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Worthington Essay Prize 2013

“The Mycenae Dilemma”

You are a board member of Mycenae Systems, Inc. (a.k.a. MySy), a software company and consulting firm specializing in data mining and business intelligence. Though MySy was founded nearly twenty years ago, it has only recently emerged as a successful and highly profitable enterprise.  The company, however, has long been know as an extremely innovative firm that rewards creativity, hard work and loyalty, which has allowed it to attract top talent.

In his four years leading the company, CEO Ulysses Cunningham has implemented several creative strategies to differentiate MySy from its competitors. Meanwhile, Cunningham has himself become a corporate superstar, called “The World’s Smartest CEO” in a cover story in last month's issue of Fast Company magazine. The shareholders are thrilled.

With its newfound success, MySy has been expanding. The company has hired hundreds of new employees and paid out generous bonuses to all its executives, including an extravagant bonus to CEO Cunningham. Construction is nearly complete on the new corporate headquarters in Austin, and the board has decided to name the beautiful, tree-lined, private drive leading into the office complex Anton Jax Boulevard, after a talented software engineer who has been with the company since its first days as a startup.

Jax is well loved and respected by his colleagues at MySy. He has been extremely loyal, turning down job offers from other companies. Moreover, he works as hard as any four software engineers. You’re confident the dedication of the new headquarters on Anton Jax Boulevard will be a moment of pride and celebration for the whole company, and a great personal honor for Mr. Jax, who has given so much of his life to MySy.

There’s just one problem: Ulysses Cunningham’s contract is up for renewal, and he’s made some unusual demands. In addition to a substantial salary bump and a “golden parachute” clause, he also wants the new road named after himself. You have tried reasoning with him, but on this point he is absolutely inflexible. He’s said that if the new road is not named Ulysses Cunningham Boulevard, he will leave the company. You know he could easily find an executive position elsewhere. You also know that without Cunningham’s innovative leadership, MySy might lose its edge over the competition. Stock values would drop precipitously on news of his departure, and new clients might become scarce. 

The board will meet soon to revisit the issue of naming the road. You’re unable to attend the meeting in person, so you will instead send a letter to your colleagues. In ten pages or fewer, offer your suggestion on the name of the road, and explain your reasons.

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