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.


Chris Thompson, an African American university student is facing a difficult dilemma regarding a career choice that he will soon be making. Should he continue his internship at American Brands, the nation's top tobacco company or should he follow his conscious and resign his position? Although his father was a smoker, Chris hated cigarettes. As a child, whenever his father smoked in the house, Chris would run out of his bedroom and act like he was choking just so his father would stop smoking or at least smoke outside. As Chris grew older, he got into athletics and his attitude towards smoking became even more negative and hostile.

With a tremendous focus on health and fitness, Chris became a track star in high school. Now at the age of 21, his rigorous discipline and focus on excellence had placed him among the top athletes at his University.

As if this was not enough, Chris was also an academic superstar and had maintained a 3.85 GPA since his freshman year. Because of Chris' unique combination of talents he was often called on by the local elementary schools to talk about health and fitness and its importance in everyone's life. Chris always took the time to make presentations to the school children and explain how smoking and drugs can severely undermine athletic performance as well as academic performance, and the overall health of people.

All the values that Chris held dear were now being challenged by the attraction of a lucrative career opportunity and financial success.


American Brands, International is the nation's largest tobacco company. Within the U.S., it controls nearly half of the tobacco market. Through its subsidiaries, American Brands engages in the manufacture and sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products in more than 160 countries around the world. …

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