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795 case analysis

Case Analysis:
Martha Rinaldi: Should She Stay or Should She Go?
Jessica Hixon
MBA 795
University of Dayton
July 30, 2019
1. Provide a one-paragraph summary of the key issues as you see them in this case.
Martha Rinaldi, a recent MBA graduate, has been working as an assistant project manager at
Potomac Waters four months. Rinaldi has historically been self-motivated, self-directed and
hardworking. For example, she excelled at sports, helped in the family business, and was able to
successfully complete an MBA program at a top-ten business school. (Hill, 2011, p. 1) When
looking for her first position after graduate school, Rinaldi choose Potomac Waters, over an offer
to join the promotions team at Deep Dive where she had completed a summer internship. While
she had experienced success at Deep Dive, she had concerns about business sustainability,
unknown senior leadership, and the training she would receive. Potomac, however, was an
established national brand and Rinaldi had learned they had a strong history of marketing
excellence; she hoped this would help her gain industry experience and further her career in the
long run. (Hill, 2011, p. 3)
Unfortunately, her career at Potomac got off to a bad start and did not improve over the
ensuing few months. She was working in an environment with no architectural privacy, lack of
physical or acoustic isolation (Zarella, 2017, p.2), and very high visual access and proximity due
to her office being surrounded by glass, allowing everyone to see her work area, and sharing
desk space with a coworker. Her relationship with her coworker, Jamie Vaughan, degraded over
time. There were increasing levels of conflict. Vaughan’s attitude began with apathy and
escalated to disruptive, uncooperative and hostile, cumulating with a yelling match in December.
His behavior with combined with Rinaldi’s poor conflict management skills created a
dysfunctional environment that hindered group performance. (Robbins, 2018, p. 227) Her
manager (Natalie Follet) lacks empathy as a leader for Rinaldi’s role as new employee, she is not
listening to Rinaldi’s frustrations or reading her reactions. Rinaldi expected that the leadership
would be more path-goal oriented, with her manager providing support and resources, based on
her research before joining the organization. (Robbins, 2018, p. 192) This has not been her
experience leading to increasing dissatisfaction.
Rinaldi is not without responsibility for her current situation. At Deep Dive she was
performing work she enjoyed and was well respected, however her insecurity about the market
and her own abilities combined with unknown coworkers prevented her from taking the better
paying more challenging position. (Hill, 2011) Through January she has not found an effective
way to work with Follet or Vaughan. Her inability to resolve the conflict with Vaughan by using
the source of power she does possess, combined with her inability to convey her training needs
to Follet has led to increased tensions. Rinaldi is also hesitant to ask transfer to a department she
may fit in better with and has begun to become more embroiled in office gossip. She has yet to
admit she may have made a mistake choosing Potomac and approach Deep Dive about the
position she was previously offered, that may have been a better fit. (Hill, 2011) If she were to
be brave enough to resign from Potomac and take the position at Deep Dive, I believe she would
be much happier with her career choice. She would get to experience the mastery, autonomy and
purpose (Pink, 2009) she so much enjoyed during her internship. However, this is a riskier
position and despite her skills and young age she is very conservative in her choices.
2. How would you describe Rinaldi's influence tactics? Cite at least two concepts from the
course text or other literature used in this course to justify your response, and relate them
to specific examples of her behavior.
Rinaldi is not without the ability to influence her current situation. She unfortunately has not
used the resources she possesses to the best of her ability.
a. Rational persuasion – Rinaldi could present a logical argument and provide evidence to show
that her requests are legitimate. (Robbins, 2018) For example, instead of always waiting for
someone to tell her exactly what to do, she could present Vaughan or Follet with a deliverable
she felt she could accomplish based on her understanding of the department’s goals or the
meetings she had with managers of other departments. Follet actually mentions in her review
that she would like her to step and be more assertive (Hill, 2011, p. 8) and in a meeting with
Julius Bautista, vice president of marketing, she is again questioned about her lack of
contribution during a group meeting (Hill, 2011, p. 7). Both are examples of rational persuasion
she could use, should she be brave enough to speak up.
b. Consultation – Rinaldi would have been smart to have Vaughan as her ally as quickly as
possible. This may have been accomplished by consultation, involving Vaughan in her desired
plan. (Robbins, 2018, p. 213) Follet continuously refers Rinaldi back to Vaughan so why not
try to work directly with him to be given tasks harder than making copies. She could have
offered suggestion on how to make is work load lighter while gaining some more difficult tasks
for herself. Rinaldi could also have gained his support by recognizing him more in the ROI
project. By her own admission Vaughan’s mathematical ability complimented her marketing
ability. (Hill, 2011, p. 6) If she would have highlighted both of their contributions and capitalized
on the momentum when she received the congratulatory email from Bautista, she could have
then used consultation with Vaughan to uncover similar projects they may have worked on
together. Rinaldi should have also considered that Vaughan, who does not have a marketing
background or an advanced degree, may feel his position is threatened by the new influx of
MBA’s Potomac has been hiring.
