After finishing a PhD in immunology and working for a few years for a large pharmaceutical company, Eric Lafferty entered an executive MBA program intending to reorient his career toward more meaningful work. Thus he leapt at the chance to work in a significant leadership position at a government agency where he would be in charge of a group that vetted academic proposals to work toward experimental vaccines and drugs. However, he begins to reconsider it all after a series of bad experiences with a direct report whom he cannot fire.
The case is designed to surface and explore students' instinctive decision-making and action tendencies around a complicated problem. Thus it is short enough to be read and responded to in class. Students are assigned readings and assignments related to the case after class discussion in which they are encouraged to reflect on their initial responses.
The case is quite flexible and would work in any course that deals with leadership, difficult conversations, decision-making, organizational behavior, human resources, and related topics. It is appropriate for a range of levels and audiences, including undergraduate, MBA, and executive education.