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How Brian Sørensen Should React

Discuss about the Responsible Management for Gender Issues and Personal Values.

The business world is changing continuously, making it more and more difficult for companies to follow most of the traditional management approaches. Various elements of management create the concept of responsible management. These include ethical considerations, gender issues, personal values, self-management, and the business cultures. It is important for an organisation to show that it respects and values the personal values of its employees, clients, and people within its operational environment (Crane 2000). By being responsible, a business sets the right pace for its sustainability in the long run. There are times when the personal values of the employees differ from those of the business, which creates conflict in their feelings and attitudes towards their jobs. It is the management's duty to ensure that there are clear limitations that ensure employees do not go beyond limits in the course of executing their duties (Brenkert 2008). A responsible manager is not only liable to the firm but also to his/her employees. Therefore, cultures that he/she develops must not have an adverse bearing on the lives of the workers. This essay uses the Cult Girls' case, which was a major topic of debate between 2003 and 2009 to discuss the ideology of responsible management.

Brian Sørensen developed the idea of the drink CULT and the marketing strategy where girls wearing sexy clothes were used to market the product in 1998. The dressing appealed to a section of the buyers; however, there are those who felt that it was inappropriate. Some of the girls also felt that even though they had to wear the short dresses to market the product, the custom was against their personal values and ideologies (Johnsen and Ref 2013). Finally, one of the girls who were selling the product came out saying that she felt sexually harassed by the clients, especially in night clubs whenever they went out marketing the products wearing sexy dresses (Johnsen and Ref 2013).

Using people as sex objects to appeal to the target clients in marketing has been an issue of great debate. Even though sex sells, some people feel that it is irresponsible for a company to adopt such a strategy since there are more viable and moral marketing strategies (Strong 2013). It is important for Brian to understand the issue has a potential to ruin his company, especially if the public starts to view his business as immoral. Therefore, when handling the issue or rather reacting to the debates, Brian must show that the primary objective of the marketing approach was not to disrespect women (Crane 2000). It is important for him to demonstrate that he understands that the strategy is not favourable to some of the employees. Moreover, he must show that he is concerned about the whole issue.

Provocation as Part of Company’s Culture

Brian must employ the principles of responsible management when handling the issue; otherwise, the public will develop a notion that his firm is irresponsible. Such an idea is likely to ruin the reputation that CULT has built since its inception, which will favour the competitors. Research shows that over time, the business world has increasingly become competitive, hence, churning, which means that for a firm to remain relevant in the eyes of the public, it must appeal to their demands. It was evident from the general needs in regards to the "CULT Girls” issues that many people were questioning the morality of executives of the company (Johnsen and Ref 2013). Many feel that the marketing approach that the business had adopted was portraying women as “sex objects”; hence, they have an issue with it. It is unethical to use people as a means to an end since by so doing; the firm fails to respect their human values (Goodpaster 1991).

To show that the company cares about the feeling of the people and respects the moral values of different members of the public, Brian needs to make a statement acknowledging that he understands the seriousness of the issue. He also needs to show the advantages or rather benefits of the job to the employees (Tyler 2004). It is important for him to emphasise on the fact that his company respects all members of the public, and advocates for an open management approach, where employees are allowed to air their grievances without condemnation. By doing that, he will show responsible management, which is one of the best strategies to form robust and long-lasting relationships with people within the firm's business environment. All along, he must remain calm in his reaction and must show that he understands the sensitivity of the issue. It is also paramount to demonstrate that he is willing to do what it takes to ensure that employees felt respected and valued at all times.

Culture plays a great role in staff motivation and job satisfaction; It is one of the primary determinants of whether an employee shares an excellent idea with his/her manager and colleagues of not. The workplace should not be something that people dread daily; otherwise, they will be forced to quit eventually (Usher and Solomon 1999). An organisation must ensure that employees look forward to a new day at work, it should be difficult for them to leave their job. It is already stressing enough for employees to put their time into a job. Therefore, the culture of their employer should not add to the burden they already have. Instead, culture should help workers alleviate the work-related stress they have to overcome daily in their jobs. Therefore, culture plays a significant role in sustaining the enthusiasm of employees (Coombs, Knights and Willmott 1992).

Cult Mentality

Brian Sørensen indicated that being provocative was oaf of Cult’s culture (Johnsen and Ref 2013). Sure enough, even though some of the employees felt that the marketing strategy of the business was threatening to their private lives, there were those who had a great experience at their work. The main problem that caused issues in regards to the culture of Cult was because Brian Sørensen did not necessarily hire people who fit the firm's cultures. Most of the times, the company recruited the Cult girls based on their looks, and not necessarily based on their personal values. It is evident in Maria's and Amada's narrations of their experience with the company as Cult Girls that one of the girls was okay with the cultures and marketing approach whereas the other one felt devalued and abused. Provocation was working for the company as a dominant strategy; however, it was also dreading to some of the girls, especially those that were not used to the negative attention they got when selling the products.

