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 Case Study B 



A director of a large Group of Hi-Tech Companies had talent spotted the Head of a Department in a Science Faculty of a University.  The academic was an acknowledged specialist in an emerging field of technology of great significance to the Group and he had also displayed, especially through his professional institution activities, signs of other qualities which made him a possible candidate for progression to top rank.  The Group had many contacts in the University, some of whom it remunerated as consultants and in two cases as Directors, and had previously recruited a lecturer from the Engineering Faculty who had become one of its top executives.  The Group chairman was on the Appointment Committee for an Engineering Chair.

preliminary enquiries were made into the academic's background and activities, which proved satisfactory.  The Group then carried out a more searching examination of the academic's suitability, for example by arranging for some of its contacts in or associated with the University to verify directly with the academic the qualities it was seeking, without disclosing to the academic what was taking place.  As there were security implications in the career they had in mind, neighbourhood enquiries were also commissioned.

Through his professional institution, Church and other activities the academic was becoming well known and of good reputation outside his Faculty and the Group disclosed to selected senior members of the University what it had in mind, which included a later top-level return to the University.  In due course an approach was made to the academic and an offer was made of a senior job in one of its subsidiaries companies.  However, the Department Head, who was happy with his University job and associated lifestyle, declined the offer.

The response of the Group was to intensify its efforts to recruit the academic.  At the Group's invitation the academic visited two or three of its companies or divisions where he was made very welcome.  A senior colleague was primed to say to say to the academic how well he would do in Industry but conversely a visiting lecturer, with whom the academic had had no previous contact, was prevailed upon to tell the academic that he was a total misfit in the University.  On top of this, the Administrator of the Faculty was invited to join the Group's top-level human resources committee in which context the career plan they had in mind for the academic was disclosed to him with the request that the Administrator should do what he could to discourage the Department Head in his University job.

After a period in which the Administrator, through his control of the paperwork of the Faculty and by personal remarks carried out the Group's request, an improved offer was made by the company.  This time the Head of Department, who as a result of the Faculty Administrator's actions no longer enjoyed his University job, accepted.

Q1  What Human Rights issues (if any) do you see in this situation?

Q2  When should the fact that enquiries are being made, unsolicited by and unknown to the potential recruit, be disclosed to the individual.

Notes on Case Study B

  • Although the Group acted in its own interests its intention was also to benefit the academic.

  • The process of recruitment was covert.

  • Psychological carrots & sticks were applied.

  • The long-term intention of the Group was not made known to the academic so he was not in a position to make an informed decision.

  • The decision about the academic's career was made by others.

  • The academic was employed by the University: the Company had no employers' rights over the academic.

  • Enquiries about a person may to some extent disturb his/her working, social and personal life.


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