Workshop led by Prof. Josef Wieland: “Personal Luxury or Family Loyalty” (3/26/13)


Time: 10:00-12:00, March 26, 2013.

Location: Meeting Room, East Bld. of Tau Siu Lin Centre for International Studies


Workshop handout:


Case Study: Personal Luxury or Family Loyalty


Joe was a native of Ganzpoor, a megacity in the developing country of Chompu. Joe entered this life as the first of five children of an impoverished cloth peddler. Against all odds, by means of sheer guts, hard work and ability, Joe had brought himself to the United States and managed to earn a prestigious degree in engineering from Cornford University. Motorola snapped him up a week after graduation, and during the next five years gave him challenging assignments in Florida, Phoenix, Scotland and Mexico. Joe had thoroughly “bought into” the Motorola Culture. Or so it seemed.


Meanwhile, Motorola’s business in Chompu began to take off. The Chompu Group was eager for more engineers. But the Human Resources Office was having great difficulty finding candidates willing to accept assignment to Ganzpoor. The news of all this reached Joe, who soon began a vigorous campaign for a transfer. “Look,” he argued, “I speak native Ganzpoori and near-native Chompunese, and can hit the ground running.” HR saw him as a guy too good to be true: qualified both pro-fessionally  and culturally. Joe got his transfer.


Upon his assignment to Ganzpoor, Joe was informed in writing that he was expected to reside in a safe and seemly residence of his choice, and would be reimbursed for the actual cost of his rent and servants, up to a maximum of $2,000 per month. “Joe,  just give us your landlord’s and servants’ receipts, and we´ll get you promptly reimbursed,” explained Pierre Picard, a French Motorolan assigned as financial controller for Motorola/Chompu.


Joe found a place to live, but even moths later, other Motorolans were not sure exactly where it was because he never seemed to entertain at home. Some of his colleagues thought this was a bit strange, but then realized that Joe hardly had time for entertaining, given his executive responsibility for sourcing contracts for the construction of a new office and factory complex.


Each month Joe would send Pierre a bill for $2,000, accompanied by a rental and service receipt for exactly that amount, duly signed by his landlord. Each month Pierre would reimburse Joe accordingly. This went on for several months, until one day, a traditionally dressed Chompunese man came to see Pierre. He complained bitterly that Joe was his master, and that he had cheated him of his servant’s wages for the past three months. At this point Pierre, despite his personal regard for Joe, had no alternative but to check into the facts of Joe´s living arrangements.


Pierre and the local HR manager, Harry Hanks, had trouble getting the fact of the case, so finally they got a car and driver and went looking for Joe´s address. It took almost two hours. The address turned out to be on the edge of a slum area of Ganzpoor, where houses were poorly marked. When they finally got there, they were shocked. Joe was living in what was, by Western standards, not much more than a shack.

Their first concern was for Joe´s safety. In this part of the world, there were good reasons why transpatriates chose not to live in slums. Also,they felt, Joe´s unseemly residence was hardly good for Motorola´s image. Aside from these considerations, though, was the fundamental matter of simple integrity.


Harry felt he had no choice but to report the case to the regional HR director, who had no choice but to order a full-scale investigation.


When Joe learned that he was under investigation, he exploded in fury. He com-plained to HR that his right to personal privacy was being invaded. Further, he argued that his receipts were legitimate, despite the fact that the investigation revealed that rent plus service in so humble a dwelling could not possibly have cost  Joe more than $400 a month, and probably cost much less.


Joe finally explained: Yes, it was true that he actually paid “less than” $2,000 a month (though he refused to say how much less). But, he argued, just because he was willing to “make sacrifices” should not mean that he should receive less than the full $2,000, which “all of my fellow Motorolans receive.” To clinch his defense, Joe argued, “Look, I’m a Chompunese as well as a Motorolan, and here in Chompu this kind of thing happens all the time.”


The hearings officer pressed further. Finally Joe, near tears, explained that all four of his younger siblings were now of college or high school age, and that he was putting all four of them through school with the reimbursement she received from Motorola, plus a sizeable chunk of his salary. “Look,” said Joe, “my family is poor– so poor in fact that most Westerners wouldn´t believe our poverty even if they saw it. This money can mean the difference between hope and despair for all of us. For me to do anything less for my family would be to defile the honorof my late father. Can´t you understand?”