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A Square Peg In A Round Hole

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  • Pages: 12
  • Word count: 2792
  • Category: Behavior

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Background: The Case in a Nutshell

Cindy Wanstall, an ambitious lady aspiring to be the first lady brand manager in a hitherto all-men department, joined the plant of Jersey Packers, a meat products’ company, as a management trainee with a title, ‘Cost Control Accountant’, on a two-year probation period. Over her in the hierarchy are foreman, brand manager ( Mr.Fuller) and marketing manager ( Mr.John Ransom) in that order. She is career-focused and industrious. Besides, she seeks opportunities to make managerial decisions and show initiative and creativity. But Jersey Packers is a gender-aware organization and it is generally perceived that women don’t fit as brand managers and will find training to be more rigorous and hard to sustain till end.

Wanstall is assigned to work under a tough foreman; she was given unpleasant jobs. She did them without complaint with a view to realizing her career goals. Dirty jokes were cut on her but she, being aware that she was being tested, returned them without irritation. She was, finally, able to get Foreman’s appreciation. She was also eventually able to secure the approval of co-employees by her considerate behavior and, more importantly, owing to her success in bringing victory to them in an inter-plant baseball tournament.

But, in regards to her work life, she is made to do menial jobs like typing, filing and so on, which she thinks a management trainee is not supposed to do. She is not treated as a part of marketing team. She finds no chances to display her initiative and ability. The Marketing Manager who is three rungs above hers does not give enough time to learn from her about her situation. He simply and flippantly maintains that it is tough for women to work in marketing department and she has to persevere. The Brand Manager too says that the training process is routine and this being an old-fashioned organization, she should not expect to work creatively nor can he favor her with a different kind of jobs.

The Conundrum of Winstall

The desperate Wanstall started looking for opportunities to leave this organization but the Marketing Manager, having got the wind of it, chided her for her ‘lack of determination’. She decided to stay on, but started pestering Brand Manager for more challenging opportunities. The Brand Manager did not give anything as such and just kept on ignoring her. The desperate Wanstall was just barely civil to the Brand Manager.

The Brand Manager in his periodical performance review on Wanstall charged her that she is emotional, and not a team player. But she convinced Brand Manager that his comments are not justified and thus got the wrong adjectives deleted from the review report. However, she saw the signs that working in Jersey Packers may not help her realize her goals. So she had tried to leave it and finally secured a job in a packaged goods company.

Now the dilemma is if it is better for Wanstall to continue or leave Jersey Packers to realize her career goals.

Sources of Problem: An Analysis of Jersey Packers

Type of Organization

I first attempt to diagnose Jersey Packers with respect to its contribution, as an organization, to Cindy Wanstall’s current state of dilemma. Tosi, H.L. & Mero, N.P ( 2003, pp.146-149) describe four types of organizations- mechanistic, organic, technology-dominated and market –dominated.

Mechanistic organizations are the kind wherein “marketing environment and technology environment are both stable and predictable”, like steel producers, restaurants and so on. In this kind, tasks are highly repetitive and division of labor practiced to the extreme. The activities are “standard, relatively limited and simple”. The work is narrowly specialized. The management structure is rigid and hierarchical. Decision-making is highly centralized. There is little scope for discretion at lower level. Max Weber’s Bureaucracy (Robbins, P, 2003, p.434) too is akin to this, which postulates that “it is characterized by highly routine operating tasks achieved through specialization, much formalized rules and regulations, tasks that are grouped into functional departments, centralized authority, narrow spans of control and decision-making that follows chain of command.” Jersey Packers fits this description roundly- mechanistic and bureaucratic. But Winstall is not aware that her superiors have assimilated the mindset of a mechanistic organization.

The second type, which is broadly examined to find its fit with Jersey Packers, is referred to as organic organization, which typically deals with volatile market and volatile technology. The examples are consulting firms, advertising firms and IT firms. These firms are usually small so that they are flexible to adapt to the ever-changing market and technology. Jersey Packers, dealing in stable market and generally employing less volatile technologies, does not fit this description.

The third type, wherein the technology is stable but market is volatile, is referred to as market-dominated organization; the examples include music industry, high fashion, and film industry. Jersey Packers does not fall under this category since the market for meat products is not volatile.

Technology-dominated organizations, the fourth type, are those wherein technology used in the products changes dramatically. Compaq and Dell which manufacture computers are the examples for technology-dominated organizations. Jersey Packers does not belong to this category as well.

Winstall has to understand that the type of organization to which Jersey Packers belongs does not give much latitude to be creative or to draw upon her decision-making or managerial skills.