Brian was willing to go to greater lengths to build the company's reputation and brand based on the provocative culture. Moreover, the target clientele of the company was that of young men. The idea was to create sexual innuendo that would persuade them to buy the firm's products. It is a result of the target client and the nature of the products that the company was selling that Brian went beyond the limits of the marketing approach. To him, all publicity was good publicity, as it was getting the name of the company out to the public. However, he failed to understand that a provocative culture is likely to be short-lived. Although the sexual illusions sold for some time, in the long run, competitors of Cult that based their cultures in the delivery of quality would out do Brian's company. Therefore, as much as he was right that the culture of provocation was working for the firm, he was wrong about it being a significant and viable culture (Coombs, Knights and Willmott 1992).

Brian's strategy was based on going beyond limits. Although some girls such as Maria was okay with the approach there were those that felt what they were doing was unethical. It is never pleasing to play with people's emotions just to get them to buy products they do not even require. Some of the Cult girls such as Amanda regret taking up the work in the first place. They indicate that it changed their behaviours and perceptions about life. They felt demoralised and humiliated for what they had to do for hours in the night to sell the products of the company. Maria also agrees that it can be devaluating to work as Cult girl (Johnsen and Ref 2013). The team building activities and training that Brian talks about never really took good care of the girls. The aim of the exercise was to alleviate fear hoping that the girls who were not comfortable with their job would finally let go their ethical values and adapt to the provocation culture (Gomez and Gunn 2012; Mirkamali, Vaezi and Tabar 2014).

The girls were instrumental in pushing the sales of the company; therefore, Brian should have worked towards changing the mentality about the Cult girls. Their private lives after the job were suffering at the expense of his firm's products. A good company culture does not affect employees' private lives negatively since that will eventually affect their productivity in the business (Carroll and Buchholtz 2014). It is never pleasing for an employee to know that he/she can be replaced at any time. Brian Sørensen should have used an open dialogue management approach, where the girls would suggest some other alternative strategist that would work for them and their reputation. Although Brian is convinced that he took good care of the girls through the training and team building activities, it is evident from the excerpts of Amanda and Maria that most of the girls were not happy with their jobs. Before starting to work as cult girls, they had a mentality of an excellent piece of work with close attention, whoever, after they go the job reality would dawn on them that they were being viewed as “sluts” (Johnsen and Ref 2013). Employees need to feel respected and valued by both the employer and clients (Mohr, Webb and Harris 2001); hence, Brian should have worked towards changing the mentality people had regarding the cult girls if the strategy was to work in the long run.

The introduction of self-management at the workplace aims at replacing the traditional superior rank and authority accorded to managers. The idea is to share the decision-making role to employees and empower them to invest themselves in the workplace as they deem necessary (Cohen, Chang, and Ledford 1997). Contemporary discussions on the subjectivity of employees indicate that self-management is an effective way of governing the behaviours of workers (De Vos and Soens 2008). In some situations, however, the understanding and identity of the workers vary to what the firm expects of them. Therefore, self-management ends up failing since the conduct of employees regarding how they invest themselves in the jobs harms the reputation of the company (Crane and Desmond 2002). Moreover, several scholars have argued against the approach indicating that it can be demotivating; especially because of the ambiguity that surrounds it.

In light of the discussion of what self-management entails and its shortcoming, as the manager, Brian was responsible for how his employees invested themselves in the workplace. The reason some of the cult girls managed to make high sales without necessarily being unethical was that they understood their jobs and role in the marketing process. They also attached heir self-identity and values to the job, hence, operated by what they were comfortable doing, On the other hand, Brian did not give clear limitations of what the girls should do and not do when selling the products. The lack of clarity caused significant disparities in how the girls approached their work and the image they developed for the firm (Crane 2002). At the same time, some of the cult girls felt that they had to act as “sluts” for them to convince men to buy their products. For employees to contribute effectively in the work process, it is important for the manager to lay out clear guidelines of what they should and should not do when working (Smith and Fingar 2003). In other words, as the manager, Brian had the duty of setting clear limitations of how the girls invested themselves at work. 

It is the duty of every organisation to show equality between the sexes and respect for people of either gender. Organisations need to ensure that the gender image that its employees create is sustainable and equitable. Environmental sustainability has over time become an integral aspect of every business plan. Many corporations now have to consider the views and perceptions of people within their environment. They must show that they respect the ideologies, lives and agendas of these people. Many companies have failed as a result of ignoring the factors within their environment. In Denmark and other parts of the world women's empowerment and gender equality have become increasingly paramount (Roxas and Stoneback 2004); however, most businesses are yet to take a similar shift towards the issues of equality between the sexes like they have when it comes to responsible social aspects.

