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Michelle Mielly (Grenoble Ecole de Management); Naida Culshaw (Grenoble Ecole de Management)
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5 pages
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Field research


Catherine is the protagonist and team leader for a group project. She is having problems with Song-Seung (the antagonist) seen to be underperforming. This is a case set in the MBA classroom, in the 'behind-the-scenes' action of groupwork and cross-cultural team dynamics. Students, juggling the intensity of successive assignment deadlines alongside a multitude of interpersonal dynamics, often experience intense stress as they split up the work to be completed. Much of the conflict and anxiety generated from these challenging situations remain hidden, and yet can be a source of conflict and strained relations between classmates. This case, purposefully presented from a one-sided perspective, demonstrates the need to gain perspectival or 'viewpoint' diversity when examining team dynamics. Catherine and Song-Seung present us with a clash of perspectives and of underlying assumptions, and provide a scenario for stimulating discussion on how teams and team members struggle for common understanding and the alignment of expectations. Diversity and inclusion ideals, often presented as the 'holy grail' of organizational life, can set up major obstacles when individuals are in high-pressure work environments and are not sufficiently prepared for managing the complexity they bring. Building an inclusive mindset, which involves welcoming difference, will ultimately be more productive than focusing on diversity itself. Since teams tend to divide and rally behind one person or the other in a dispute or misunderstanding, the one deemed as 'leader' is often the individual seen to be most productive or effective. Whoever gets passed over for a coveted role might be defended by a few dissenting voices, but under the pressure of time and competing assignments / projects, these voices get overruled and group-think leads to a 'go with the flow' attitude to just follow those with the strongest arguments. In the end, this case reveals a number of fundamental attribution errors, leading to the Pygmalion effect, as well as the problem of recognizing and regulating emotions in diverse groups, and implicit biases that deserve further unpacking and analysis. Recounted primarily from Catherine’s point of view, the case seeks to gain critical perspectives on the idea that 'history is written by the winners'. It requires students to engage in perspective-taking, exploring protagonist and antagonist experiences in order to gain empathy for the 'other, untold side of the story'.

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This item is suitable for undergraduate, postgraduate and executive education courses.


Cross-cultural conflict; Cross-cultural behavior; Intercultural / cross-cultural management; Intercultural HR management; Intercultural sensitivity; Organizational behavior analysis; Organizational behavior case study on attitudes; Cross-cultural psychology; Emotional intelligence; Emotion regulation and expression; Leadership & organizational behavior; Human resource management


The events covered by this item took place in 2018-2019.

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