Culture of Jersey Packers: Psychological Contract

Cilndy Wanstall failed to expect the rigorous and boring training awaiting her in Jersey Packers, though Marketing Manager was candid enough to tell that the women are not treated with kid’s gloves. But he did not spend enough time with Cindy to explain the whole story, though he hinted to her such a treatment as she is facing now. Usually before hiring, realistic job previews are to be done thoughtfully and they help new hires gauge their suitability to the job. It was done so in this Wanstall’s case.The Brand Manager, the supervisor of Cindy too did not orient her towards the culture to a fair degree. Winstall, unaware of the company’s culture, built her dreams on becoming the first woman Brand Manager in a field hitherto dominated by men and expected that she would be given challenging, creative and decision-making roles rather than routine ones  like typing, filing and so on. What is missing in this situation, it is to be noted, is the unequivocal mental agreement between the employer and employee on the contribution of each of them towards the growth of the other- psychological contract.

Foot, M & Hook, C., (2005, pp.166-167) note that psychological contract “concerns the expectations that each party holds with regard to the other, and is recognized as having an impact on the way people behave in the workplace.” They further maintain that it “is akin to the implied terms in a legal contract-much of it is assumed and unspoken.” This disposition affects the employee’s motivation, loyalty and perceptions of fair treatment.

An important dimension of this psychological contract as referred to by Guest and Conway, (Qtd.  Foot, M & Hook, C., 2005, pp.166-167), which has been recently recognized, is employability. An employee expects the employer to develop the former to be generally employable through proper training in a climate of employee involvement rather than the latter provide employment security in the same organization which was once considered to be a dominant aspect.

Usually, the culture of an organization is the primary source of psychological contract; the knowledge about these aspects is passed through stories told by one employee to the other. The fact is that the company did not understand the goals of Wanstall.

Reality Shock

A most apt description of Wanstall’s situation is what is referred to by Dessler, D. ( 2005, p.355) as reality shock. Dessler observes that the first job for a recent college graduate is crucial for confidence-building and a more realistic picture of what he can or can not do; providing challenging first jobs rather than routine ones and assigning to them an experienced mentor are important duties of an employer to prevent reality shocks for the new hires.

Lack of Process fairness in Jersey Packers

Brockner, J. (2006, pp.124-129) reports the findings of a study done by Prof. Greenberg; it revealed in the study that when certain steps like pay cut ( or allotment of unpleasant jobs) are implemented and if the process and the rationale of such a move are clearly explained to the concerned employees, the employees are 15 times likely to resign and employee theft is 80% lower than it is otherwise. Brockner also reports the results of a study done in 1997 by medical researcher Wendy Levinson and her colleagues in which it was found that patients are less likely to sue a doctor for malpractice when the latter explains to the patient the treatment plan and considerately answers the questions of the patients. Winstall did not have the opportunity to make out how the training process would be and what kind of jobs she would be given. Jersey Packers has to improve on its process fairness in respect of training and career development.

Jersey Packers’ Assumptions about Workers

According to Douglas Mcgregor, there are two contrasting types of assumptions about the nature of an average worker in terms of why he works and what is needed to motivate him to work ( Babcock & Morse, 2002, pp.152-154). The two types are encapsulated in two theories: Theory X and Theory Y. An organization or its managers who are of Theory X type typically assume that an average worker hates work, uses little creativity, abhors responsibility and requires punitive methods to get work from him. It is also assumed that worker does not have to decide on anything and the manager organizes everything for the worker. Conversely, in the other set of assumptions referred to as Theory Y, a worker is assumed to have a responsible attitude towards the ends of the organization, seeks opportunities to be creative, is less resistant to change and can be self-directed if proper organizational conditions are set.

It is apparent that Winstall’s superiors are of Theory X type while Cindy displays the tendencies what are called Theory Y. This mismatch is the source of boredom and lack of job satisfaction.

Cindy Winstall’s Fallacies about Jersey Packer’s Culture 

Cinda Wanstall is probably a best fit in a certain culture like that of Southwest Airlines. Magretta ( 2002, pp.198-199) extols the climate in Southwest Airlines. .Southwest Airlines’ culture keeps an employee happy, satisfied, dedicated and energetic; their important core value is to make work a fun. In order to realize it, the company treats employees with dignity and respect, and allows every employee to make a difference in his own way. Innovative persons are celebrated every time they implement a new idea. As a consequence, individuals use their imagination to implement offbeat ideas; in fact, Southwest’s costs are lower primarily due to highly motivated and highly productive employees who, unconfined by rules, are free to do wherever work is there. 

