Should Susan report the incident or pretend it never happened? After reading their advice at the end of the article, which expert do you agree with? Why?
www.hbr.org H B R CAS E ST U D Y Should Susan report
the incident or
pretend it never
happened? AND COMMENTARY Will She Fit In?
by Joan Magretta
? Five commentators offer
expert advice. Reprint 97208
This document is authorized for use only by SAMIR MESSAOUDI ([email protected]). Copying or posting is an infringement of copyright. Please contact
[email protected] or 800-988-0886 for additional copies. Susan?s client made a pass at her. If she speaks out, will it destroy her
career? H B R CAS E ST U D Y Will She Fit In? COPYRIGHT © 1997 HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL PUBLISHING CORPORATION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. by Joan Magretta ?And then, well, he just lunged at me.?
?He did what?? Nancy asked incredulously.
?He lunged at me,? Susan replied. ?One
minute we?re sitting on the couch in his hotel
room, rehearsing his board presentation, and
the next minute he lurches toward me, knocking me over. I just couldn?t believe it.?
?Wow.? There was silence on the phone line.
?Yeah, wow,? Susan repeated. ?Now what do
Susan Carter was a partner at the Crowne
Group, a strategy consulting firm based in New
York. Her good friend Nancy Richfield was an
investment banker. In the 12 years since they
had graduated from business school, the two
women had kept in touch, often seeking advice
and support from each other at difficult moments in their careers. Susan and Nancy were
among a handful of women who had ?joined
the club??attaining the rank of partner at
elite, privately held firms in which 95% of the partners still were men. Crowne?s New York office had the kind of partner mix typical of most
consulting and investment-banking firms: there
were 98 partners in all, 4 of them women.
Promotion to partner four years earlier was
a goal Susan had worked hard to achieve. And
her successes on the Pellmore account had
given her a lot of visibility in the firm. In particular, her work with Brian Hanson, a group
senior vice president at Pellmore Industries,
was responsible for the dramatic turnaround
of a troubled business. The turnaround had
made Brian look like a hero, and he was so
pleased that he had begun to champion
Crowne to other executives at Pellmore. Almost overnight, Pellmore became Crowne?s
largest and most profitable client. Billings
mushroomed to $28 million?more than 20%
of the New York office?s revenue. And Crowne?s
senior partners were hoping to expand the
Pellmore budget even further during the an- HBR?s cases, which are fictional, present common managerial dilemmas
and offer concrete solutions from experts. harvard business review ? march?april 1997 page 1 This document is authorized for use only by SAMIR MESSAOUDI ([email protected]). Copying or posting is an infringement of copyright. Please contact
[email protected] or 800-988-0886 for additional copies. Will She Fit In? ?? ?HBR C ASE S TUDY Joan Magretta is an editor-at-large at
HBR. She was formerly a partner at Bain
& Company, an international strategy
consulting firm based in Boston,
Massachusetts. nual account review the following month.
Susan could feel the tension in the back of
?So then what happened, after he lunged at
you?? Nancy asked.
?I pushed him aside, jumped up off the
couch, and said, ?This is not a good idea,??
Susan replied. ?And?can you believe this??
I?m the one who picked up the slides, which by
now were scattered all over the floor. Then I
just got the hell out of there. I still can?t believe
Brian Hanson would pull a stunt like this. I?ve
worked so hard. How am I going to get past
this with him? Talk about the things they
never teach you in business school!?
Susan?s second line began to ring. She
paused briefly, hoping her assistant would pick
up. No luck. ?Nancy, I?ve got to run now,? she
said. ?Can we have lunch tomorrow? I really
need some advice.?
?Sure. I?ll come by your office around
Susan hit the button for her second line.
?Susan, it?s Justin.? The line was crackling
with static. ?I?m on a plane to Chicago, but I
wanted an update on your meeting last night
with Brian Hanson.?
Just what I need right now, thought Susan.
Justin Peale was the senior partner in charge of
the Pellmore relationship. Tall, good-looking,
and athletic, Justin was one of Crowne?s leading rainmakers. The absolute confidence he
projected to clients gave them the sense that
no hill was too tough to take. But within
Crowne, Justin had a different reputation. His
colleagues respected him, however grudgingly, for his effectiveness in selling business.
But those who worked for him directly could
see that underneath all the bravado, Justin was
basically insecure. In fact, none of the junior
vice presidents liked working for him. He was
good at taking credit for work others did and
even better at distancing himself when things
?Oh, Justin, I?m pressed for time right now,?