c. Ingratiation – Using friendly behavior may be the one influence tactic Rinaldi is adept at
using. (Robbins, 2018, p. 213) However, she is so weak in other areas that her friendliness may
be presenting to Follet, who is more demanding, as more of a weakness. Follet may respect
Rinaldi more if she was more assertive in their meetings. Praising Vaughan, especially in front
of his manager may also have helped her create a better working relationship with him. Sending
a return email to Bautista, highlighting her coworker’s contribution on the ROI project would
have also been a good option to capitalize on ingratiation.
d. Coalitions – When presented with the opportunity to speak with Bautista, who was in a
position of power to affect her current situation (Robbins, 2018), and express some of the
challenges she has been facing, she choose to not reveal any of her struggles or concerns. She
missed an opportunity to gain his support and possibly learn a better strategy for navigating
office politics.
3. What are Rinaldi's sources of power? Cite at least one concept from the course text or
other literature used in this course to justify your response.
a. Personal Power – Rinaldi does have personal power which is the unique characteristics she
brings with her to her position. Specifically she has the form of personal power known as expert
power, which Robbins (2018) describes as “influence wielded as a result expertise, special skills,
or knowledge.” (p. 210) Rinaldi has experience making effective ROI presentations, something
she was able to successfully translate to Potomac Waters. She also has experience working with
new vendors and education, skills that may also translate well to Potomac Waters.
b. According to Taucean (2016) referent power is, “rooted in the affiliations we make and/or the
groups and organizations we belong to.” (p. 70) By this definition, if Rinaldi is able to establish
herself as a valued member of the team with Vaughan and Follet she could begin to exhibit
referent power.
4. What conflict management style is Rinaldi using? Is it working for her? Cite at least
two concepts from the course text or other literature used in this course to justify your
response, and relate them to her behavior.
a. Accommodating – Initially Rinaldi is using accommodation as her conflict style. She is
seeking to appease those she is working with and placing their interest above her own. (Robbins,
2018, p. 232). She is willing sacrifice her own internal drive to ask questions, offer solutions and
get involved Potomac’s projects in order to build and maintain the relationships she is forming.
For example, when she initially meets with Follet, who is rather curt with her, and is anxious to
get direction and begin her career she ends her meeting by ensuring Follet that she is a team
player and quick study rather than express any of her own on boarding goals. (Hill, 2011)
b. Avoiding - As the weeks go by she continues to turn inward and is not as outspoken in
meetings as she had been when Bautista initially met her, as is evident when he states, “…you
were volunteering all sorts of ideas. But you were pretty quiet today.” She is withdrawing to try
and prevent conflict.
c. Competing – As even more time passes and simply avoiding situations is not enough to
prevent conflict Rinaldi begins to compete. The University of Wisconsin human resources
(2019) department defines competing conflict management as “an aggressive style of
communication with little regard for future relationships. Competing tends to result in responses
that increase the level of threat.” We see this happen with Rinaldi. Initially she raises her voice
to Follet and shortly afterwards is in a shouting match with Vaughan. (Hill, 2011)
Rian Thomas (2002), states, “having to endure conflicts in the workplace without sufficient
training, tools, outlets, or support, employees are destined to experience various degrees of work
related discomfort, which can easily escalate and cause any number of consequences from
employee anxiety to ensuing lawsuits.” This quote perfectly captures what is happening with
Rinaldi. She does not have the necessary tools or support and the conflict is escalating. She is
experiencing more and more discomfort that without intervention will probably end with her
leaving Potomac Waters.
5. Should Rinaldi try to salvage her situation, or decide to leave Potomac
Waters? Why? Justify your response with at least two citations from the course text or
other literature used in this course.
This early in her career at Potomac, asking to be transferred to another team may reflect
very poorly on Follet. That would burn a significant bridge with Follet which seems like a poor
choice when trying to make a career at Potomac Waters. Follet is not a good leader, especially
of a new employee with a desire to learn and advance. This leaves her with few options,
therefore I would recommend she reach out to Deep Dive.
Finkelstein (2018) states, “Instead of waiting for formal reviews, great managers stay
accessible to their employees and share their wisdom as opportune moments arise, whether that’s
in the office or outside it. They also create teaching moments—often by taking protégés off-site.
