Case #655.0

Smith and the Public Health Battle

Publication Date: January 01, 1986
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In this disguised case, Helen Smith is a newly appointed state administrator of personnel hired as part of a new governor's reform effort. Smith's task is to crack down on the practice of using outside contracts to bypass state-required job credentials and to award salaries substantially higher than those allowed for comparable state employees. A few months into the job, she reviews a contract for a politically popular management training program for public health administrators. The contract falls far short of meeting her guidelines, but she is receiving increasing political pressure to sign off. She must decide whether to accept a compromise that addresses some but not all of her concerns, or to stand on principle and reject the contract, drawing the ire of nearly everyone involved, including some of her own supporters.

Learning Objective:
In the classroom, the case has been used to illustrate several themes: (1) Smith is in an authorizing environment that's gradually shifting from corruption to reform; most of the key players still have one foot in each camp. What leverage points does she have? (2) The case is also about sexism. The people who put Smith in her position assume that she won't make waves. How can she deal with that problem? (3) Finally, the case raises the question of when a public manager should compromise. What signals will Smith send if she compromises?

Other Details

Teaching Plan:
Available with Educator Access
Case Author:
Pamela Varley
Faculty Lead:
Marc Roberts
Pages (incl. exhibits):