Susan said, stalling. The last thing she wanted
at the moment was to talk to Justin. ?I?m off to
Boston for a recruiting presentation. Then
there?s the reception and dinner. It?ll be a late
?Well, when can we talk?? Justin persisted.
?Not until tomorrow afternoon.?
?Okay. My office at 2?? harvard business review ? march?april 1997 ?Okay,? Susan replied, relieved to have
bought herself at least a day.
?Two o?clock, then!? Justin always had to
have the last word.
Hanging up the phone, Susan stared out the
window of her thirty-ninth-floor office at the
Manhattan skyline. She knew that Justin
hadn?t been wildly enthusiastic about her
being assigned to Pellmore two years earlier.
At the time, Linda Bushnell, the administrative
vice president responsible for client assignments, had pulled her aside. They had worked
well with each other for years, and Linda
wanted to give Susan a ?heads up.?
According to Linda, Justin was careful to tell
her that he himself had ?enormous respect?
for Susan. ?But we?ve got to do what?s right for
the client,? he said. ?They?re a pretty tough
bunch. I just don?t know if the guys at Pellmore will be comfortable with her. Will she fit
in? Susan doesn?t feel like the right choice to
In the end, Justin was overruled by John McMullin, the managing director of Crowne?s
New York office. Susan had been a loyal
trouper for Crowne, and John had promised
her the next high-potential assignment to
come along. He had kept his word.
John?s okay, Susan thought now. And
Crowne is a great firm. But the truth was that
she and Nancy had heard some version of Justin?s comments so many times during the years
since business school that they had invented a
name for it: the Comfort Syndrome. The two
friends knew dozens of talented women?in
their own firms and in client organizations?
who had been passed over for the same reason
Justin had tried to use to keep Susan off the
Pellmore account: ?We?re just not comfortable
with her.? Or ?We?re not sure it?s a good fit.?
And it wasn?t the first time Susan had encountered the syndrome herself, either. When
she first joined Crowne, for instance, there had
been some question about whether a client in
the steel industry would be ?comfortable? with
her. The guys at the client were ?very rough,?
the argument went. Would she be able to
?bond? with them? Despite this concern,
Susan was given the job, and the client ended
up being tremendously impressed with the results of the project.
Why is it, Susan wondered, that we?re never
uncomfortable with him? Not once in her four
years on Crowne?s promotion committee had page 2 This document is authorized for use only by SAMIR MESSAOUDI ([email protected]). Copying or posting is an infringement of copyright. Please contact
[email protected] or 800-988-0886 for additional copies. Will She Fit In? ?? ?HBR C ASE S TUDY Comfort was a code
word. What did it mean
when people said they
with her?? she heard that phrase. Comfort was obviously
some kind of code, but what exactly did it
mean when people said they were ?uncomfortable with her?? She?s too aggressive? She?s not
one of us? Or what?
Susan was convinced that most men were
totally unconscious of the Comfort Syndrome.
Just the previous month, for example, one of
her male colleagues, someone she liked a lot,
called her for a reference on a woman she had
once worked with. ?A client of mine is considering her for a senior position. What do you
think of her?? he had asked. Susan began to
describe the woman?s considerable accomplishments, but her colleague stopped her short.
?No,? he said. ?That?s not it. They?re nervous about whether they?ll like working with
her.? He paused. ?You know,? he said, ?it
rhymes with witch.?
Susan had been stunned, but she was careful not to show it. If I try to explain to him why
that?s offensive, she thought, I?ll become one
of those women he?s uncomfortable with.
Susan was reminded of something her father
once said. He had been a fighter pilot and a
great supporter of Susan and her sister. ?To be
successful,? he advised, ?many women in your
generation will have to learn to fly underneath
the radar?to go undetected?in order to get
along.? This advice had always bothered Susan: she wanted to believe she could succeed
by being herself. But the older she got, the
more she came to understand what her father
Returning her thoughts to the incident
with Brian, Susan began to play out various
scenarios in her mind. Should I try, she wondered, to smooth things over with Brian? I
could use Justin?s help in thinking this
through, but that means I?ll have to tell him
what happened. And if I do, he?ll panic. He
might have me taken off the client?s account:
he?d do anything to avoid putting Pellmore
revenue at risk, and he knows Brian is the key
contact there right now. If Brian is upset with
us, forget about a budget increase. And if I?m
?moved? to another client, I can kiss my bonus
good-bye?and not just this year?s. I?ve killed
myself for the last two years earning credibility
at Pellmore. I?m finally at the point where it?s
starting to pay off.