Teach in the moment and not wait for formal review. Ultimately, great leaders understand that
even a little bit of high-quality, one-on-one teaching can yield great dividends.” (p. 145) This
quote hits on many points that Rinaldi has issue with. She was not receiving feedback and even
had to request her actual review. Follet is not accessible to Rinaldi nor has she found any
teachable moments. One of the reasons Rinaldi chose Potomac Waters over Deep Dive was her
belief that she would receive excellent on the job training. This has been not been her
experience, and according to coworkers, has not been the experience of others working
underneath Follet. Rinaldi is also experiencing very little opportunity to experience mastery,
autonomy or purpose which Pink (2009) explains are important components of human
motivation. She has no autonomy over her tasks, time, technique or team. The tasks, technique
and time have all been directed by Vaughan or Follet. Rinaldi is also no fitting in well with the
team she has been assigned to and she feels as though she has no power to choose a different
one. She is not getting the opportunity to master her marketing skills, which was the primary
reason she chose Potomac Waters, even though she has great desire to become better are her job.
Finally, she does not feel any purpose. Having Rinaldi review material, make copies and fix
power point slides does not provide her with any purpose to her position at Potomac Waters. If
she were to leave and return to Deep Dive, I believe she would find the flow that Pink (2009)
describes as the “highest, most satisfying experiences.” (P. 133)
6. If she decides to stay, what should her next steps be? Provide at least three actions she
should take and justify them with at least one concept each from the course text or other
literature used in this course.
1. She should work on regaining her initiative and assertiveness that the management at Potomac
valued in her when she was hired. By self-monitoring, adjusting her behavior to the situation, she
can become more aware of her tendency to initially avoid and then revert to becoming
combative. Rinaldi seemed to have a more proactive personality before her time at Potomac
Waters. She was able to identify opportunities, show initiative and take action. (Robbins, 2018)
Due to the conflicts she faced she lost some of her proactive personality and needs to consciously
work on that positive trait.
2. According to Simms (2017) some work place conflict can be beneficial, especially in more
creative industries. Vaughan should begin to embrace some constructive conflict with Vaughan,
and not withdraw her engagement. To be able to have constructive conflict with Vaughan,
Rinaldi needs to understand her current go to conflict management style and also learn
techniques of more constructive options. She could do this through online assessments such as
the Thomas-Kilmann instrument that can be found at https://takethetki.com/ to uncover her
current go to style. Hopefully, during her MBA there was some instruction regarding conflict
management that she can refer back to in order to adjust her style to more constructive forms
such as collaborating, satisfying all parties, or compromising, each party achieves some
satisfaction but not all.
3. Schedule a meeting, detailing her objective, to talk about delineating responsibilities as Follet
had mentioned in her review. During this face to face meeting she will have the advantage
according to Robbins (2018), of “speed, feedback and exchange.” (p. 176) By keeping Follet
focused on delineating responsibilities, which was Follet’s idea, she should be able to get some
assignments more in line with her skill set.
4. She should continue to build her network at Potomac Waters. She has little formal authority
but she could build a powerful network that would secure her position and may lead to more
project opportunities in the future. For example, she spent weeks having productive meetings
with managers of various departments. She should continue to cultivate these relationships so
that if she needs something from finance, for example, she has a contact there. She also has the
beginning of a relationship with Anna Deutch, project manager for health drinks. She loved her
ROI presentation, commended her ability to keep her cool, and Rinaldi helped her when she was
in a bind. Bautista liked all the ideas Rinaldi used to volunteer, she could go to him with a new
ideas when appropriate. Doug Berman’s, group project manager, assistant gave her some office
gossip. Rinaldi could continue to grow this relationship in case she needs help with Berman in
the future. She also spent time social with assistant project managers from carbonated soft
drinks. By being the connection between many departments she could become a change agent
within Potomac Waters marketing departments. (Battilana, 2013)
7. Concluding Reflection: What is Rinaldi's most important lesson from this
experience? Cite at least one concept from the course materials and provide sufficient
analysis and detail to justify your response. This is an important section! What do you
think she could/should learn from this experience and what other thoughts or observations
would you like to share?
This is Rinaldi’s first foray into a challenging work environment. She went from
working at a family business, to graduate school, to Deep Dive. All were places she experienced
success, mastery, autonomy and purpose with little push back. She did not have to use many
conflict management strategies in the past, partly because she was able to successfully utilize her
personal power. Now that she is in a more challenging situation she crumbled. The proactive
personality, that helped her achieve much of her success up until this point disappeared. She
reverted to avoiding situations and retreating inwards during meetings. She also ended up at
Potomac because she did not have confidence in her abilities to be successful in the more
challenging position Deep Dive offered.
If Rinaldi stays she needs to grow up professionally. She cannot continue to just
complain about her situation while hoping it will magically change. She needs to be more
proactive with her management, coworkers, and growth opportunities. It is not realistic to
assume training and learning opportunities will be handed to her. She knows that developing
employees is not her manager’s strong suit and needs to seek out the opportunities she is looking
for. Follet obviously has skills that made her promotable, Rinaldi needs to discover what
Follet’s strengths are and put herself in positions to learn from her.
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