Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Chris Thompson's Career Dilemma! What Should I Do?

Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Chris Thompson's Career Dilemma! What Should I Do?

Article excerpt


The primary subject matter of this case concerns the individual processes that influence behavior in organizations in the context of career choice, career development, and career management. This case examines and analyzes the impact of personal values, attitudes, and motivation on major organizational outcomes such as job satisfaction, performance, and turnover.

This case can be used to discuss a number of secondary issues such as organizational culture and person-organization fit. The case has a difficulty level of three or four and is best utilized with juniors and seniors in Organizational Behavior (OB) or Human Resource Management (HRM) classes. This case is best used later in the course as an illustration of both micro and macro topics in OB/HRM. It can be taught in two hours of class time and requires approximately four hours of outside preparation by students.


This case discusses the moral dilemma experienced by Chris Thompson. Thompson, an African American University student and top athlete, accepted a summer internship at American Brands International, the nation's largest tobacco company.

Although Chris Thompson held long-standing negative attitudes toward smoking and the use of tobacco products, he was flattered by the fact that American Brands, a company known for recruiting the best and brightest, aggressively recruited him for the internship with the potential for a bright future career in the organization. Chris accepted the internship based on pay, benefits, freedom on the job, and future advancement opportunities. However, as the internship progressed, he began to have doubts about whether or not American Brands was the right company for him.

The case raises a variety of behavioral issues including the fit between personal and organizational values, the role of attitudes in job satisfaction, turnover and decision-making in organizations. This case, which has been used successfully in several Organizational Behavior classes, suggests that congruence between the individual and the organization is essential for both career development as well as organizational effectiveness.



The starting point for understanding Chris Thompson's dilemma is individual differences. Individual differences are personal attributes that vary from one person to another, making each person unique. Individual differences include such attributes as values, attitudes, and personality. These factors contribute to differences in motivation and help explain why behavior varies from person to person in organizations. The self-concept is the foundation for understanding individual differences. The self-concept refers to an individual's self-beliefs and self-evaluations. According to Franken (1994):

"there is a great deal of research that shows that the self-concept is perhaps the basis for all motivated behavior. It is the self-concept that gives rise to possible selves, and it is the possible selves that create the motivation for behavior" (p. 443).

The self-concept answers the questions "Who am I?" and "How do I feel about myself?" Therefore, understanding the self-concept will help students understand why Chris Thompson is facing such an intense dilemma with his decision to accept an internship at American Brands. People develop and maintain their self-concepts through the process of taking action and then reflecting on what they have done and what others tell them about what they have done (Huitt, 2009). Feedback from others is a very important part of a person's self-concept.

Closely related to self-concept is self-esteem which is the affective aspect of self and refers to how we feel about or value ourselves. Franken (1994) further states that self-concept and self-esteem are related in that "people who have good self-esteem have a clearly differentiated self-concept" (p. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.