Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 10th 2015 Contents SBG12 CASE STUDY
SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt MAY 10 • 2015
The following guide is intended to aid readers
in analysing the case Trendmar Advertising.
When analysing a case, remember that there
are many possible approaches and solutions
and the goal is to develop your analytical and
problem-solving skills rather than figure out
the one right answer.
SynopsisVictor Greene had been
a loyal and dedicated
sales representative at
for the past twelve years
but had become
sioned with some of
the questionable tactics being used by col-
leagues to boost sales.
The culture of the company and the inaction
of senior managers appeared to condone this
type of behaviour, which had led Victor to
seriously consider seeking employment else-
where and alerting clients to what was taking
He was mindful, however, that while such
actions might benefit the firm s clients it could
force the agency into bankruptcy and make
him a pariah in the industry. With a mortgage
and child support to pay, he wondered whether
it made sense to become a whistleblower.
Q1. What factors have led the
organisation to the current state?
It is interesting to note that the ethical chal-
lenges the company currently faces are a cul-
mination of years of smaller incidents that
have slowly piled up to affect the corporate
culture in a subtle but powerful manner. Over
time, the sales representatives have been placed
under increasing pressure to achieve higher
and more difficult sales targets given the pre-
vailing economic circumstances.
Transitioning to a commission based system
only added to the pressure sales reps felt to
meet their monthly targets since there was no
longer a guaranteed income stream that they
could rely on as a buffer in months where
they failed to produce sufficient sales. Rumours
of impending layoffs only compounded the
stress levels of current employees.
The role of senior management in such a
pressure filled environment is crucial if a com-
pany wishes its employees to adhere to high
In this case, however, we see an absence of
strong leadership in this regard and indeed
the implicit if not expressed support for shady
business practices. It does not matter whether
managers explicitly condone these practices,
what employees will take note of is what
behaviours get rewarded and what conse-
quences follow from the reporting of "bad"
This sets the tone within the organisation
for the type of activities that will be condoned
and what importance is placed on employees
"doing the right thing."
Responding to client complaints about the
unethical "Web optimisation fee" by providing
a discount on the next order would have sent
a clear message to subordinates that it was
acceptable to engage in unethical practices
that allowed representatives to meet their
monthly sales quotas as long as they were not
The effect of the prevailing culture is well
represented by the sales representative who
insisted on overbilling a client even after being
confronted by Victor.
The scenario presented in this case therefore
echoes, on a smaller scale, what obtained at
companies such as Enron and Worldcom, per-
haps the two most shocking and widely report-
ed ethics violations of all time.
Q2. What are the pros and cons of
the options available to Victor?
The most obvious option that Victor faces
is to leave the company and seek employment
elsewhere. The fact that he is one of the better
performing sales representatives suggests that
he should not find it difficult to get a job at
another agency. What is uncertain, however,
is how long it would take before he obtained
employed and whether he would be able to
attract the same level of compensation that
he currently receives.
Given his monthly payments, it is unclear
whether he could live off his savings for an
extended period of time. The benefit of leaving
now is that he would not be tarnished by the
company s negative image and would not have
to deal with the stress associated with the
unsettling unethical practices he encounters
at work on a daily basis.
Another option is to maintain his silence
and continue to work at the agency. This
ensures a steady salary to meet his monthly
bills, but there is also uncertainty created by
the rumoured layoffs and sales quota increases.
He would have to survive a very stressful envi-
ronment which may be detrimental to his
health and mental wellbeing in the long run.
Finally, Victor can engage in whistleblowing,
alerting clients and the media to the unethical
behaviour of his colleagues. The most likely
consequence of this is that he may not be
hired by any other agency within his industry
engaging in similar practices.
On the positive side, however, he would
maintain his personal integrity and reputation
while having the satisfaction of following his
convictions. He also has the option of taking
legal action against the company if he is fired
without due cause.
Q3. What advice would you give to
Victor about becoming a
Whistleblowing is an ethical decision taken
by an individual to expose dishonest or illegal
activities within an organisation to which they
While often beneficial to the company s
customers and shareholders it usually attracts
harsh consequences for the whistleblower who
is often treated as a pariah within the industry.
Whistleblowers may report misconduct to
senior manager within the organisation or to
In this case, where managers appear to be
condoning the wrongdoing it may not be fea-
sible for Victor to rely on internal communi-
cation to resolve the problem and he may have
no choice but to publicise the information
Some of the questions that Victor needs to
consider before deciding to engage in whistle-
• Is there evidence to substantiate wrong-
• Will whistleblowing motivate positive
change within the organisation?
• Is whistleblowing, in fact, warranted?
Ultimately though, if Victor wants the peace
of mind that can only come from "doing the
right thing" then he should report the problem
and let the chips lie where they fall.
Dr Barney Pacheco is a lecturer in the
Department of Management Studies at
The University of the West Indies, St Augus-
Case preparation guide: Trendmar Advertising
Pros and cons of
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