You, your spouse, and your two young children, have recently moved to Texas and you are now the Human Resource Manager of an apple juice plant called Beech-Nut. It’s a great move, both for your career and family. Your first few months on the job have really confirmed that you made a great choice in joining Beechnut. Your relationship with your new peers, your employees, and even the president have been very positive.
Thomas Rex Gibbs* is the President of Beechnut. He earned the nickname T-Rex because of an unfortunate accident that left him blind in one eye many years before. While it is barely noticeable and creates few work-related problems for him, it does mean that he is forced to move his head to and fro when entering the room due to limited peripheral vision, thus creating the stalking appearance of the popular portrayal of his deadly namesake. But he doesn’t mind the name at all. Instead, he seems to actually relish it. If truth were told, Rex not only approves of the moniker, he thinks it’s an appropriate symbol for one so dominant and firmly in charge.
T-Rex believes in surrounding himself with talent. One of his first actions as President was selecting and hiring a new leadership team. He gave each team member freedom to run their respective areas (to his liking, of course). The leadership team’s first order of business was establishing the following core values:
· People: Be a great place to work where people are inspired to be the best they can be.
· Portfolio: Bring to the world a portfolio of products that satisfy customer’s desires and needs.
· Planet: Be responsible citizens that makes a difference by helping build and support sustainable communities.
· Profit: Maximize long-term return to shareowners while being mindful of our overall responsibilities.
This first step paid off – the company’s product sales have benefited from Beechnut’s carefully crafted image, and Beechnut is now the second-largest maker of baby foods in the country.
In fact, Beechnut’s winning combination of competitive salary and core values allowed your predecessor (the previous HR Manager) to successfully recruit young, top talent to the organization. This not only lowered payroll and medical benefit costs, but also resulted in Beechnut being featured in Forbes magazine’s annual Best Employers for New Graduates.
T-Rex was not all that supportive of the initiatives of the leadership team at first, but he did appreciate the positive press from the Forbes listing. The success of the company, T-Rex had become convinced, was inexorably linked with positive press through all mediums. All managers within the company knew that the slightest negative story would lead to attention you did not want.
During your first few months, you have found that having so many young people in the organization is exciting in a company that had been around so long. Work hard, play hard was the new unofficial motto among your new work force, and their results were incredible. So it was probably inevitable that some of these play hard employees decided to form a new singles group to socialize together after work and on weekends. The singles group recently setup a ski trip, and about 15 employees participated in this 4-day excursion. Upon returning, a few of the employees, including one who works for you in the HR office, show you some great pictures, and it looks like they all had a good time. They even took time to participate in a community service event while on their excursion.
About a week later, T-Rex calls you into his office, and he appears angrier than you have ever seen him. He shares with you a letter he received from a Delta Airlines Senior Pilot. In the letter, the pilot states that in all his years working for Delta and other airlines, he has never experienced a group that was so disrespectful towards the fight crew and staff. He used several examples of their behavior, including showing up for the flight inebriated, demanding to be served when they had already been denied service in flight, a broken lavatory, an allegation of marijuana smoke, and your employees proposing inappropriately to a stewardess.
When you suggest an investigation would be in order to find out who the miscreants are in the crowd of 15, T-Rex says that you can investigate all you want, but at the end of this day, he wants a solution. We have all worked too hard to build our reputation to have it all taken away from us by a crowd of immature children, he said, growing louder with each syllable.
While you would prefer a lengthy investigation, it’s already past noon. You know T-Rex wants everyone fired, and since this is an employment at-will state, he could do so. Also, if you can’t come up with a good idea, T-Rex could lose faith in you as his HR manager – meaning you could be next! You have knots in your stomach thinking about the ramifications of your looming decision.
* The Thomas Rex Gibbs character is borrowed from:
Clayton, R., Stratton, M.T., Julien, M. and Humphreys, J.H., 2015. Beverly Matthews. Organization Management Journal, 12(4), pp.221-234.
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