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Karen Leary A

Solution Id Length Case Author Case Publisher
2824 1440 Words (6 Pages) Jaan Elias Harvard Business School : 487020
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Karen was the manager at the Elmville branch of Merrill Lynch and had hired a financial consultant, Ted, to captivate customers from Taiwan. Ted was able to open a $6 million account for a Taiwanese industrialist, which led to significant commissions. However, Karen was concerned regarding Ted’s investments in risky stocks and his margin usage during the annual performance review. Meanwhile, Ted requests a private office, thinking that he deserves it based on his performance. Karen, on the other hand, was uncertain about accepting his request given that only the most experienced brokers had their private offices and was more focused on Merrill Lynch’s shift towards a customer-oriented structure, launch of new products and striving against other financial institutions. Karen had experiences relating to improving the performance of divisions providing subpar results, which taught her the significance of having an effective leadership in guiding an organizational transformation and mitigating change barriers. This case focuses on how managers should keep synthesizing short-term progress with long-term vision and to create a team-oriented and customer-first approach.

Following questions are answered in this case study solution:

  1. What are some of the underlying issues between Karen and Ted’s relationship? 

  2. If you were Karen, what would you have done differently in managing your relationship with Ted?

  3. Given that there are clear cultural differences in this case, do you think Ted’s behavior towards Karen is appropriate? Why or why not?

Case Study Questions Answers

1. What are some of the underlying issues between Karen and Ted’s relationship?

Amongst various underlying issues between Ted and Karen’s relationship was miscommunication and disagreement on Ted’s performance as a financial consultant at the company. Karen believed that Ted worked in an individualistic and distanced manner. Karen also saw Ted’s request for a private office as a questionable demand as he was a new employee at the ElmVille branch. The company was facing intense competition and hence transitioning from a product-centered approach to a customer-centric approach which meant supplementary training in financial planning practices and analysis of client’s long-term financial goals, which further strained Ted and Karen’s relationship because Karen was more concerned about Ted’s risky investments and use of margin and more eager to develop relationships with business people of Taiwan for a smooth transition to customer-first approach. There were quite a few cultural differences between the two, which further caused friction in their relationship. Ted was more inclined towards molding the rules, while Karen liked to follow a proper structural procedure. Ted was a risk-taking Asian man, had a Taiwanese background and spoke Chinese and preferred to work in ‘out of the box ways’ while Karen was a corporate worker proceeding with calculations. He believed in developing a relationship with the client based on trust, and his financial plans were driven by the variations in the relationship. He felt uncomfortable doing tasks or helping others in tasks that required very little skill or knowledge and thought of them as ‘beneath him’. He never publicly disagreed with Karen, but Karen viewed him as a conceited individual. Karen viewed his excessive need for privacy and strict formal attitude as a distanced individualistic approach because she had always seen sharing and collaboration, but for Ted, it was more about his space and independence and working according to his way. Ted’s request for a new office can also be tied to his need for individualism and his performance, but for Karen, it was more about hierarchy and seniority and commitment to the company. Ted had a greater context of Taiwanese culture and hence stopped seeking Karen’s consultation, which increased the friction between the two as it damaged the trust between the two and made Karen uncomfortable.

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