Thomas Green: Power, Office Politics, and a Career in Crisis Analysis

In this essay I will attempt to answer why the actions of Thomas Green were so different than what his boss Frank Davis expected of him. I will also address the individual agendas of the two bosses and how each person wants to be treated. In identifying the power bases that were used by each person, I will go to French and Ravens personal bases of power to see how each could have used them more effectively, while also identifying if any of those powers were abused. An old Yugoslavian Proverb states, “If you wish to know what a man is, place him in authority! ” Actions Differ from Expectations

From the information given Thomas Greens promotion given by Shannon McDonald was one that put him in a very difficult situation from the beginning. His new boss, Frank Davis, was promoted out of the very position that Green just assumed and Davis had not wanted to promote Green to this position in the first place. Then Thomas spent most all of his time during that first week reviewing the old sales reviews, after which during the following week, Frank Davis gave Tom a whirl wind review and tour of all the major airline clients he had contact with for the company.

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After which Frank told Tom that their meetings had gone good and the clients really liked his ideas. At which point Frank said, “I think we would have been more effective if we had been able to provide the clients with some market data. ” (Sasser & Beckham, 2008) Frank even gave Tom some very specific things he needed to do like; spending a lot of time preparing to meet the clients and have proposals with supporting details that can be given to the clients. He also tasked him with developing the Market Strategy for his assigned area of responsibility.

The back ground of Tom was that he is a guy that is able to keep it all in his head and this makes a great salesman, but his new position is one that requires him to have the documentation to back up what he is presenting, so that these companies have spreadsheets to take to their bosses for approval. It does appear that Frank does have a problem with Tom being in this position, especially after the budget planning meeting in which Tom vocally disagreed with Frank on his projected growth of double digits in a time when the economy is showing a decline and he had not asked for Toms input prior to the meeting.

From this point on each took on a whole new stance towards one another, which was the downfall to their professional relationship. Since Frank had just been promoted out of Tom’s new position, he had used that knowledge to formulate the projected growth he saw and Tom used his current meetings with all the clients to make his judgment call. So it is easy to see from the outside how they were at an impasse on this projected growth number and why each was holding his ground. Individual Agendas The agendas of Davis and McDonald were very different and on totally opposite levels.

McDonald had promoted Green based upon the facts that he had super strong numbers and he had great rapport with all of his clients. Green had gotten the attention of her and Mary Jacobs, who was the national sales director in the company and at a meeting that was held at Headquarters, they got to know him really well. Come to find out, Green and McDonald were both Graduates of the University of Georgia and both were from Georgia as well. McDonald had many informal meetings with Green during his visit and that is when he became aware of the opening of the senior market specialist.

Davis on the other hand had a whole different approach that he wanted to take in filling the open position, but seeing as how McDonald was his boss, he didn’t really have much of a say when he was told that Green would be filling the senior market specialist position. This is where it started to cause the tension that built between him and Green. Treatment and Power Bases It is safe to say that each person wants to be respected for their current position and points of view. Tom being the new guy on the block wants to prove himself just as much as Frank does in his new position as Marketing Director.

The huge problem that I see, is that Tom started talking to others in the office area about how he totally disagrees with Franks numbers in projected growth. A week after this meeting took place Frank set Tom up with an appointment in his outlook calendar. Tom thought in his mind that all was well and good, and he expected to hear this from his boss. From an outside view about what was discussed, it appears that Frank brought out things that he never discussed with Tom during his week of training with him, about what he expected him to do and it was apparent that Tom had not done some of the things he was asked to do as well.

Throughout this meeting, it was very apparent that both individuals were using their legitimate and expert power bases to do their jobs. Tom was using his expert power in marketing by making contact with clients and going to areas within the region that had time to see him, which also appeared that he was using his legitimate power in doing this. Frank on the other hand was using his legitimate and expert power as Tom’s boss and having done the job Tom was now doing before and expecting him to do it just as he had done it without conveying all this to Tom.

During this meeting you could see that Frank was using coercive power over Tom due to his position. Then after three months more, Frank called Tom back in for another meeting, that did not go well at all, he continued to outline all the things that he did not like about Toms performance. It appeared that Tom was still not doing the paperwork to back up what he was telling clients during their meetings. Tom still had the feeling that it was left over frustrations that Frank had from the planning meeting in which Tom disagreed with him on his growth numbers. Effective use of Personal Bases of Power

In the review of all things presented, I feel that the legitimate power and expert power bases could have been used by each person to help the other grow into the positions they were promoted to. Tom and Frank both were in positions that they had legitimate power, which enabled them to do the job they were promoted to do. Each was definitely an expert in their respective positions and if information and training would have been given by both men, they could have easily worked together to help one another and be able to see if each truly understood where the other was coming from.

The one power that I thought could have been used was referent power, Frank as Toms boss, had a unique perspective that he could have taught Tom the ins and outs of his new position and set himself up to be approachable and the go to guy. Abuse of Power This is a very unique situation and I am sure this kind of thing happens a lot more than people truly know about. Throughout the reading of this case study, I could see that both gentlemen were abusing their legitimate power in the actions showed by them.

It first started when Frank didn’t discuss the numbers with Tom prior to the budget planning meeting and when Tom was not keeping Frank in the loop on his outlook calendar. I also feel that Frank was abusing his coercive power over Tom by not working with him and automatically sending things straight up to Shannon, because she was the one who promoted him. Summary In summary of all things presented here, office politics are to be played very carefully and if not, it sure can put someone’s career in crisis mode very quickly as seen here.

The differing actions of Green and Davis drove the expectations of each other farther apart, which did not allow for them to work together as a team. Shannon given her position as Vice President promoted Tom to his position, so this set the new promotion on rocky ground from the start, never allowing him to have a firm foundation. The power bases that I see being the ones used were expert, legitimate, and coercive. Each power base could have been used to benefit each person in their given position, but it’s sad to say they were not and in the end the latter two power bases were abused by both Tom and Frank.

The story can be used as what not to do and how expectations have to be completely spelled out or it allows others to fail because of it. Vince Lombardi said it best, “Football is like life – it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority. ”


Sasser, W. E. , & Beckham, H. (2008). Thomas green: Power, office politics, and a career in crisis. Informally published manuscript, Harvard Business Publishing, Harvard Business School, Boston, MA, . View as multi-pages

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