Winstall’s Misconceptions about Society’s Gender Perceptions

The research of Priscilla Elsass and Laura Graves shows (Qtd. Fulop. L. & Linstead, S., 1999a, p. 327) that “women contribute to group tasks at lower end, make fewer attempts to influence the group, are less often chosen as leaders, and are generally less committed to group outcomes.”

The work of Debora Tannen too ( Qtd. In Fulop. L. & Linstead, S., 1999b, p.326) reveal that women, because of their speaking style, appear less confident and less self-assured and “hence loose out on organizational issues like promotion”.

Winstall has to be aware, as observed by Eagly and Carli (2007, pp.63-71), that despite years of progress by women in the workforce, only 6% of CEOs (analogous cadres) of Fortune 500 companies are women; she has to understand this ground reality in regards to the women in corporate careers. 

Ely, Meyerson and Davidson in their September, 2006 HBR article suggest an approach to deal with assaults to people’s identities-gender, race, color, and religion. A person assaulted (as now happening to Winstall ) has to pause rather than feel negative emotion, focus on goals rather than focus inward, question oneself to learn more about the situation, get genuine support to get right the assumptions and shift one’s mindset to change to better. Winstall has to try this approach to resolving her gender-born inhibitions and the related defensive behavior.

Managerial Styles Of Superiors and Their Effect On A Trainee and Other Employees

Brand Manager Fuller has apparently no disposition to develop his subordinates. He insists that drudgery is an integral part of training. All that he could do to develop subordinates is just give routine jobs, which apparently can not be considered to be a a human resource development initiative at all.

In regards to his superior John Ransom who is the Marketing Manager, he is not empathic to Wanstall. He gives no time to patiently listen to her woes. He too insists that trainees should go through the mill. Boring jobs are a part of training, he believes.

But both Ransom and Fuller failed to convey to Wanstall that there is an interesting part in  the later part of training. Secondly,both of them clearly lack the human resource perspctive.

In regards to the effect of managerial style on Wanstall and other employees, given the limited information on this aspect, one can make out that the employees got used to the managerial style of Ransom and Fuller. At this moment, they don’t seem to have fire in the belly and so don’t try something innvotive. But an ambitious new hire like Wanstall is not able to find it interesting to work in such a managerial style.

Solution to Winstall’s Dilemma

Organizations like Jersey Packers seem to have a lot to be desired on human resource function in areas like orientation, mentoring, training, career development and so on. Training process is not evolved enough to be interesting for a new hire.

Based on the information available in the case material, I conclude that Wanstall has better leave Jersey Packers, since treatment to an aspiring career woman is far from the standard human resource practices and apparently there is a clear prospect of her initiative being stifled.

But her interpersonal skills are more honed now as demonstrated here and so she will be more flexible and dexterous in the new organization. She will be more careful now in building expectations and less likely to have reality shock. It is cautioned that she also should be prepared for a modicum of rigorous uninteresting training which is a must for any trainee for acquiring the quality of empathy and garnering insights about intricacies of work. She must also appreciate that no superior can take the risk of giving autonomy to a raw hand.


Jersy Packers’ human resource function and its culture do not match with the ambitions of a management trainee like Winstall. She should better quit this organization and join the new one to avoid further stifling of her initiative. But she must be careful in building aspirations and also understand that superiors will not autonomy to a new hire. She should be prepared for her share of uninteresting work. Her experience in Jersey Packer will be an advantage in understanding organizations and their cuture.


Babcock, D.L. & Morse, C.L. (2002), Managing Engineering And Technology, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

Brockner, J. (2006). Why It’s So Hard to Be Fair, Harvard Business Review, March, 2006, pp.122-129.

Dessler, G. (2005). Human Resource Management, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

Eagly, A.H.& Carli, L.L. (2007). Women and the Labyrinth of Leadership. Harvard Business Review. September, 2007. pp. 63-71.

Ely, J.E., Myerson, D.E., & Davidson, M.N. (2006). Rethinking Political Correctness. Harvard Business Review. September, 2006, pp.79-87.

Foot, M.& Hook, C.(2005). Introducing Human Resource Management. Essex: FT Prentice Hall.

Fulop, L. & Linstead, S. (1999). Management: A Critical Textbook. London: Macmillan.

Kay, F., Guinness, H. & Stevens, N. (2003). Making Management Simple: A Practical Handbook For Meeting Management Challenges. Oxford, UK: Howtobooks Ltd.

Magretta, J. (2002). What Management Is: How It Works And Why It Is Everyone’s Business. London: Profile Books.

Robbins, S.P. (2003). Organizational Behavior. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc.

Tosi, H.L.& Mero, N.P. ( 2003). The Fundamentals Of Organizational Behavior: What Managers Need To Know. MA, USA: Blackwell Publishing.

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