I know what Justin will think, Susan said to
herself: This wouldn?t have happened if we?d
put Don Finley in instead of Susan. But maybe harvard business review ? march?april 1997 I?m just being paranoid. Didn?t Justin tell me
only last week that I deserve a lot of the credit
for growing the Pellmore relationship? And
hasn?t he been kidding me for the last month
about the beach house he thinks I should buy
with this year?s bonus? He couldn?t possibly
blame me for what happened!
Susan?s door opened. It was her assistant.
?You?d better get going or you?ll miss your
flight,? she said.
On the shuttle back to New York that night,
Susan couldn?t stop thinking about the irony
of the previous 24 hours: My client makes a
pass at me. I don?t trust my boss?or the
firm?with the truth. And then I spend an
evening with a group of eager M.B.A. students
telling them what a great place the Crowne
Group is for women. What?s wrong with this
Susan?s presentation at the business school
had drawn a packed house. And there were a
couple of really impressive candidates at dinner. This was a part of the job that Susan
loved: working with talented young people.
Crowne measured its recruiting success by the
number of bids it won against archrival Spectra Consulting. And in the previous several
years, Crowne had been gaining ground, especially among the strongest female candidates.
Susan knew she had a lot to do with that success. Whenever there was a woman Crowne
didn?t want to lose, Susan was trotted out to
win her over.
The sad thing, thought Susan wearily, is that
Crowne is, in fact, one of the better firms for
women. She closed her eyes. It had been a long
Susan and Nancy always ate at Café Soleil
when they needed a quiet place to talk. After
the waitress brought their salads, they picked
up their conversation where they had left off
the day before.
?Did you see it coming?? Nancy asked.
?Had Brian been sort of coming on to you for a
?No?not at all,? Susan answered quickly.
?I mean, I?ve been working closely with the
guy for almost two years. We?ve had at least
half a dozen meetings like this one in his
hotel room to review work. I thought we had
great rapport. Part of my job is to get clients
to like me, to build relationships. But there
was never anything flirtatious on either his
part or mine.? page 3 This document is authorized for use only by SAMIR MESSAOUDI ([email protected]). Copying or posting is an infringement of copyright. Please contact
[email protected] or 800-988-0886 for additional copies. Will She Fit In? ?? ?HBR C ASE S TUDY ?So you had no clue what he was up to??
?No,? Susan said firmly, but then she
paused. ?There was one funny thing, though,?
she suddenly recalled. ?I really didn?t think
anything of it at the time. But maybe??
?What?? Nancy prompted her.
?It happened that night, before Brian and I
went back to his room. We were at dinner with
a bunch of people from Pellmore, and Brian?s
planning guy pulled me aside right afterward.
He said he was really sorry that he wouldn?t be
able to sit in on the meeting later in Brian?s
room. What was odd was what he said next. He
asked me, ?Are you okay with that?? I remember being thrown off balance slightly by his
question. I mean, I knew the details of the presentation much better than he did, so it struck
me as an odd thing to say since there didn?t
seem to be much reason for him to be there in
the first place.? Susan looked at Nancy,
?Do you suppose the planning guy knew
something I didn?t know about Brian?? she
asked. ?Do you think he?s got some kind of
Nancy shrugged. The comment left her
Susan pushed her plate aside. ?It?s not as
though I haven?t been in meetings with clients
in their hotel rooms?it happens all the time
in this business,? she went on. ?You?re always
on the road, you work crazy hours, and a lot of
business gets done over dinner and sometimes
late into the night.?
?Yeah, but try telling that to Justin,? Nancy
broke in, ?and he?ll want to know what you
were wearing. And, worse, maybe he?ll start to
think your success at Pellmore has been based
?Don?t even say it,? Susan interrupted her
?Okay, but don?t be naïve, Susan. You tell
Justin, and whether or not he pulls you off
Pellmore, you can bet that this will come up
every time they evaluate you or think about
you for a new assignment. It may never be
raised explicitly, but it will always be there at
?I think you?re right,? said Susan. ?The old
Comfort Syndrome rears its ugly head. And
this time, it?s about me.?
Susan?s thoughts jumped to the upcoming
account review. ?On the other hand,? she con- harvard business review ? march?april 1997 tinued, ?if I don?t tell Justin what happened
and our budget gets trashed because Brian?s
mad at me, I?ll be blamed.? Susan stopped. She
was getting ahead of herself.
?You know what?? she said after a moment.
?Isn?t there a bigger issue here? We both know
that most of the men we work with wouldn?t
do what Brian did. They would think it was
wrong. And from everything I know about
Pellmore?s CEO, this is absolutely not the kind
of behavior he?d tolerate. It goes beyond the
fear of lawsuits: he?s a decent guy, he has two
daughters in college, and he wants to make a
?Finished?? asked the waitress as she began
clearing the dishes. Susan and Nancy both signaled that they were done.
