Tough Guy

5 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2008

See all articles by James G. Clawson

James G. Clawson

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Gerry Yemen

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business


How would you react if you were faced with a humiliating interaction with an abrasive colleague, boss, coworker, or direct report? What if that person is a rainmaker? Most students have found themselves in a difficult situation they thought they had no power to change. This case describes the interaction among four associates at an investment bank and their confrontational team leader—who is also a vice president. Deciding what to do about the vp's behavior is tricky, and there is unease about going upstairs with their complaints. This case allows for a powerful discussion about leadership techniques that only attempt to change behavior.




A mere half-block away from the office on a pleasing fall day—the kind that caught the attention of most New Yorkers—Jeremy Frazer, an associate at the investment bank Hudson Smith Gordon (“Hudson”) thought about Chip Mazey, one of the vice presidents he was working with on a negotiation. Frazer and three other members working on the deal, Jean Fenster, Rich Patten, and Payton Edwards, had finally confided in each other about what it was like to work for the VP.

They found themselves in a difficult situation, one that most of them thought they had no power to change. After all, doing something about Mazey's behavior was tricky business. First was the fear of confronting Mazey. Another concern was the likelihood that Mazey would probably deny his behavior or wouldn't think that a problem existed. Then there was the unease about escalating the discussion to include a conversation with Mazey's boss. Going upstairs might cause a tense situation to become even worse. Not really knowing what to do irked Frazer, though he couldn't exactly say why. He thought about the stories his coworkers had shared.

Bulge, Middle, or Boutique?

The lure of high risk and high reward made investment banking an attractive career for many in the world of finance. Organizations employed investment banks to help work out financial problems. Offering a mix of business activities, investment banks issued securities, helped investors to purchase securities, managed financial assets, traded securities, and provided financial advice. Investment banks came in several sizes. The largest were called “bulge bracket” firms; the “middle market” companies tended to be regionally based; and “boutique” banks were smaller and more specialized. As a “middle market” firm, Hudson was oriented toward financial analysis and program trading.

. . .

Keywords: Power, leadership, abrasive, assertive, type A, interpersonal skills, human resources, difficult people, bosses, direct reports, conflict, conflict resolution.

Suggested Citation

Clawson, James G. and Yemen, Gerry, Tough Guy. Darden Case No. UVA-OB-0913. Available at SSRN:

James G. Clawson (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States


Gerry Yemen

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

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