Nonetheless, with women empowerment, many businesses are finding themselves in an awkward position as they failed from the onset to appeal to the female gender. Currently, women are major determinants of whether a firm sells its products or not. Research shows that women are making more and more purchase decisions in their homes (Schroeder and Borgerson1998). Considering that other energy drinks are targeting both the party goers and the non-partying clients if Cult was to remain relevant in the long run, Brian had the duty of nourishing and maintaining a sustainable gender image for the employees. The fact that he objectified the women who were marketing the projects indicates that he was creating a negative image, which was likely to affect the operations of his business in the long run. Wolin (2003) suggests that gender issues are major determinants of how a company performs in the long term. Therefore, it is necessary for managers to ensure that they strive to create a sustainable gender image for their employees. It is not only ethical for a firm to develop a sustainable sex model for the employees, but also a sign of responsible management, which is crucial to the long-term success of the business (Tyler 2004).


Image plays a significant role in the overall success of operations. Therefore, it is necessary for an organisation to position itself as socially responsible. Over the years, the issue of corporate social responsibility has increasingly become popular in the business world. Most managers assume that corporate social responsibility only entails giving back to the society. However, research suggests that this notion is not correct, as responsible management is also part and parcel of corporate social responsibility (Dyllick and Hockerts 2002). How a business handles its employees tells a lot about how responsible the managers of the entity are, and affects the productivity of the firm as well (Smith and Fingar 2003). From the discussion in this paper, it is evident that Brian Sorensen’s management technique was irresponsible. Despite him making attempts to train employees and his advocacy for team work the provocative work culture was doing more harm than good. Responsible management should motivate employees to love their jobs and be proud of working for the firm, which was not the case in Cult.

Reference List

Brenkert, G 2008, Marketing ethics (pp. 178-193), Blackwell Publishers Inc.

Carroll, A.B. and Buchholtz, A 2014, Business and Society: Ethics, Sustainability, and Stakeholder management, Nelson Education.

Cohen, S.G., Chang, L. and Ledford,  G 1997, A hierarchical construct of self?management leadership and its relationship to quality of work life and perceived work group effectiveness, Personnel Psychology, 50(2), pp.275-308.

Coombs, R., Knights, D. and Willmott, H 1992, Culture, control and competition; towards a conceptual framework for the study of information technology in organisations, Organization Studies, 13(1), pp.051-72.

Crane, A. and Desmond, J 2002, Societal marketing and morality, European Journal of Marketing, 36(5/6), pp.548-569.

Crane, A 2000, Marketing and the natural environment: what role for morality? Journal of Micromarketing, 20(2), pp.144-154.

Crane, A., 2002, Marketing, morality and the natural environment, Routledge.

De Vos, A. and Soens, N, 2008, Protean attitude and career success: The mediating role of self-management, Journal of Vocational Behaviour, 73(3), pp.449-456.

Dyllick, T. and Hockerts, K 2002, Beyond the business case for corporate sustainability, Business strategy and the environment, 11(2), pp.130-141.

Gomez, E. and Gunn, R 2012, Do managers that coach become better leaders? An exploration of the relationship between managerial coaching and leader development.

Goodpaster, K.E 1991,  Business ethics and stakeholder analysis, Business ethics quarterly, 1(01), pp.53-73.

Johnsen, R. and Ref, N.B 2013, “Cult Girl: Responsible Management and Self-Management of Subjectivity at Work,” Copenhagen Business School/

Mirkamali, S.M., Vaezi, M. and Tabar, M.S 2014, The relationship between moral intelligence and team leadership in ACECR of the University of Tehran, Kuwait Chapter of the Arabian Journal of Business and Management Review, 3(12A), p.192

Mohr, L.A., Webb, D.J. and Harris, K.E 2001, Do consumers expect companies to be socially responsible? The impact of corporate social responsibility on buying behaviour, Journal of Consumer Affairs, 35(1), pp.45-72

Roxas, M.L. and Stoneback, J.Y 2004, The importance of gender across cultures in ethical decision-making, Journal of Business Ethics, 50(2), pp.149-165.

Schroeder, J.E. and Borgerson, J.L 1998, Marketing images of gender: A visual analysis, Consumption, Markets and Culture, 2(2), pp.161-201.

Smith, H. and Fingar, P 2003, Business process management: the third wave (Vol. 1), Tampa: Meghan-Kiffer Press.

Strong, S 2013, Laying the Foundation for Self-Management Support in a Recovery Framework.

Tyler, M 2004, Managing between the sheets: Lifestyle magazines and the management of sexuality in everyday life, Sexualities, 7(1), pp.81-106.

Usher, R. and Solomon, N 1999, Experiential learning and the shaping of subjectivity in the workplace, Studies in the Education of Adults, 31(2), pp.155-163.

Wolin, L 2003, Gender issues in advertising—an oversight synthesis of research: 1970–2002, Journal of advertising research, 43(01), pp.111-129.

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