Ron Johnson—Department of Accounting
Ron Johnson is a tenured professor of leadership at a small teaching college in the Midwest.117 The Department of Accounting (DA) has nine faculty members; it is one of ten departments in the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS). The accounting department chair is Jean Williams, who is in her first year as chair. Six faculty members, including Ron, have been in the department longer than Jean. Jean likes to have policies in place, so that faculty members have guides for their behavior. On the college-wide level, however, there is no policy about the job of graduate assistant. Jean has asked the dean of the SAS about the policy. After a discussion with the vice president for academic affairs, the dean told Jean that there is no policy. The vice president and dean suggested letting the individual departments develop their own policy regarding what graduate assistants can and cannot do in their position. So, Jean has made developing a policy for graduate assistants an agenda item for the department meeting. During the DA meeting, Jean asks for members’ views on what graduate assistants should and should not be allowed to do. She is hoping that the department can come to a consensus on a policy. It turns out that Ron Johnson is the only faculty member using graduate assistants to grade exams. All but one of the other faculty members speaks out against having graduate assistants grade exams. Other faculty members believe it is the professor’s job to grade exams. Ron makes a few statements in hopes of not having to correct his own exams. Because his exams are objective, requiring a correct answer, Ron believes it’s not necessary for him to personally grade the exams. He also points out that across the campus, and across the country, other faculty members are using graduate assistants to teach entire courses and to correct subjective papers and exams. Ron states that he does not think it fair to tell him that he cannot use graduate assistants to grade objective exams when others are doing so. He also states that the department does not need to have a policy, and requests that the department not set a policy. However, Jean states that she wants a policy. Ron holds a single, minority view during the meeting. But, after the meeting, one other member, Eddie Accorsi, who said nothing during the meeting, tells Ron he agrees that it is not fair to deny him this use of a graduate assistant. There was no department consensus, as Jean hoped there would be. Jean says that she will draft a department policy, which will be discussed at a future DA meeting. The next day, Ron sends a memo to department members asking if it is ethical and legal to deny him the same resources as others are using across the campus. He also states that if the department sets a policy stating that he can no longer use graduate assistants to correct objective exams, he will appeal the policy decision to the dean, vice president, and president. Support your answers to the following questions with specific information from the case and text, or with other information you get from the Web or other sources.
- (a) What source of power does Jean have, and (b) what type of power is she using? (c) Which influencing tactic is Jean using during the meeting? (d) Is negotiation and/or the (e) exchange tactic appropriate in this situation?
- (a) What source of power does Ron have, and (b) what type of power is he using during the meeting? (c) Which two influencing tactics is Ron primarily using during the meeting? (d) Which influencing tactic is Ron using with the memo? (e) Is the memo a wise political move for Ron? What might he gain and lose by sending it?
- What would you do if you were Jean? (a) Would you talk to the dean, letting him know that Ron said he would appeal the policy decision? (b) Which influencing tactic would this discussion involve? (c) Which political behavior would the discussion represent? (d) Would you draft a policy directly stating that graduate assistants cannot be used to grade objective exams? (e) Would your answer to (d) be influenced by your answer to (a)?
- (a) If you were Ron, knowing you had no verbal supporters during the meeting, would you have continued to defend your position or agreed to stop using a graduate assistant? (b) What do you think of Ron sending the memo? (c) As a tenured full professor, Ron is secure in his job. Would your answer change if you (as Ron) had not received tenure or promotion to the top rank?
- (a) If you were Ron, and Jean drafted a policy and department members agreed with it, what would you do? Would you appeal the decision to the dean? (b) Again, would your answer change if you had not received tenure or promotion to the top rank?
- If you were the dean of SAS, knowing that the vice president does not want to set a college-wide policy, and Ron appealed to you, what would you do? Would you develop a school-wide policy for SAS?
- At what level (college-wide, by schools, or by departments within each school) should a graduate assistants policy be set?
- (a) Should Eddie Accorsi have spoken up in defense of Ron during the meeting? (b) If you were Eddie, would you have taken Ron’s side against the other seven members? (c) Would your answer change if you were or were not friends with Ron, and if you were or were not a tenured full professor?
CUMULATIVE CASE QUESTIONS
- Which level(s) of analysis of leadership theory is (are) presented in this case (Chapter 1)?
- Is it ethical for graduate students to correct undergraduate exams (Chapter 2)?
- Which of the four Ohio State University leadership styles did Jean use during the department meeting (Chapter 3)?
CAS E EX E R C IS E AN D RO LE -P LAY Preparation:
Read the case and think about whether you agree or disagree with using graduate assistants to correct objective exams. If you do this exercise, we recommend that you complete it before discussing the questions and answers to the case. In-Class DA Meeting: A person who strongly agrees with Ron’s position volunteers to play his or her role (women can use the name Ronnie) during a leadership department DA meeting. A second person who also agrees with the use of graduate assistants correcting exams plays the role of Eddie (or Freddie). However, recall that Eddie/Freddie cannot say anything during the meeting to support Ron/Ronnie. One person who strongly disagrees with Ron—-who doesn’t want graduate assistants to correct exams, and who also feels strongly that there should be a policy stating what graduate assistants can and cannot do—-volunteers to play the role of the department chair (Jean) who runs the DA meeting. Six others who strongly disagree with graduate assistants grading exams play the roles of other department members. The ten role-players sit in a circle in the center of the room, with the other class members sitting around the outside of the circle. Observers just quietly watch and listen to the meeting discussion. Role-Play: (about 15 minutes) Jean opens the meeting by simply stating that the agenda item is to set a graduate assistants policy stating what they can and cannot do, and that he or she hopes the department can come to a consensus on a policy. Jean states his or her position on why graduate students should not be allowed to correct exams, and then asks for other views. Ron/ Ronnie and the others, except Eddie/Freddie, jump in anytime with their opinions. Discussion: After the role-play is over, or when time runs out, the person playing the role of Ron/Ronnie expresses to the class how it felt to have everyone against him or her. Other department members state how they felt about the discussion, followed by observers’ statements as time permits. A discussion of the case questions and answers may follow.