A senior manager of marketing and sales at a large medical devices firm has convened his team to help him choose a new manager that will be capable of attracting new business and promoting overall revenue growth. The decision has been narrowed down to two, equally qualified candidates: an outgoing and outspoken woman, and a well-liked man. The conversation is going in circles until someone mentions that the woman's behavior at the office party was inappropriate "for a mother." Students are asked how to manage difficult decisions where latent bias may be a factor first from the point of view of this senior manager, and then from the point of view of his female boss, whom he consults with in the second part of the case.
This case, which disguises the facts of an actual scenario, is designed to surface and explore students' instinctive decision-making tendencies around a high-stakes leadership situation. 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 further reflect on their initial responses. This case can be used to focus on the decision itself—whom to promote—or on how the decision should be made (i.e., on the decision-making discussion).
The case is quite flexible and would work in any course that deals with leadership, ethics, decision-making, organizational behavior, human resources, and related topics. It is appropriate for a range of levels and audiences, including undergraduate, MBA, and executive education.