THOMAS GREEN: POWER, OFFICE POLITICS, AND A CAREER IN CRISIS

Learning Objectives The case has four primary learning objectives: 1. Explore the role that personal work styles and politics can play in a corporate environment. 2. Explore the concepts of power and influence. 3. Evaluate strategies for constructive conflict resolution. 4. Consider a framework for developing a productive relationship with one’s boss.

 . Analysis of Green’s job performance to date. personalities. 5. and expectations of Green and Davis. The differences in work styles. Potential plan of action to correct the problem. 4. 3.DISCUSSION Thomas Green’s situation. Possible underlying agendas of Davis and McDonald. Concluding thoughts – Tips for effective bosssubordinate relationships. 2. 1.

g. ambitious.. aggressive. moving. given two poor performance reviews  Disagrees with sales projections made by his boss and now believes his boss is trying to fire him  . arrogant individual  Successful track record as an account executive  Dealing with a variety of personal (e.Young. physically distant girlfriend) and professional changes in a short period of time  Received double promotion and felt he was on the fast track to a promising career  During first five months on the job.

Isn’t insecure about being the youngest in this position and without graduate training.independent in nature. Work style. Seems overconfident and brash. Expects rapid advancement and not to have to adapt his work style to his new role. Most of the people working around him have significantly more experience. PERSONALITIES. AND EXPECTATIONS OF DAVIS AND GREEN?      Green is ambitious.DIFFERENT WORK STYLES. and many have MBAs. (aggressive pursuit of a double promotion to senior market specialist). . not overly concerned with detailed planning. was successful in his previous sales positions which allowed him a great deal of autonomy.

Likes to be informed about the activities of subordinates and prefers to have things in writing. who went along with McDonald’s hiring of Green even though he was not involved in the selection. and lack of commitment to deadlines are the opposite of his boss’s. Green’s and Davis’s personalities and styles are at odds. Expects documented progress. . personality (brash and a bit arrogant).     Davis is very detail-oriented. and follow-through on his suggestions. a team player. busy. There is also a disconnect between their respective expectations. seemingly unorganized). Green’s management style (freewheeling. commitments to be kept.

it is when people believe that another interferes with their interests and goals”. 2007). these together are easily remembered by using the acronym TRIP(Wilmot. relational.GOALS IN CONFLICT Wilmot and Hocker have stated in the Seventh Edition of Interpersonal Conflict that “conflict is more than a disagreement. and process. There are four general types of interests and goals which are topic or content.  . focus is on interests and goals.  When considering conflict. identity (or facework).

This is incompatible with Green’s desire for independence and not to be micromanaged.TYPES OF GOALS Content or Topic – What does each person want? Davis is concerned with follow through and short-term results. and to be kept in the loop on Green’s progress.  Relational – How does each person want to be treated? Davis wants loyalty. Green wants the freedom to explore relationships with his clients and longterm growth opportunities such as software development. support in public.  .

Davis may see this as a potential threat to his reputation. This can be a major source of conflict.This goal has to do with parties striving to protect their identity or character.  Process – How can work get done? Davis prefers frequent updates in a written format and tangible work products such as Power Point presentations. With Green’s open and vocal challenge to Davis’s projections.  .TYPES OF GOALS CONTD. Identity or Face-Saving . Green does not see the merit in this kind of process.

meeting account execs and market specialists. 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. These relationships would be crucial in providing Green with best practices for his new role.ANALYSIS OF GREEN’S ACTIONS AND JOB PERFORMANCE TILL DATE     Green spends his time in a predictably high-energy fashion. visiting clients. he has failed to cultivate his relationships with Davis and McDonald. participating in development of a marketing plan. Green has taken no responsibility to establish any relationships in his immediate work group during his first months. .INAPPROPRIATE FOR HIS CURRENT POSITION. and in helping him navigate through the political environment. and moving to Boston. Most important.

After the initial Budget Plan meeting.. no new marketing strategies have been documented (e.g. So far. Green does not provide his boss with specific information about the forecast inaccuracies. In addition. there is little evidence of any tangible work product. we have no evidence that Green’s suspicions are valid. which is highly prized by his boss. power point presentations or memos).   Green’s actual job performance is questionable. He seems to have positive responses from client meetings. . We are not aware of any reports/findings from his software development project. Green makes no further attempt to prove to Davis or McDonald his belief that the sales forecasts are overstated. Green’s openly negative attitude in the Budget Plan meeting perhaps signals to others that he is not a team player and is not as positive as the rest of the group.

yet he has not established any in his own department where he really needs them.   Green’s strategy for dealing with the problem is avoidance and dissociation. . Green could have translated this initial relationship into something stronger. and absence of tangible work product. given this job. Davis’s second email again points out Green’s independence. although they are obviously important to Davis. The alliances he builds with “managers outside the group” are acceptable. lack of enthusiasm. Green missed a big opportunity by not reaching out to McDonald to develop a deeper connection. Green had done nothing yet to improve these areas. McDonald promoted him believing him to be capable.

seemed to be accurate.  Ever independent. Green neither perceives nor understands Davis’s needs. nor does he develop the relationships required to survive at Dynamic Displays.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. and to help him with these issues. 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 had documented no new marketing strategies in four months.  . in fact. Green shows lack of definitive output.  Expert power and referent power could have been used to Green’s advantage.

