Short description of the case
“The Road to Hell” is a case study presented by Gareth Evans in his book, The Performance Appraisal, and Compensation. It involves two characters from very diverse backgrounds, with traits and opinions. John Baker is a successful English expatriate, who is in charge of running a branch of a multinational company. He is said to be the chief engineer of the Caribbean Bauxite Company of the Barracania in the West Indies. In this case, he is preparing to leave the company and the country to go to Canada, where he has been promoted to the position of the production manager of Keso Mining Corporation, another of Continental Ore’s Canadian enterprises.
The other person in the case is Matthew Rentals, who is a young engineer being groomed to take over the helms of the company after the exit of John Baker. He is said to represent the new generation of young and well-educated professionals in the Barraccanian nation. He is purported to have a first-class in engineering. From the case it is clear that the four years that he spent in campus in London were an eye-opener to him, making him become sensitive to the political and racial, as well as ideas of equality between the whites and the Barraccanian
Brief company profile
The Caribbean Bauxite Company in Barraccania is one of the largest and major exporters of Bauxite from the West Indies. Based on the case study it is to be noted that though there is a lot of diversity in terms and sense of the different workers employed by the company. The European and American personnel occupy the top echelons and positions of the company, leaving the middle management positions to the educated Barraccanian nationals.
The meeting between Baker and Rennalls
Baker calls for a final meeting between him and Rennalls to clear with him a few aspects of his career before leaving and give him a good farewell. According to Baker, the meeting between him and Rentals ended in a good note. However, he receives a rude shock the next morning, when he walks into the office. It is clear that, instead of accepting the position of the chief engineer as it was expected of him, Renalls had already turned in his resignation letter citing insults from Baker’s advice during the farewell.
Baker is left wondering what he had said that could have warranted Matthew Rennalls to act as he had done. This refusal and resignation spells doom and puts warning bells in the company’s future relationship with the government and the other regionals in the Barraccanian.
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The analysis of the case
Baker prides himself on being able to have a ‘knack’ over cutting ice with the locals. He thinks that he is better off with dealing with the locals than the other expatriates.
The conflict arises when Baker decides to offer his advice to Rennalls. Baker hasn’t been able to cut his niche with Rennalls despite their closeness. He feels that there is an invisible wall that separates the two men every time. The advice that Baker gives Rennalls at the farewell is offered out of goodwill, without any ulterior motives and when Rennalls responds well to the meeting, Baker thinks that he has made his point. The problem is that the two men, Baker and Rennall approach the topic from different perspectives. Baker looks at it from the expatriate point of view, while Rennalls interprets what Baker tells him from a Barraccanian (local) point of view. Baker points out some factors in the political background of Rennalls, as well as the personal fronts. He communicated with Rennalls believing it to be in good faith. However, Rennalls interprets this concern in a totally different manner.
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What reveals itself here is a typical example of many circumstances and cases of how many people from different backgrounds and cultural ethnicities do not take the aspect of cultural diversity into consideration when communicating with and approaching other people. The concept of race is still a sensitive case in many developing nations. The issues of ethnicity and equality between the locals and the expatriates are to be approached with a lot of caution.
Matthew Rennalls is a well-educated engineer, graduating from the college among the top students of the class with a first-class honors degree. Having had his education in the college in London, he is well exposed to the different cultural, ethnic, and equality issues present between the locals and the expatriates. When he comes back to his nation, he goes into politics and their party prepares the first prime minister of the country. Taking into account that his father is the minister of finance, Rennalls has a lot of political clouts. However, he puts his political ambitions aside and goes to work for the Bauxite Company as an assistant engineer. The entry of Rennalls into the company is seen as a positive change because of his political connections and education. As the next person in line, a position just lower than the chief engineer, he was all set for the top post in management of the company.
He thinks that the notion of Baker offering him such kind of advice that runs on the lines of race is grossly misguided. He views Baker as just another racist, who does not respect the innate values of the locals. He thinks that Baker wishes to put the interests of the whites ahead of those of the locals. When Baker tells him of the complaint from Jacksons, the draftsman, made barely two days earlier, Rennalls takes it from a local perspective. He does not take it lightly and considers the advice given by Baker to be a direct insult. However, he is too polite to let Baker know of his thoughts right away, but the next day early in the morning he follows this quickly with a hushed resignation letter.
Rennalls argues that the way he acts towards both the locals and the white expatriates is the same, despite the fact that Baker is thinking that he values and favors the locals more than the whites. Baker believes that this happens because Rennalls appears to be at more ease with them than with the whites. He states that even some whites find Jackson and Godson apparently difficult to work with. He is surprised that Baker could even suspect this. Also, on other grounds, Rennalls does not appreciate the behavior and assumptions, when Baker points out that the European expatriates and the Americans have more knowledge and experience on commerce than the locals do, implying that the locals cannot operate without the assistance of these whites. Baker makes a mistake of bringing up an aspect of history to try and drive his point home. He tells Rennalls his ancestors have been in this business of commerce for more than 300 years, while the locals have been at it for around 50 or 60 years. This is where Baker makes a mistake. He takes his views from the European perspective and tries to match them with a local perspective.
The meeting between Baker and Rennalls was supposed to be an animated meeting between two friends of differing capacities, ethnicities, and even opinions. Baker thought he was doing Rennalls a favor by pointing out the flaws that a new manager should look into. He is doing this in good faith and as the last step towards glooming the young man to the presidency of the Bauxite Corporation. Even if Baker feels the invisible wall between them brought forth mainly because of their racial difference, he still considers Rennalls to be his friend and goes ahead to offer him the advice he thinks will be instrumental in shaping his career. However, the exact opposite effect is achieved.
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Rennalls’ views Baker as being an egotistical racist. From Rennalls’ angle, Baker is not justified to have given the views and advice he gave to him. He feels that the advice offered was totally unwarranted, uncalled for, and unnecessary. He feels that he has been insulted and the pride of his nationality was degraded by Mr. Baker. Instead of Mathew Rennalls taking up the position of the chief engineer offered to him, he makes the conclusions in his resignation letter the very next morning, which creates much confusion and puzzlement in Baker. Again, Baker had no idea what he had done or said warranting such a radical response from Rennalls.
The relationship between the company and the government can be perceived to be constrained in the future. With Rennalls holding too much power and being so well connected politically, the future of the Caribbean Bauxite Corporation was to be determined by the resolution of this conflict between Rennalls and Baker with Baker offering his apologies to Rennalls.