Dave began reflecting on the progress of his career over the past 12 years at the Xtel Corporation (fictitious name). He remembered how, early on, he received a great deal of support and assistance from Xtel, but those days seem to be long ago.
About 20 years ago, Xtel had instituted a program with two basic goals in mind: to help inner city minority youths gain access to a college education and to create aready pool of minority college graduates to help Xtel satisfy affirmative action hiring goals. Under the program, Xtel would pay the college tuition of the minority students in exchange for a commitment to work summers for the corporation and to accept employment with the firm after graduation for a minimum of two years. Xtel would accept four new participants into the program each year, so that a maximum of 16 college students would be active at any one time.
Dave had always shown outstanding ability in math, winning awards in grade school and high school for his proficiency. During his junior year in high school Dave began looking at colleges in the area. He set his sights on the Ivy League school in the city. At the same time, Dave’s high school guidance counselor told him about Xtel’s assistance program. Dave applied immediately to the Xtel program, sending in a brief background statement, a sketch of his career interests, two letters of recommendation, and the newly arrived acceptance letter from the Ivy League school. After two months, Dave received a letter from Xtel stating he had been accepted into their program.
At college, Dave majored in computer science and did exceptionally well. He joined the Black Student Organization at the school and also worked for the college radio station. During his summer internships, Dave worked in a number of different departments at Xtel, mainly assisting in the development of computer applications in each function. Dave was impressed with the fact that even though Xtel was a Fortune 500 company, it was still caring for its employees—Dave had expected Xtel to be more impersonal in its treatment of employees.
In the middle of his senior year, Dave began discussing with Xtel’s staffing manager where he would be working when he graduated. Dave was pleased that his first job would be in the audit department, working as a computer systems auditor. After two months of full-time work at Xtel, Dave had gotten a call from one of his former professors who inquired about his progress. During their conversation, she encouraged Dave to begin thinking about graduate school. With his grades, the professor was certain that Dave would have no trouble being accepted into the Ivy League school’s Master of Science program in computer science. Dave sent an email to Xtel’s head of Training and Development seeking company support for his pursuit of the master’s degree—he was pleased that Xtel encouraged his attendance and also offered tuition reimbursement. Dave finished the degree in two years, again doing exceptionally well in his studies.
In his first five years at Xtel, Dave progressed rapidly, rising to the level of audit manager at the age of 28. Over this period, he had received challenging assignments and had even made a presentation to the audit committee of the company’s board of directors. Now in his early 30s and with a wife and a young son, Dave was interested in continuing his advancement at Xtel, mainly to provide a nice income and financial security for his family. He hoped to be an officer within a year. But Dave was getting a subtle message from Xtel’s upper management that maybe he had advanced as far as he could at Xtel—he was not receiving the challenging assignments or support anymore, and his latest performance review cryptically indicated the need for broader-based experience. One particular example of the lack of support stood out. Dave had thought that attendance at one of the premier executive management programs would be beneficial as a career advancement strategy. But Xtel refused to support Dave in this endeavor, indicating that they had already identified those individuals who would be attending executive programs. Of course, Dave knew that Xtel had never sent a minority employee to any executive management program.
Dave had never believed that his race had any influence on his treatment or career progress at Xtel, but he was beginning to wonder. Dave had seen Xtel’s newly published five-year goals for affirmative action placement. He noted that the five-year objective for minority representation at the junior officer level had already been achieved. All at once Dave began to feel a little used. He questioned whether his progress at Xtel was truly a reflection of his ability and contributions, or was it more a function of helping to fulfill Xtel’s affirmative action targets at successive levels in the hierarchy? He did find it interesting that the affirmative action targets were managed closely, with minority representation in a given grade usually hitting right on or near the target.
Dave thought about his situation for some time, contemplating his next step. His skills and educational background made him highly marketable. After a while, Dave decided to meet with Xtel’s vice-president of human resources to discuss career prospects. At the meeting, Dave stated his strong desire to move up to the officer-level within a year; after all, some of his less qualified contemporaries had already reached that level. The lukewarm response Dave received from the vicepresident gave him a clear message—his career at Xtel was in a holding pattern. Dave concluded it was time for a change.
Case Analysis Questions:
If Dave had the opportunity, what questions—if any—should he have asked the president of the Xtel Corporation regarding his recent treatment?
Do you believe that the Xtel Corporation has discriminated against Dave on the basis of his race? Why or why not?
To whom inside or outside Xtel could Dave have gone for social support? What types of support would have been most helpful: appraisal, instrumental, emotional, or informational? Why?