Karen Leary Case

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The case of Karen Leary illustrates the implications cultural conflict can have on business organizations and office culture. A common mistake managers make is undermining the power of cultural constraints at the organizational level. After six years as a financial consultant at Merrill Lynch, Karen Leary was promoted to general manager at the Elmville branch in Chicago. Leary wanted to achieve success at the branch office by building high-producing, successful group of professionals who work together to provide clients with complete service in meeting long-term financial goals. Leary was able to lead her branch toward impressive results and success; business increased by 30% in the first year due to her aggressive sales approach. Although Leary had much success, she was still unable to be completely effective with all her employees because she lacked cultural awareness in her management style. Developing the Taiwanese Market

During the 1970s, numerous Taiwanese-owned businesses sprung up throughout the Chicago area and had strong social networks along with sufficient capital. Leary realized the market potential with the Taiwanese businesses and began her intensive hiring process, which she thought was the most important function of branch manager. For Leary, developing the Taiwanese market involved hiring and training a financial consultant with a Taiwanese background who spoke fluent Chinese. Since the Taiwanese were not assimilated into the American system, it was important to her to hire an individual who shared some of the same values and beliefs. According to Pfeffer & Veiga (2007), selective hiring helps to ensure that the organization recruits the right employee according to distinct guidelines. For selective hiring to be successful, several things need to occur such as: large applicant pool, clear critical skills and attributes needed, and skills and abilities must be consistent with job requirements and the organization’s strategic approach, Hofstede (2007). Leary decided to interview Ted Chung because he was born in Taiwan yet was westernized in many ways. After eight interviews, Karen decided to offer him the position because he was very successful in his own moving business along with real estate; however she still felt she did not really know the whole person. From Chung’s initial days forward, Leary had made no effort to educate herself more on the Chinese culture and way of business, and it eventually led to the disconnect in their relationship. According to Hofstede (2007), the bipolar dimensions are references to the different ways different societies operate and can be effective when managing across different cultures. Overseas Chinese prefer economic activities that will generate large capital with little expenditure and employ few professional managers according to Hofstede (2007). The Chinese tend to be low-profile with a strong power distance that find values oriented towards the future like thrift and persistence. Based on some of Chung’s actions like refusing to sit at the sales assistant’s desk and requesting a private office, it can be noted that he values status and recognition. Chung worked hard on increasing his visibility in the Taiwanese community unlike his other peers who made cold calls during which is another example that illustrates he is oriented towards the future. Management Style

Leary was known for having an aggressive approach to sales and compliance and worked the FCs hard. Leary was also very active with her FCs and made it a point to get out on the floor and work directly with them and navigate them through any issues. Training the younger brokers was a main priority for Leary and she set high expectations for them. Leary had effective management skills; however lacked Chinese cultural knowledge and in turn negatively impacted her working relationship with Chung. Communicating effectively across different cultures begins with strong cultural awareness...
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