The Smartest People in the Room: Is using sex appeal smart or unfair?

“Mark unapologetically viewed being a woman – a smart, charismatic woman – as a way to ‘get privileges that other people don’t get, and…audiences that others could never hope to achieve’…Her gender was not an obstacle to be overcome but an advantage” (The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron, 72).

Rebecca Mark’s admittance of her willingness to flaunt her femininity intrigued me.  There are many factors that can give an individual power.  Most of these – money, knowledge, skills – are accepted and understood, but one – sex appeal – is more controversial.  Should individuals use their looks to gain influence and control?

What makes using your sex appeal to control others any different from using your money?  Would you feel comfortable gaining power as a result of your appearance?  After all, why do career centers offer seminars on how to dress for interviews?  Yes, respect and professionalism are important, but I contend that it goes beyond that.  The seminars teach individuals to conform to the looks desired of organizations in a particular industry

It seems to me that Rebecca Mark was able to use her gender to her advantage to the large extent that she did because she worked in a male-dominated business.  She unabashedly took advantage of this, working her way up the ranks by “play[ing] up her physical attributes,” wearing “high heels and short skirts,” and sleeping with her boss.  My initial thought was that she didn’t deserve what she got and was unfairly rewarded.  However, further thought made me recognize that perhaps she was just smart.  Maybe the book title should be The Smartest People in the Room.  Why leave Rebecca Mark out?  She understood just as well as the guys how to play the system and take advantage of what she had.

Like Skilling, Lay, and many others, Mark was certainly smart.  The men were unethical, however, and their actions are generally looked down upon.  By gaining power through her femininity, did Rebecca Mark put herself in this category?  I think so…but I don’t blame her.  Society has created a world in which such things are rewarded.  Mark had the intelligence and the charisma, but unfortunately they may not have gotten her anywhere.  Those are the characteristics that should have propelled Mark to the top, but in reality it was only her sex appeal that could do so.

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Heroes at Enron

I will be writing a paper arguing why the guys at Enron were smarter than everyone else, how they did things that no one had even though of, how they were visionaries, and how America failed to learn an important lesson.  I want to focus on a different side of Enron and how they, through their legal, but shady business dealings, exploited the system and made a fortune.  I will focus mainly on their energy deals in California and the resulting outcry from the American public in general.  Power will be the topic of my paper and how the internal power structure of Enron allowed people, more specifically the traders, to exploit the weaknesses they found without punishment. I will also investigate the power structure of our government and how it resembles that of Enron’s. Continue reading

Power and corruption attributes to the fall of Enron

Power seems to be present in all types of organization, whether informal or formal. Depending on their internal structure, organizations tend to adapt diverse sources of powers and Enron is no exception. In my paper, I want to focus and finding the link between Organizations and Organizing and The Smartest Guys in the Room in the concept of power.

I believe power is evident in The Smartest Guys in the Room; several people had control over the company and they had a major influence not only to their employees but on Wall Street as well in very deceiving ways. I would like to analyze the different types of power within organizations and find which one applies to Enron. Organizations and Organizing discusses Emerson’s view of power as “the control or influence the other resides in control over the things he values, which may range all the way from oil resources to ego-support, depending upon the relation in question. In short, power resides implicitly in the other’s dependence,” (p.203). By doing some research (used index!) I found two very interesting books: Emerson and power: creative antagonism in the nineteenth century and Union power and the public interest which could give me more insights of power and its influence in organizations. Along those lines, I feel that the concept of corruption should be included when analyzing Enron’s power since it pertained to the company. I would like to explore how power and corruption are connected into the fall of Enron.

Organizations and Organizing gives me a wide array of sources for this topic. Among them, I found interesting the book The Modern Corporation and Private Property by Berle and Gardiner in which they argue “that as corporations grew large, ownership grew increasingly dispersed among disconnected (and therefore powerless) shareholders, while managerial control grew increasingly consolidated,” (p.354). I think this is very relevant to what happened in Enron, especially after Skilling took control of the majority company. I would be interesting to read some of Berle and Gardiner’s work and find the connection in The Smartest Guys in the Room. This could be a very interesting subject for the paper because it brings out a major flaw that Enron had.

The Rise and Demise of Competent Jerks at Enron

I am particularly interested in the power dynamics that occurred at Enron.  Enron was a formal organization.  Power in formal organizations is determined by the design of the organization: certain power is attached to positions, which becomes available to any individual who fills that position.  Enron’s top executives all assumed these powerful positions but the dynamics between the group seemed to reflect the theories of power in informal groups. Continue reading

Power at the Top: How the Smartest Guys Took Control

In looking at the perspectives from Organizations and Organizing, I want to look more closely at Enron as a rational system.  Scott and Davis state that these are  “Structural arrangements within organizations are conceived as tools deliberately designed to achieve the efficient realization of ends or, from Weber’s perspective, the disciplined performance of participants” (pg. 56).  Goal specificity plays a large part in these types of organization just as it did at Enron.  The executives had a clear set of goals based almost completely on profit maximizing within the short term.  This company was striving to be at the top and stopped at nothing to increase the wealth of shareholders.  What Enron failed to do was react to the rest of the environment, all stakeholders involved.   This may have been accounted for if Enron had moved more toward an open or natural system perspective.  Company culture of Enron did not allow people to challenge the actions of the executives in order to innovate.  This was not done with Enron as it is stated about Enron,  “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.”

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Power: A Struggle to the Top

Throughout history man has always struggled to get to the top.  But I have always wondered how and why do people end up in powerful positions?  Is a person more powerful based on the job title they have or is it because of the people that they know?  Also as I have been reading The Smartest Guys in the Room, I was appalled by some of the things the Enron executives were willing to do to get ahead of the others.  My paper will discuss control systems, in particular it will compare power in informal groups to power in formal organizations in relation to The Smartest Guys in the Room.  I will also look into authority and where it comes from.  In The Smartest Guys in the Room, many of the decisions were not made by Ken Lay, Enron’s CEO, but rather other higher level executives.  Where do they get their power and the authority to make these decisions? It seemed like most of the power the executives had started from informal group power and then grew into formal organizational power as they worked their way up the company.  Also, as all of these shady activities were occurring why did certain people go along with it?

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Control and Enron

The concepts of control systems and power are useful to consider when further analyzing Enron. Control is important in any organizational setting because it creates the ability to pursue a company’s goals in a directed manner. Control systems therefore need to be clearly established in an organization to implement control properly. Based on the power  structures with in a company, these systems need to operate correctly to prevent abuses and inefficiency within an organization. Consequently it would be interesting to look into the control systems and power structures with relation to Enron.

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