?But maybe,? Nancy suggested, ?Pellmore
ought to be more concerned about lawsuits. I?ll
bet you a million dollars that this isn?t the first
time Brian has tried something like this.
Maybe the CEO really needs to put a stop to
?Maybe,? said Susan. ?How can he?how
can anyone?be an effective leader when we
all maintain this conspiracy of silence? When
we pretend everything is fine? Maybe the
same goes for Crowne. Maybe John McMullin
ought to know, too.?
?What do you mean??
?Well, most of the guys on our executive
committee?except Justin?are okay. They
just don?t always see the connections. I?m not
trying to be a saint here, and I can?t picture
myself ever saying anything about this to
John, but I wish there were some way to manage this so that something positive could come
out of it.?
?Or maybe it?s simply too hot to handle,?
Nancy said. ?You?re right. Most guys are not
like Brian. But a lot of them would say, What?s
the big deal? Get over it. They don?t understand that the easy part is saying no. The hard
part is picking up the pieces afterward.?
Susan looked at her watch. ?It?s 1:45,? she
said. ?I?d better run. It?s time for my meeting
with Justin, and you know how he hates to be
kept waiting.? Should Susan report the incident or
pretend it never happened? ? Five
commentators offer expert advice.
See Case Commentary page 4 This document is authorized for use only by SAMIR MESSAOUDI ([email protected]). Copying or posting is an infringement of copyright. Please contact
[email protected] or 800-988-0886 for additional copies. Will She Fit In? ? HBR C AS E STU DY Case Commentary
by Gillian Derbyshire Should Susan report the incident or pretend it never
happened? If Crowne treats Susan
badly and blames her for
what happened, then she
has learned something
important about her
firm. page 5 On one level, Susan Carter?s dilemma is
straightforward. We all have problems with
clients or customers at one time or another.
When that happens, there is an obvious and
normal response: you assemble the client
team and you figure out an action plan to resolve the problem.
Suppose, for example, that the Crowne consultants had done some analysis for Pellmore
and that the numbers did not make Brian
Hanson look good. Brian might ask the consultants to position the data in as positive a
light as possible during their meeting with
Pellmore?s leaders. That probably wouldn?t be
a big problem for Crowne. The partner in
charge could easily respond with integrity,
?We?ll position the numbers as positively as
possible under the circumstances.?
But suppose Brian asked the consultants to
change the numbers in a materially misleading way. That would be a major problem. And
it?s the kind of problem the partner in charge
would be unwise to handle on her own. Better
to take it to her colleagues. In such a case,
would Susan be held responsible for the client?s behavior? If the firm?s leaders have any
traditional core values to speak of, I doubt it.
More likely, Crowne?s leadership team would
stand behind Susan and refuse to yield to the
client?s unethical request.
Following this logic, then, Susan should
take the Brian Hanson case to her partners. It?s
a business problem. Treat it like any other. As
for Brian himself, Susan has at least two
choices on how to deal with him. One is to
press forward as if nothing happened (the
What?s the big deal? approach) and see if he
takes the escape route quietly. After all, he,
too, has something to lose by having the incident exposed. Or she could talk to him and try
to salvage the situation gracefully: ?I must say,
you took me by surprise the other night. I?m
happy to put this behind us if you are.?
But, having made the case for treating the
Brian Hanson incident like a straightforward
business problem, one has to acknowledge
that Susan?s situation strikes a deeper, far
more troubling chord. Clearly, it doesn?t feel like a normal business problem to either Susan
or her close friend Nancy Richfield. Both
women have achieved all the visible manifestations of success. Susan is a partner at
Crowne?an elected member of the firm?s
leadership. Many regard her as a role model,
especially the younger female associates. But,
as many women in Susan?s position discover,
success feels qualified?conditional.
Susan?s ambivalence reminds me of a survey of senior-level business managers that I
heard about recently. The male respondents
generally reported that they felt ?accepted? as
leaders in their organizations. The women, on
the other hand, reported that they felt merely
?tolerated.? Imagine what it must feel like for
these women to step out on a limb?to challenge the status quo or to call attention to
themselves in any way. Think about it. An individual who is merely tolerated is not in an
empowered position that supports her taking
a leadership role.
Susan?s real dilemma is that, whether she
likes it or not, she must confront some fundamental issues about herself and the firm at
which she has made her career. She has been
asked by a client to do something totally unacceptable, and, as a result, she believes that an
important piece of the business may be at risk.
