Case Analysis: Angry Employee
The writer has had a 40-year corporate career running different businesses throughout this period. He was a CEO of global companies for 18 years
Photo Credit : Bivash Banerjee
This case has two parallel tracks – Ananya’s fight against inappropriate management, and what is the right response for leaders faced with a complaint by a six-month-old employee against a proven veteran and friend close to retirement.
Ananya should certainly not resign quietly and allow Kayplas to bury the issue. However, as correctly anticipated by Parthiv, there is a point beyond which Ananya’s personal crusade would become unproductive and affect her long-term career. Ananya has taken the correct step in having an interview with CEO Desai and Parthiv the HR head. If they do not take any action, she should circulate the incident to all employees to ensure the matter is not secretly buried and also, simultaneously resign.
Resigning is necessary as she has lost faith in Kayplas, not because a senior has behaved badly. Ananya cannot be engaged and passionate having lost trust and belief. Continuing to work under such circumstances would result in poor performance, lack of career progress and loss of self-belief. A continuing crusade would also make her a negative person. Subsequent potential employers would see her as a crusader with poor judgement. Hence for her own good, Ananya should resign after the one attempt to raise the matter officially. If, however, Desai takes action against JD publicly, and Ananya feels that her trust in Kayplas has been restored, she could continue at Kayplas.
Next, how should Kayplas management act? Their attitude in approaching the meeting with Ananya seems to be one of protecting the company against her accusations and finding a way to “neutralise” her rather than taking the right decisions, fair to all employees that would also set the platform for building a good culture in Kayplas. While Parthiv and lawyer, Shah, have shifted position to sympathise with Ananya, Desai and Shroff continue to protect JD. Under the Sexual Harrassment of Women at Workplace, etc. Act of 2013, every organisation has to have a Committee (made up of outside representatives and significant number of women) set up to handle such complaints, and every complaint must be referred to this committee. Kayplas is already in a soup – no formal reference to the Committee for four months since Ananya complained to Freida Mistry, puts Kayplas in the dock and open to legal action! Incidentally, the Act also allows Ananya to independently file a police complaint. Kayplas must immediately constitute a committee in line with the Act, refer the complaint and take action against JD based on the findings. JD will then have to be appropriately punished (depending on Committee recommendations) – at the minimum a strict public warning, and at the extreme termination of services.
The fact that JD will retire in two years and would lose a sizeable packet is both legally wrong and irrelevant in case of wrongdoing. Upon termination, all statutory payments are legally payable. Normally superannuation is also payable. Other amounts specific to Kayplas could have a clause of non-payment for wrongdoing. These too can be protected for JD by asking him to resign instead of terminating him. Being generous, financially, recognises the years of good performance and does not dilute the message on wrongdoing; it could even be positive adding balance to the punishment.
Legality aside, how the leaders wish to behave and what message they then send to the organisation, is key. Culture building is a critical leadership task and this is a golden opportunity to build it. Desai must first embrace the need for sending right messages and then mete out punishment in keeping with the Committee findings. Also, the action should be publicised and the importance of behavior communicated by him, personally, to all employees through town hall meetings.
Employees must not stay on in an organisation once they have lost trust in it. Equally they must fight to correct institutional wrongs before leaving. Leaders need to keep culture building paramount while taking decisions pertaining to behaviour and organizational climate. Long service and past contributions are not a licence to misbehave.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.