The story of the fierce and corrosive competition that exists in the executive branch of Ramsey & Co., a New York industrial colossus headed by Walter Ramsey, its cold, designing and ruthless chief. It is the saga, too, of Bill Briggs, his longtime second in command, who is swayed by human as well as technological values. And, it is the case of Fred Staples, a comparatively youthful industrial engineer brought in by Ramsey to succeed Briggs. The younger man’s views and sensitivities are essentially the same as Briggs’. People are not merely units, they feel. But it is Ramsey’s calculated pattern not to fire his aging aide but to create such untenable positions that he will be forced to resign.
Newly recruited from a small Pennsylvania industrial town, Fred Staples (Van Heflin) enters Ramsey & Co., a big New York corporation eager to get into his new job with the corporate team headed by owner Walter Ramsey (Everett Sloane). When he meets William Briggs (Ed Begley) ostensibly his senior companion he is impressed that he and the elder man share many similar views on how to improve production. But when his boss pointedly embarasses Briggs in a meeting Staples gets a bad feeling about why hes been brought into the company. When Briggs dies from a heart attack after one of Ramseys public beat downs Staples confronts the owner about his intentions and about the future of the company.