Martha Rinaldi was working at Potomac Waters as an assistant product manager. Rinaldi is experiencing frustrations with her relationships with her boss and a co-worker. Despite giving her best towards her work, she received a negative performance evaluation. She is faced with the problem of deciding whether she should leave Potomac for a job offer at a company she previously interned with or stay and look for ways to improve the situation.
Linda A. Hill; Mark Rennella
Harvard Business Review (4310-PDF-ENG)
August 24, 2011
Case questions answered:
Case study questions answered in the first solution:
- Diagnose the situation. How did Martha Rinaldi get into this mess?
- What, if anything, could Martha have done differently? Elaborate on your answer.
- What should Martha do now? Be specific in your response. Should she stay, or should she go? Why? Address the consequences of your decision (e.g., what should Martha watch out for or do differently moving forward).
Case study questions answered in the second solution:
- How did Rinaldi get into this mess?
- Could she have done anything differently?
- What should she do now?
Case study questions answered in the third solution:
- How would John Gabarro (author of “Managing your Boss” explain Rinaldi’s relationship with Follet? How would he advise her to approach her relationship with Follet? Be specific about different approaches that would be sensible.
- Explain the ways in which conflict plays out in this case.
- What should Rinaldi do now? Be specific about her next courses of action after making whatever choice you propose and why these choices are appropriate.
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Martha Rinaldi: Should She Stay or Should She Go? Case Answers
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Introduction – Martha Rinaldi
Martha Rinaldi is a young, recent MBA graduate striving to develop a successful career for herself. While working on her MBA, Martha worked as an assistant to the Director of Promotions at Deep Dive, a regional restaurant chain in Chicago and surrounding areas. Martha’s work for Deep Dive was noticed with appreciation, which led to a full job offer with the company once she graduated.
Martha also received an offer from Potomac Waters, a strong national organization serving the healthy beverage industry. During this time, the US was in a large recession; therefore, Martha desired a stable position that had the opportunity for development and advancement. Potomac Waters’ Assistant Product Manager position would be stable, and the company had a strong reputation for grooming and training its new employees. Hence, she chose to accept this company’s offer.
Martha would be working with Jamie Vaughan, an associate PM, and under Natalie Follet, Product Manager of the division. Jamie and Natalie are both Generation X, and Martha is a Millennial.
Consistent issues are arising as Martha works at Potomac Waters, such as lack of direction, insignificant tasks, disproval for taking initiatives, lack of appreciation, discipline for helping another colleague, the overwhelming amount of task assignments, difficult communication, faulty feedback, scolding by Jamie, and insubstantial training. These conflicts have Martha questioning her commitment to Potomac Waters.
Diagnose the Situation
The generation difference is a reason that Martha is having difficulty working at Potomac Waters. Millennial employees have significant differences in their work habits and expectations than Generation X employees. Millennial employees have a strong desire for situations and assignments believed to be learning opportunities (Zemke, 2011).
Martha shows this aspiration to learn and grow throughout the case. Her interest in Potomac Waters grew when the company’s recruiter said that the organization “could give her thorough training in all aspects of marketing.” She also responded to the early and annual performance reviews discussed during her visit in June, which would provide feedback to help her grow.
Currently, Martha is not being given training opportunities. Natalie is not interested in giving her effective performance reviews, showing a clear example that her Generation X coworkers are not attending to this Millennial trait.
The conflicting views of teamwork in the organization stem from a generational difference. Millennials find teams very important, and they believe everyone should do their part (Zemke, 2011).
Martha also has the aspiration for teamwork, like many millennial employees, and she demonstrated this when she accepted Anna Deutch’s invitation for help. Suddenly, Julius Bautista recommended that Martha work on more valuable assignments than helping Anna. Martha feels that she should help an employee who is overwhelmed, but Julius wants Martha to stick to more important assignments.
This difference developed because Martha’s millennial behavior led her to feel team-like and pick up the slack that was dropped on Anna, which is not as important to some non-millennial employees.
The working environment has been unsuitable for Martha Rinaldi at times because of her generational traits, too. Millennials expect a relaxed, low-stress working environment (Zemke, 2001). Like many millennials, Martha wants to be comfortable with the number of projects she is given. Jamie assigned Martha two important projects consecutively, and the second project caused her to become upset and overwhelmed.
Natalie also confronted Martha regarding the matter and expressed that there are times when there is too much to do, but it is expected to be done anyway. Conflict develops when different generations of employees disagree on what is an acceptable workload. Generation X employees are more adaptable than millennials in situations like these.
There is an inadequate amount of feedback being given to Martha by Natalie and Jamie. Millennials need constructive feedback on a consistent basis (Zemke, 2011). Martha actually had to request her three-month performance evaluation from Natalie, and Natalie seemed bothered by the request.
Also, when Martha completed the ROI review and expansion, she received no compliments for her good work from her team. Failing to provide feedback to a millennial makes them feel undervalued and unsure of their performance, but other generations rely less on feedback.
Another problem between Martha Rinaldi and her superior is Natalie’s failure to commit to psychological contracts. Psychological contracts are mutual understandings, stated or implied, between an employer and employee (Rousseau, 2004).
Natalie’s avoidance of the performance evaluation was a breach of a psychological contract because it was expressed to Martha that a three-month evaluation would be given. Martha also developed a psychological contract when the company’s recruiter stated that Potomac Waters “could give her thorough training in all aspects of marketing.”
Unfortunately, Martha does not feel as though she is receiving the level of training he described, which is a failure to meet this psychological contract. During her visit to the company, Martha interacted with employees who enjoyed sharing information and getting to know her. This developed a psychological contract that she would be valued and able to work with others, but Martha has not had much experience with that during her time with the company.
Psychological contracts motivate employees to fulfill their commitment to their employers when they believe the employer fulfills their end of the agreement (Rousseau, 2004). These failed psychological contracts impede Martha’s willingness to commit to the organization.
Martha Rinaldi is in a difficult position at Potomac Waters. She feels undervalued, disrespected, misled, and misunderstood. A large portion of the challenges that Martha is dealing with relates to generational differences.
Another problematic occurrence is that there are errors in the psychological contracts between Martha and the organization. Martha needs to find a way to improve her working situation or decide to go back to Deep Dive.
Martha Rinaldi can take alternative actions to improve her situation at Potomac Waters. Developing more…
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