She obviously is afraid that she cannot count
on her ?partners.? This is a moment of truth. If
Susan is going to act as an accepted member of
the team, she must bring the Brian Hanson incident to her firm?s leadership.
But how? Susan correctly perceives that the
Pellmore revenue is at risk and that her ability
to manage the account may be compromised.
It is unlikely, however, that Susan would be a
partner at Crowne today had she not developed good relationships with some of her partners. Now is the time for her to use some of
the equity she has built up over the years. She
might approach John McMullin, for example,
or another member of Crowne?s executive committee who has supported her. Her objective
should be a mature and sensible conversation
about how to resolve the problem without
compromising the Pellmore business. harvard business review ? march?april 1997 This document is authorized for use only by SAMIR MESSAOUDI ([email protected]). Copying or posting is an infringement of copyright. Please contact
[email protected] or 800-988-0886 for additional copies. Will She Fit In? ?? ?HBR C ASE S TUDY In the final analysis,
Susan?s story is one about
and integrity?not only
hers but also her
organization?s. But here?s the bottom line: If Crowne treats
Susan badly and blames her for what happened
in the hotel room that night, then she has
learned something important about the firm.
On the other hand, if she already knows that
the partnership will respond badly, then she
also already knows that she is working only for
the money. Although many women and minorities I have known find this bargain acceptable
for a while, over time the price they must pay
for living in ?bad faith? becomes too high. They
leave corporate America. Many join or launch
small, usually entrepreneurial ventures in
which biases and double standards, if they exist, can more easily be exposed and banished.
But they shouldn?t have to leave. That?s corporate America?s great opportunity today: to
create an honest environment in which harvard business review ? march?april 1997 diversity?defined in its broadest sense as diversity of thought and experience, as well as of
race, gender, age, and so forth?is respected
and valued. In such an environment, Susan?s
encounter with Brian would be a straightforward business problem. She would have
nothing to fear in taking it public. This is the
kind of culture that Susan?s firm and others
like it must cultivate if they want to retain
the competitive advantage that diversity in the
workforce can bring. For, in the final analysis,
Susan?s story is one about leadership, authenticity, and integrity?not only hers but also her
Gillian Derbyshire is vice president and general
manager of EZ Foil, a specialty-packaging business of Tenneco Packaging in Evanston, Illinois. page 6 This document is authorized for use only by SAMIR MESSAOUDI ([email protected]). Copying or posting is an infringement of copyright. Please contact
[email protected] or 800-988-0886 for additional copies. Will She Fit In? ? HBR C AS E STU DY Case Commentary
by Anthony P D?Andrea
. Should Susan report the incident or pretend it never
happened? For once, making the
men she works for
uncomfortable is what
Susan must do. page 7 Susan is between a rock and a hard place. She
has succeeded in her career by doing all the
right things and playing by the rules. She has
understood the importance of not making
men ?uncomfortable? with her. But I think
she?s reached a point where all bets are off.
For once, making the men she works for uncomfortable is what she must do. Susan must
tell Crowne?s leaders about the Brian Hanson
incident. If she doesn?t, the underlying problem of the Comfort Syndrome will never get
fixed. The question is, Will Susan be true to
herself or is she such a slave to her paycheck
that she won?t risk the immediate consequences of speaking the truth?
Admittedly, the very fact that Susan has
been placed in this position is an injustice.
Why should she be the one to have to risk
anything? But doing nothing is worse. If Susan
allows this incident to pass without seeking redress, she?ll never again be able to look a recruit in the eye. More important, she may have
trouble looking hersel...
This question was answered on: Sep 13, 2020Buy this answer for only: $15
This attachment is locked
Pay using PayPal (No PayPal account Required) or your credit card . All your purchases are securely protected by .
About this QuestionSTATUS
Sep 13, 2020EXPERT
GET INSTANT HELP/h4>
We have top-notch tutors who can do your essay/homework for you at a reasonable cost and then you can simply use that essay as a template to build your own arguments.
You can also use these solutions:
- As a reference for in-depth understanding of the subject.
- As a source of ideas / reasoning for your own research (if properly referenced)
- For editing and paraphrasing (check your institution's definition of plagiarism and recommended paraphrase).
NEW ASSIGNMENT HELP?
Order New Solution. Quick Turnaround
Click on the button below in order to Order for a New, Original and High-Quality Essay Solutions. New orders are original solutions and precise to your writing instruction requirements. Place a New Order using the button below.
WE GUARANTEE, THAT YOUR PAPER WILL BE WRITTEN FROM SCRATCH AND WITHIN A DEADLINE.