Too Much Information? Answers

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Marketing Challenge: Too Much Information?
Marketing Challenge: Too Much Information?

Recap: Charles Karellis needed to fill the marketing manager position at Widget Industries, and Rose Mancino was perfect. Along with top-notch sales skills and extensive experience in widgets, she was working for WI's main competitor, Wow Widgets. But at the end of the interview Mancino handed Karellis a folder containing Wow's 2013 marketing plan. Karellis put it in his drawer without looking at it.

Karellis was in a quandary. Should he hire Mancino or inform her current employer of the breach? And with his own annual marketing plan due next week, should he review the documents in the folder or throw them away?

Click here to read the complete challenge.

February winner: Gay Bitter, vice president of marketing, Relevate

The answer is easy as 1, 2, 3:

1. Toss the information without looking at it. If you don't look you haven't created a breach.

2. Send Rose a “thanks for interviewing” email and move onto the next, more trustworthy candidate. Let her current boss deal with her unethical behavior when she slips up with him directly.

3. Spend the next week focusing on creating a unique and effective marketing plan for Widget Industries.

Other responses:

Marcia L. Grau, digital project manager, STRAT MAR K

Don't hire Mancino because she is clearly not trustworthy. And throw away the folder. Apart from being morally wrong, the problem with copying other people's answers is that they may not be smarter than you.

Bob Steinkamp, owner/managing consultant, Ithaca Public Relations

There's no dilemma here.

Charles Karellis should not hire Rose Mancino. He should not look at the documents, and he should return them to her in-person and unopened in the presence of a witness.

First, Karellis needs to consider that if Mancino was willing to share Wow Widget's 2013 marketing plan with him, she could just as easily do the same thing to Widget Industries at some point in the future. That alone is reason enough not to hire her.

Regarding the marketing plan itself, those documents are the proverbial apple in the Garden of Eden.

Whether Mancino stays with her current employer Wow Widgets, or moves on to another company, if she's angry about not getting the job, she'll be following the marketing efforts of Widget Industries closely [to determine whether] Karellis looked at the documents. She could make accusations that would send Widget Industries, and Karellis, into reputation management mode.

So Karellis should invite Mancino back for a follow-up meeting and have Widget Industries' HR director and corporate attorney in the room. He should then hand the unopened Wow Widgets marketing plan back to her, thank her for her time, and wish her the best in her job search. The witnesses can verify that the marketing plan was unopened when it was returned to Mancino.

Mike Dukes, sales manager, Rubinstein's Office Supplies

It's clear that Karellis was flustered by the document exchange. He is now in a difficult position.

Mancino had all of the best attributes for the open position except for one: integrity. By providing confidential documents from her current employer she demonstrated egregious behavior. If she's willing to violate the most confidential trust of her current employer, she is not to be trusted. Karellis must deny her the position.

Karellis will no doubt return the information to Wow Widgets. Whether he does it anonymously or not, they will understand that their marketing plans have been compromised. Whether he chooses to look at the documents, they will no doubt be changed.

There's no need to inform Wow Widgets of how the documents were obtained. Mancino's behavior suggests that she is not likely to stay with Wow. If they're unable to identify her as the “leak,” she's likely to leave anyway.

Jim Rowbotham, director, business development and research, Marinelli & Co. Marketing Communications

Karellis's first step is to contact Mancino to schedule a closed-door meeting. Without small talk, he should produce the confidential folder, remove its contents, tear them into pieces, then deposit them into a strategically placed waste can.

He should say, “Rose, I'm doing this to let you know that you can be a valuable team member at Widget Industries, yet to tell you that most people wouldn't offer you the job based on what you did. Giving me confidential information should exclude you from this job. It is a breach of basic business ethics. That said, I'm making you an offer anyway.”

I want you to learn something from what you did, and the best way to do so is to be redeemed by working with our team as a leader and innovator. There are conditions to this offer. The first is that you're being hired as a consultant for six months. After that period, we'll meet. If your work and your integrity are deemed superior, you'll be brought on staff as marketing manager. The second is that you develop a business ethics manual to be implemented with the marketing department, and potentially the entire Widget Industries staff. I'll work with you closely on this document.”

If Rose rejects these conditions, the meeting is over. If she accepts them, Karellis can ask her to start at her earliest convenience.

Business ethics seem to be eroding, and should be addressed. Yet few ethical violators get a second chance. Getting such a chance can produce a better employee, someone who realizes an awful mistake and builds on that realization to work hard to be ethical at all times—and to appreciate and build on the second chance given.

Michael Smith, designer, Tri-Win Digital Print & Mail Services

Mancino's clearly immoral behavior lands her squarely in the “Do Not Hire” pile. Personality, experience, recommendations, track record; none of it matters. If she's willing to sell out her old employer for the chance at a job, she'll do that to her new employer when a new offer comes along.

The harder question is whether Karellis should look at the file. No, he shouldn't. If he used information from that report, and it was later tracked back to the stolen file, his and the company's reputations would be destroyed. Karellis could be in danger of losing his job, and WI would potentially be exposed to legal action.

Besides, Mancino probably shared a copy of that file at every interview she went on over the past month. So the insight gained from WW's 2013 marketing plan would leave WI marching along the same path as everyone else instead of trying a unique approach that is often a key to gaining market share.

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