date in terms of deadlines and information before you need to

have a serious head-on discussion

7. Negative issues should be discussed 1-to-1 and not in front of others (else it's akin to public


8. Be humble but not submissive

9. Be assertive and not arrogant

10. Be solution oriented and not a naysayer

11. Be supportive to your boss in front of others when he/she need it most

In my 8 years as an HR professional with a start up I've seen myself transform from a casual, aggressive, 'shooting from the hip' attitude to a calmer, assertive, suave, serene and deep thinking professional. Let me say that there is much that needs to be learnt/changed, but I can say that I'm more receptive and excited to change now than I was at the start of my career. Interestingly, I'm more mouldable now than before. Yes, the ride from 'then to now' wasn't smooth like written in books but there is much to be learned from it. I would like to share some of the lessons from my experience :







First presentation to train the fresh recruits. The training went smoothly and the feedback was good.

I was very puffed up and went to my boss to brag. To my surprise he wasn't happy. He said, "Don't be happy with adequate. Aim for exceptional."

My first


got rave review

Take feedback/advice in the right


for the new presentation and


anger. In my anger I ensured my next presentation is stellar.





thanked my

boss and


promised myself

to take



in the right spirit.

In one of our pre- conference 1-to-1 discussions with my boss I shared my grievance/problems

He looked crestfallen and after much persuasion said, "People always come with problems, I'm waiting for people who bring solutions to problems."

I thought to myself, "Isn't sharing our problems the purpose of 1- to-1 meetings, everyone does it, right?" The next day at the conference I surprised my boss with our team's presentation on 'Best Solutions

Needless to say

Sometimes problems give rise to the best learning

not only my boss but other teams were happy as well. A healthy



started from then on and we have ever since had the 'Best




sessions. This



to the


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After an appraisal meeting I was given a promotion and asked to take up a newly created profile

I took me a while to adjust to the new role, letting go of old responsibilities and mindset was difficult. I had no precedent to benchmark.

The profile was tough and as they say 'people either swim or sink in turbulent waters'- I learned how to swim

The experience made me stronger and a sharper HR professional.

Break out of your comfort zone- it's liberating.