Into the Fray
In the given case study “Into the Fray,” the situation in which Michael finds himself is a common occurrence in the international business scene today. He is employed by Lafleur, a corporation with existing overseas operations. While a global company like Lafleur usually hires local talents to form the bulk of its workforce in a certain country, the accepted practice has been to send some of its managers abroad to oversee operations in its offshore units. In fact, most managers today welcome a foreign posting because it is now considered not only as a vital step but a necessary step towards senior management positions. The primary reason is that global corporations consider exposure to different cultures and business environments essential to a successful global operation.
Michael’s is a typical situation. Perhaps Pierre, the CEO of Lafleur, would like to send him to China because of two reasons. Michael is not only new to the organization – he was a part of an acquired company and therefore not an actual ‘insider.’ As far as Pierre and the company are concerned, he is a relatively unknown entity when compared to the other senior managers who had been with the original company. It is therefore important that Michael should prove himself – hence, the posting to a new undertaking in China. It is very likely that the CEO is convinced that if Michael proves his worth in China, people from Lafleur might stop treating him as an outsider and really consider him as one of the family. The second possible reason could be that Pierre considers Michael a very promising executive. Because of this, it is imperative for Michael to have an overseas assignment so that he will be exposed to another culture and experience an altogether different business environment. Together with his United States experience, the China posting should boost his qualifications for a higher management position in Lafluer’s headquarters in Paris (Peebles, Widmann, Kopelan, Hassan, Cohen, and Rhodes, 2005).
Michael should think along these lines and not dwell too much on the position vacated by Lucien. It is not as important as far as gunning for a Paris executive position is concerned. Michael should do better by giving up the New York post to Danielle and opting for an overseas placement like China which could yet give him a better opportunity of landing a higher post at the home office in Paris. With his two years experience in the country, an overseas experience would now be more profitable for him (Peebles et al, 2005).
Michael seems to be dependent on Albert because of his belief that Albert is in possession of information that he does not know – particularly when it comes to Danielle’s plans regarding the job vacated by Lucien. Albert has worked with Danielle in the past and claims to know her well so Michael wants to know everything he knows about Danielle. The information, in his reckoning, would be very helpful in countering whatever moves Danielle would make. His belief that Albert really knows important and relevant information about Danielle made Michael rather dependent on him (Peebles et al, 2005). Michael’s dependence on Albert is a result of the “information power” that the latter has over him (Robbins, 2005).
Michael is also dependent on Danielle. After being alerted by Albert about her intentions, Albert now needs to talk with Danielle if only to have an idea about her plans. His dependency on Danielle is brought about by the fact that there are information about Danielle and her plans that he could only obtain directly from her (Peebles et al, 2005). In other words, the information that he could get from Danielle herself has “nonsubstitutionality” or information that could not be obtained from other sources other than Danielle herself (Robbins, 2005). However, if Michael decides to accept the China posting, then his dependence on both Albert and Danielle would be reduced to zero. He would not be depending on them any more since he would no longer need any information from them.
At home, Michael’s wife Karen is very much dependent on him because of her desire to put his career on top of everything else. She proved this by supporting him all the way. As a matter of fact, she has already given up her promising career in a law firm for a less demanding job just to strike a balance between her domestic responsibilities, on one hand, and her and her husband’s career, on the other hand. If Michael decides to go to China, Karen will once again be uprooted not just from the country but from her new job. This is inconsequential to Karen, however. She would rather give up her new job and accompany Michael to China than insist on a career of her own. Unfortunately, the whole situation, especially Karen’s dependence on Michael and her willingness to give way to her husband, has produced a corresponding dependence on the part of Michael because this has been one consideration that weighs heavily on Michael’s shoulder (Peebles et al, 2005).
At the office, Karen is resorting to a series of “legitimate political behavior.” Her first legitimate political behavior is her act of appearing to establish a coalition with Michael’s subordinate, Francesca, by making an appointment with her ostensibly to talk about her work, ignoring Michael who is Francesca’s supervisor. The second is her wanting to talk to Michael himself by setting up an appointment with him to talk about the products he is handling. Finally, her plan of making a trip to their headquarters in Paris for the purpose of discussing the products being handled by Michael directly with the headquarters people, bypassing Michael in the process, is another instance of a legitimate political behavior (Robbins, 2005).
Michael could improve his political edge by demanding a higher executive position as a precondition for his accepting the China posting. He could talk to the CEO rather frankly and tell him that he would only accept the China assignment if Pierre could assure him that after a specified period of time in China, say two or three years, he would be considered for a higher executive position, preferably in their Paris headquarters. In other words, since Pierre told him that he is the only man who could handle the China assignment, he should turn his qualification into a weapon that would enable him to wield a “legitimate power.” Then he could resort to utilizing a “coercive power,” wherein he would decline the China posting if Pierre does not promise him his reward of a higher position in Paris later (Robbins, 2005).
Peebles, M.E., Widmann, N. C., Kopelan, A.D., Hassan, F., Cohen, A., and Rhodes, G.B.
(2005). Into the Fray. Harvard Business Review, 00178012, Vol. 83, Issue 1.
Robbins, S. P. (2005). Organizational Behavior, Eleventh Edition. Prentice-Hall.