|Printed Black & White Copy
Note: This case contains language that some people may find offensive. It is left exactly as it was spoken in the real situation portrayed precisely because it is pertinent to how the situation affected those involved. "Overheard at the Office," based on a true story, presents the case of an African-American woman who works as an accountant for the league office of the team owners of one of the four major US professional sports. One day, she is yelled at offensively by a team owner, who mistook her for a players' union employee, perhaps because the players and their union staff are predominantly African-American, in contrast to the majority white team owners and their staff. She has to decide whether and how to respond. The case is designed to surface students' instinctive decision-making tendencies. Thus, it is short enough to be read and responded to in class. Students are assigned readings and assignments related to the case after class discussion in which they are encouraged to reflect on their initial responses. The case is quite flexible and would work in any course that deals with leadership, ethics, difficult conversations, decision-making, organizational behavior, human resources, implicit bias, and related topics. It is appropriate for a range of levels and audiences, including undergraduate, MBA, and executive education.
The learning objectives of this case (and others used in the second-year elective, "Defining Moments") focus on helping students: 1) Identify their value priorities, 2) Identify challenges associated with consistently and effectively enacting and defending their value priorities in work contexts, and 3) Skillfully conduct difficult conversations, especially those involving high stakes and intense emotions.