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Into the Fray: Ethical Political Strategy

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Into the Fray
M. Ellen Peebles

"Psst, psst, psst." Talk of cost cutting and layoffs was already in the air in the New York offices of international beverage company Legrand SA. But now everyone is imagining the worst after the sudden and mysterious resignation of Lucien Beaumont, the company's president of U.S. operations. The rumors are flying fast and furious about what prompted his departure and, just as important, who will get Lucien's job.

Although Michael Feldstein is not one of the old guard at Paris-based Legrand--he joined the company as part of an acquisition two years ago--he's confident that he's a top contender for Lucien's job. Michael, the global category director for rums, believes his stellar brand results and strong track record might earn him the position.

Then, with a slight sense of paranoia, he notices Danielle Harcourt--the global category director for vodka and liqueurs and Michael's chief competitor for Lucien's job-networking with some of the Paris executives at a launch party for one of Michael's brands. She has also reached out to at least one of his direct reports. Before he can confront her, Michael gets a call from CEO Pierre Hoffman and a proposition-but not the one he's looking for.

In this fictional case study, Michael must weigh the advantages of taking an unexpected post in China against holding his ground in the politically charged New York offices of Legrand. Offering expert advice are Nancy Clifford Widmann, an executive coach, and Amy Dorn Kopelan, the CEO of Bedlam Entertainment, a conference management company; Fred Hassan, the chairman and CEO of Schering-Plough; Allan Cohen, the Edward A. Madden Distinguished Professor in Global Leadership at Babson College; and Gary B. Rhodes, a senior fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership.

QUESTIONS/,expert opinion detailing what you think Michael's next steps should be. Your opinion should address these questions:

?What dependencies exist? Think not only in terms of Michael's workplace, but also, his home.
?Do Michael's colleagues demonstrate legitimate or illegitimate political behavior? Explain.
?What should Michael do about the China opportunity? Why?
?What should Michael do about the open position for President of U.S. Operations?
?Does Michael have any power in this situation, and if so, what type(s) of power?
?How can Michael improve his political edge? Provide at least two or three solid suggestions, including power tactics, for Michael to use.

Include an outline of an ethical political strategy designed to help Michael secure and excel in the job you think he should pursue. Your strategy should identify three political moves, all of which would give him an advantage in either getting the U.S. job, or for making the most of a new job in China. Feel free to borrow from or expand on the ideas proposed by your fellow experts in the case study (citing these experts where necessary).

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What dependencies exist?

The first dependency is the dependency of Michael Feldstein on moving to New York. This is a geographical dependency. Secondly, the CEO is likely to be dependent on a candidate who has been in the company for long. He would like a Legrand candidate in the New York office. Third, the company is likely to be dependent on old guards for its important positions. Fourth, Michael Feldstein is likely to be dependent on the New York position as a source of power. Fifth, Michael is likely to be dependent on a western location for the education of his children and a job for his wife. Western locations are being highly valued by employees. That is why Michael Feldstein has been offered the position in China.
On Do Michael's colleagues demonstrate legitimate or illegitimate political behavior? Explain.

The degree of legitimacy is subjective but the behavior of this direct competitor, that is Danielle Harcourt hobnobbing with Paris executives and even meeting with at least one of Michael Feldstein's direct reports appears to be illegitimate political behavior. In general, Danielle should be working on her own direct reports to strengthen her case, however, her moves on Michael Feldstein's direct reports may be perceived to be illegitimate political behavior.


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Solution Summary

This posting analyzes the HBR case study "Into the Fray". In particular it focuses on dependencies.