ERIC Number: ED255976
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1985-Apr-4
Reference Count: 0
Mentors and Rumor Management: The Case of Bendix.
Apple, Charles G.
Mary Cunningham, a Harvard Business School graduate in 1979, received more than 30 job offers from major financial corporations. She accepted a positition as the executive assistant to the Chairman of the Board of Bendix Corporation. By October 1980, she had been promoted twice and held the position of vice president of strategic planning. However, Mary Cunningham was forced to resign after two months of public rumors that her rapid promotions in the Bendix company were the result of a romantic relationship with William Agee, her boss and mentor. The case raises fundamental questions concerning two central areas of communication research: mentor-protege dyads and the management of rumors. First, it is significant that Mary Cunningham reported directly to and only to her mentor, Agee. In that situation she and her mentor were vulnerable to the kind of organizational gossip that is incapable of being proven or disproven. Second, not only did Cunningham's rapid rise attract attention, but the boss seemed to spend an unusual amount of time with her. Participants in male-female mentor relationships must be very judicious in the matter of appearance. As for managing the rumors, Agee's initial comment to the press contained sufficient ambiguity so as to leave additional questions unanswered. His approach to rumor management also reflected his naivete--he underestimated the interest of the press in the rumors. The Bendix case offers clear evidence for additional research and training in the areas of organizational communication. It also raises essential ethical concerns about the ambiguity of behavior. The lessons of Agee and Cunningham apply to every potential participant in any mentor-protege relationship. (HOD)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Rumor Management
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Central States Speech Association (Indianapolis, IN, April 4-6, 1985).