Dark Side Case Competition (session 266)

When:  Aug 10, 2020 from 4:00 PM to 4:45 PM (FR)
The session brings together four teaching cases that were chosen to be the finalists in our traditional Dark Side Case Competition. This year the case award was split for two winners: Caterina Bettin &Jean Helms Mills and Susanna Kultalahti & Riitta Viitala.

Dark Side Case: Elizabeth Holmes and the Rise and Fall of Theranos Inc.
Author: Debapratim Purkayastha; ICFAI Business School, IFHE, Hyderabad
Author: Sanjib Dutta; ICFAI Business School, IFHE, Hyderabad
Author: Shubhanjali Chakravarty; ICFAI Business School, Hyderabad

The case narrates the rise and fall of Theranos Inc. (Theranos), a US-based healthcare startup, founded by in 2003 by a 19-year-old Stanford dropout – Elizabeth Anne Holmes (Holmes). The company promised blood testing for medical investigations using just a finger prick of blood, making blood testing more accessible, affordable, and less painful. By 2014, Theranos was being regarded as a revolutionary healthcare unicorn of Silicon Valley, and enjoyed a market valuation of US$9 billion. Holmes too attained a near iconic status, as she was widely feted as a woman leader and the youngest self-made female billionaire. This was before whistleblowers inside the company revealed alleged unethical and deceptive practices at Theranos. Holmes was accused of lying and faking test results as well as falsifying financials of the company. Faced with increased scrutiny from media and regulators, and lawsuits from investors, business partners and customers, Theranos became defunct in September 2018. Analysts wondered how Holmes had been able to pull off such a massive deception for more than ten years. It also raised critical questions: Is it a necessity for entrepreneurs to lie or stretch or twist the truth to gain legitimacy in order to acquire resources needed for firm survival and growth? Should startups be held to the same standards as we now hold the most mature public companies? Do the alleged lies and actions by Holmes even qualify as legitimacy lie as she and her close confidante Ramesh Balwani have been indicted for “massive fraud”?


Dark Side Case: The Derailment - A Role-Playing Case of On- and Off- Duty Conduct(or)
Author: Jim Grant; Acadia U.

Stephanie Katelnikoff was conductor of a CP Rail freight train loaded with lentils and fly ash when it derailed. Less than one month later, she was terminated for breach of policy on reporting injuries related to the derailment and for talking to a reporter about the derailment. She was reinstated with back pay by an arbitrator only to be terminated again less than two years later. Her employer argued the dismissal was based on comments made about CP and photos on company property, both posted to social media. The case – which is disguised – and associated notes consider employment relations, human resource management, and gender issues in managing performance, misconduct, and discipline in a male-dominated workplace. The case can be used as a problem and decision-oriented role-playing exercise, a pair of linked decisions in which students must defend what they would do: dismiss, discipline, or nothing at all. The case can also be used to examine issues such as discrimination and gender from an evaluative perspective. It examines the workplace critically, as a site of inequality and gender discrimination, as well as of oppression and harassment. Students should find this case challenging in that making decisions and recommendations require them to balance the employer’s prerogative to determine the composition of its workforce with the creation of gender-inclusive workplaces and worker rights. This case is suitable for undergraduate, graduate, and executive education in employment relations, human resource management, business ethics, gender and diversity studies, and organizational behaviour.

Dark Side Case: "Makeup Naive?"
Dark Side Case Award is sponsored by Sobey School of business
Author: Caterina Bettin; Saint Mary's U., Canada
Author: Jean Helms Mills; Saint Mary's U., Canada/ U. of Jyväskylä, Finland

The case is written from the perspective of a16-year-old white middle class girl living in North America that makes makeup and, more broadly, the belonging to the online beauty community the centre of her meaning and identity construction. The trope of the teenage girl having strong conflicts with her mother is used throughout the case as a narrative device to present a series of ethically questionable practices relative to the beauty industry and to its increasing leaning on social media influencers or “beauty gurus” as means to create never-ending consumption needs. Broadly, the case surfaces questions of ethics in the marketplace and of the relationship between consumerism, ethics and identity works. More specifically, the case offers the possibility to discuss ethical topics such as the use of questionable promotional techniques (eg. deception, lack of transparency, exploitation of parasocial relationships, promotion targeted to teenagers etc.), the environmental impact of beauty products, consumerism, consumer sovereignty, ethical problems in the supply chain, power relationships between influencers and followers and power relationships between the beauty industry and influencers.


Dark Side Case: No Smoke without Fire? The Power Play Between Employee Autonomy and Employer Authority
Dark Side Case Award is sponsored by Sobey School of business
Author: Riitta Liisa Viitala; U. of Vaasa
Author: Susanna Kultalahti; U. of Vaasa

This case is the a story of a family-owned small- and medium-sized (SME) company “Steel Ltd”, which was founded around 30 years ago and employs approximately 100 people. The new generation of management has concentrated on developing processes, technologies and productivity extensively in the company during the last decade. One of their missions has been to improve employees’ productivity by pushing end enabling them to develop their physical condition and health. As part of their strategy, they launched strict smoking restrictions as the first step towards a smoke-free company. Unfortunately, disagreements between employees and management has increased alongside these actions. Many of the workers smoke, and as a result, smoking restrictions implemented by top management were one of the last nails on the coffin that inflamed the atmosphere in the company. This case leads us to examine the dynamics behind the chasm between owners & top management and employees and to consider different approaches and managerial practices that could mitigate the tensions and contradictions in the case company. Pedagogically, it particularly develops competencies that students need in working life: critical thinking, analyzing skills, communication skills, and problem-solving capabilities. It is an application of an in-basket exercise, where students need to gain understanding of a messy situation with contradicting views. In the assignments, students will consider ethical paradoxes, power structures and dilemmas of inclusiveness.



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