Discrimination is a complex issue that affects everyone. It involves all races, sexes and religions. Subtle discrimination exists in the workplace, whether people want to accept it or not. Recognizing this fact is the key to overcoming the obstacles of cultural differences and to successfully integrating all levels of the corporate world. Ann Hopkins had been with Price Waterhouse’s Office of Government Services in Washington, D. C. , for five years when the partners in her office proposed her as a candidate for partnership in 1982. Of the 662 partners at the firm during that time, only 7 were women.
Of the 88 people proposed for partnership that year, only 1 — Hopkins — was a woman. Forty-seven candidates were offered partnership, 21 rejected, and 20 — including Hopkins — were “held” for reconsideration the following year. A two-thirds “Yes” vote from the full Partnership was required to be offered partnership. Thirteen of the 32 partners that submitted comments on Hopkins supported her bid for partnership. Three partners recommended that her candidacy be placed on hold, eight stated that they did not have an informed opinion about her, and eight recommended that she be denied partnership.
Don’t waste your time!
Order your assignment!
In a jointly prepared statement supporting her candidacy, the partners in Hopkins’ office showcased her successful 2-year effort to secure a $25 million contract with the Department of State, labeling it “an outstanding performance” and one that Hopkins carried out “virtually at the partner level. ” Hopkins “had no difficulty dealing with clients and her clients appear to have been very pleased with her work” and she was generally viewed as a highly competent project leader that worked long hours, pushed vigorously to meet deadlines and demanded much from the multidisciplinary staffs with which she worked.
On too many occasions, however, many people that she worked with deemed Hopkins’ aggressiveness as too abrasive. Long before her bid for partnership, certain partners evaluating her work had counseled Hopkins to improve her relations with staff members. This type of feedback was not received well by Hopkins. There were clear signs that some of the partners reacted negatively to Hopkins’ personality because she was a woman. One partner described her as “macho”; another suggested that she “overcompensated for being a woman” and a third advised her to take “a course at charm school. The key issues emerging from Ann Hopkins case relate to the decision whether or not to promote her to Partner given her performance record. While there was no question about her ability to grow the business and expand the firm’s revenue by selling additional work, Ann’s interpersonal skills were questioned in multiple instances and were considered poor. Ann successfully managed large projects while working for Price Waterhouse and was viewed by her clients as a highly competent project manager. In addition, she had billed more hours than anybody else in her partner class.
These are key performance indicators for partner candidates. On the other hand, her mishandling of a $35,000 fee discrepancy in one of her projects raised questions about her ethics. When questioned about the discrepancy Ann initially tried to downplay the importance but later admitted it was due to her asking one Senior Consultant to work 12-14 hours a day and only allocate 8 billed hours/day to the project. This practice, known in the consulting industry as “eating hours,” inflates the project quality without generating enough revenue for the firm.
This creates an illusion of high quality deliverables at the expense of the project teams unpaid overtime. The ethical dilemma in this case relates to the decision of promoting or not promoting somebody with a record such as Ann’s. In an organization predominantly directed by male partners, would a male candidate with a performance record similar to Ann’s record be treated differently? Absolutely, as two other candidates with a similar number of recommendations and rankings in the overall quartile rankings system were promoted to partner.
Finally, when the Partners were required to provide Ann feedback regarding why she was being put on hold, instead of focusing on real performance-related issues, their feedback was centered on the female stereotype, for instance, use more makeup, wear more jewelry and use less profanity. The only person that gave Ann feedback that was not related to her being a woman was the Chairman of Price Waterhouse, Joseph Connor. He told Ann that in order for to be promoted to partner, she would need to “undergo a quality control review and come out of it with no negative comments.
He also told her that OGS had to continue to be profitable. ” She was also advised by Connor to relax and take charge less often. There are four courses of action concerning the promotion of Ann Hopkins that can be taken. The first being that Price Waterhouse could promote Ann to partner and give her what she feels is deserved. Ann demonstrated during her time at Price Waterhouse, her ability to handle complex projects and generate revenue for the firm.
However, she has some questionable ethics in regards to treatment of subordinates and not charging clients for the correct amount of time for billable hours. The second action Price Waterhouse could take would be to place Ann on hold, give her feedback on how to improve and then set goals for her to achieve during the hold period. This would not only buy Price Waterhouse some time, but also give Ann an opportunity to prove herself. The third course of action would be to take her out of current role and demote her.
This would likely cause her to leave, which may make many people within Price Waterhouse happy. However, Ann has a very strong personality and would likely sue Price Waterhouse for sexual discrimination. For which she may have a case based on some of the feedback that she has been given in regards to her candidacy for promotion. The last option would be for Price Waterhouse to reject Ann outright and place her back in the position she currently holds. This would likely upset Ann and create a very unhealthy work environment for anyone working with her.
Of the four alternatives, placing Ann on hold and returning her to current role with feedback on how to improve and a set of goals to achieve is the best option. It does not have any major consequences for Price Waterhouse and would keep them from making a decision that could have a long-term negative impact on the company. Ann might actually improve and be a promoted to partner once the hold period is lifted. If she still does not show signs of improvement, Price Waterhouse would have more ammunition in case Ann decided to sue because she was not promoted.