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The Case of Mark Whiting1

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The Case of Mark Whiting1

Mark Whiting's crisis began when word came to him that he had been passed over in favor of an outsider for the corporation presidency. It was a day on which he expected to achieve the high point of his career. The Board of Directors was meeting, and he felt certain that before they were through he would be named president of the Universal Chemical Corporation. The years he had spent as manager in marketing and sales, the last four years as vice-president seemed to be coming to a logical conclusion. He went over in his mind the achievements, the careful planning, the long hours of work that had brought him to this point. Who else knew the corporation well enough to energize its sprawling resources. Few men knew marketing and sales as well he.

He was, in fact, credited with many "firsts" in the chemical industry. He had been appointed, in recognition, to numerous important committees in various industry associations. He had been elected to the Presidency of the American Chemical Manufacturers Association. He travelled extensively, giving lectures and speeches before university audiences. He was a familiar figure in Washington, testifying before the Federal Trade Commission, the Pure Food and Drug Administration, and various other agencies concerned with chemical manufacturing. His home life, religious practices, and community associations were exactly as they should be for an executive who conscientiously attempted to be the man on top.

Recent events had seemed to assure his promotion to the presidency. A rumour had been circulating that his long-range program had been adopted by the Board of Directors. A friend had called him that morning and reported that the board had definitely rejected the manufacturing vice-president's program. His confidence had increased. After all, there were only two, good, competing reports before the board, and the rejection of one would automatically spell the adoption of the other.

1 Adopted from E.E. Jennings, Executive Success: Stresses, Problems and Adjustments

His reminiscences were interrupted. The telephone was ringing. It was the same friend who had reported the favourable rumour earlier in the day1. He apologized and expressed his sympathy to Mark. Mark learned that the board had arranged a press conference to announce that a new president had been appointed - a man from the outside with whom the board had been in contact for several months. In utter disbelief, Mark muttered a few incoherent words. Mark sat at his desk in a state of shock, not knowing what could possibly have gone wrong. The sympathetic remarks of his friends and subordinates, the formal announcement by the board that he was to remain as vice-president of marketing, the assurances of the retiring president that his future career with the corporation was secure, failed to draw him out.

When Mr. Gray agreed to become president and chief executive officer, he reserved the right to select his own team. This kind of arrangement is not uncommon in corporate affairs. If the new executive is to be held responsible, he must be free to draw upon managerial personnel as he sees fit. It is usual in such cases for each of the in-house executives to offer his services. Mark Whiting did not do this. He could not even bring himself to congratulate the new president, a man ten years his junior.

It was not long before Whiting and Gray clashed. Whiting could not stomach "an outsider coming in and making changes before he knew what the corporation needed and did not need". He felt that the board had made an honest mistake and everything had to be done to protect the corporation.

In this frame of mind, Mark attended the first executive committee meeting only to be told that a new vice-president - brought in from Gray's former corporation - would be in charge of marketing. He, Mark, would now be in charge of sales only, although he could keep his vice presidency. Whiting immediately attacked the new set-up. Gray's response

1 The friend, who was a long-time



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