Green could have made vital linkages between himself and McDonald. By providing tangible data. Coercive Power – If Davis’s negative performance evaluation is a direct result of Green’s disagreement with the Budget Plan forecasts. However. 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. Davis could have formally offered Green an independent special project assignment to explore the software development opportunity as a reward for developing innovative marketing strategies for his region and working through the forecast issues. then Davis is utilizing this power base to try to keep Green in line. Davis has utilized this base of power to evaluate Green’s performance. Green has the ability to persuade others and is charismatic. key clients. detailed market studies. Reward Power – This did not come into play in Green’s situation.     Expert Power– Green could have utilized this power base to some degree by becoming an expert in market forecasts. Green could have gained some power as an authority in this area. Legitimate Power – As Green’s superior. and complex models. and others in the organization. .

The case does not tell us whether Davis does really perform “creative accounting. on the other hand. one can never be sure of what another person’s agenda truly is.g. knowing he is McDonald’s protégé.   Alternatively. This could mean that if Davis did juggle the figures. We can analyze the benefit in analyzing various scenarios in a political situation.THE POSSIBLE UNDERLYING AGENDAS FOR DAVIS AND MCDONALD?  As with any real-life situation. . The ability to keep your options open and “cover yourself” is sometimes vital to survive.. Davis – Davis’s motivation for writing the emails could be constructive or destructive. Davis could possibly be trying to develop Green. If. Green could be right in thinking that Davis is trying to make a case to fire him because he spoke out against the projections. he could be afraid of exposure and would do anything he could to discredit Green (e. Green should tread very carefully and try to help Davis through his error. writing the emails to McDonald).” We have only Green’s observation on this. Davis has not overestimated the figures consciously.

so her subordinates’ performances are very important to her. By bypassing Davis and giving Green a senior job that should have been Davis's to bestow. Is she impressed with Green’s style and sales track record? Did she suspect Davis was up to something. McDonald may have in fact contributed to the problem by failing to provide adequate support/mentoring for Green. Exactly why did she promote Green. It is possible McDonald has realized she was out of line in usurping Davis’s authority and will try to rectify the situation by supporting his judgment of Green’s performance. McDonald was responsible for creating a highly charged political climate.    McDonald – We can speculate that she aspires to a job with more responsibility at Dynamic Displays. she created a difficult situation for Green to enter. Has Green been totally abandoned? . She certainly did not help the relationship between Green and Davis get off on the right foot. and did she put Green into the position to help expose “creative accounting”? McDonald has left Green on his own to perform. McDonald spoke candidly about reservations she had promoting Green.

. This may be a wise move. Green’s goal would be to destroy Davis’s career. Green will need to find a way to work with him. Here Green could adapt his work style more to fit Davis’s ideals.WHAT SHOULD THOMAS GREEN DO?     Both elements of compromise and collaboration can be highlighted for Green’s situation. This could entail Green secretly gathering documentation to prove Davis is either incompetent at his job or deliberately tried to inflate numbers. Avoidance – Green could continue his strategy of dissociation. This strategy will only serve to further alienate him from Davis. He could retain some of his independent style in areas Davis is less concerned about. Competition – Characterized by aggressive and uncooperative behavior. This is dangerous for Green because it is extremely risky and he has few allies in the group at this point. because as long as Davis is his superior. Green must engage to resolve this conflict. Compromise – This results in some wins and some losses.

Providing Davis with information is the key for getting along with him. he could be unaware of the problem. Accommodation – This is a harmonizing approach in which Green might “avoid rocking the boat and do what Davis tells him. Green could work with Davis to sort through the forecasts. Collaboration – This takes into account both parties’ goals/perspectives and works toward an integrative solution. After all. this might be a style to consider. they would arrive at a solution and this would allow Davis to save face.  .” If Green does not think he can find data to support his perspective on the forecasts. Working together.

 Green should recognize the value placed on written information. He should use his response email as an opportunity to express his enthusiasm for the job and explain his work on the software development project and how he believes it will help long-term projections (perhaps with a power point presentation and excel model). rational persuasion. Coalitions.  Taking the time to form relationships with people inside his group must become Green’s priority.Specific influence tactics can also be employed to help the situation.  . and personal appeal would be particularly helpful in Green’s situation.

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