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Case Analysis: Pretend Sleep

Leadership is a 24x7 job – Kayplas had better shape up or return to stores

Photo Credit : Subhabrata Das


I am deeply concerned about the goings on at Kayplas at four levels:

1. Conscious biases abound in the workplace: There seems to be a belief that an individual is powerless in a “big” system and that is just a cog in the wheel. This was clearly true in organisations 50-60 years ago but one can see nothing has changed at Kayplas. Yes, all organisations have not evolved at the same pace but I do believe that it is time for leaders to evolve and understand the real value of empathy. I wonder what this CEO and his cronies would have expected to happen if it was their daughter, wife or sister in Ananya’s shoes? Would they have asked their women to resign or fight?

2. Lack of psychological safety at work: It is time to remind ourselves each day that the ‘contract’ with our workforce has changed dramatically – having moved from a purely pecuniary one – to one where people desire to grow and make contributions that are mutually beneficial. Employees have a fundamental right to feel “safe” in the workplace. Ensuring psychological safety is one of the keys to organisation success. HOW can people give their best if the culture within is fraught with dangers?

3. Leaders who refuse to evolve, who don’t understand their role: It is distressing to see that the “boys club” continues to be alive and well at Kayplas. It is indeed worrisome that the CEO believes that he is within his rights to intimidate an employee by bringing in heavy artillery. Worse, he thinks he is doing the right thing by protecting a long serving person’s retirement monies. What would he have done if JD’s crime was one of financial impropriety or compliance? It is scary to think that even then he might have protected JD! Clearly, Kayplas has not spent time in evolving or in understanding the changing paradigms.

4. Complete lack of cultural evolution: Kayplas is in a time warp. While age is no barrier to adopting new behaviours, it is vital for leaders to build a contemporary culture. Companies that crack the ‘inclusion code’ will successfully hire, retain and build best talent. If Kayplas continues to foster archaic beliefs and does not require leaders to make critical leadership shifts, then it will soon be defunct. Leaders who do not grow to be fit for and with the times, cannot possibly lead their products, services or people for sustainable growth! Ananya’s doubt with the brand has merit, after all!

There is a very powerful adage, “It is easy to awaken a person who is asleep – and well nigh impossible to awaken one who is pretending to be asleep”! How then does one awaken Kayplas whose top management is playing at being holier-than-thou? CEO Desai is in deep denial and clueless about mission or vision. If he continues to be the CEO, no one is safe. Sooner or later, the business will suffer – because no one will speak up about anything – and there will be total decline. Integrity should be all pervasive across Kayplas. Being a leader requires upholding critical thinking with a deep sense of self awareness and empathy. Without a juxtaposition of these three, it is easy to be misled by hubris and a sense of infallibility. Leadership is a 24x7 job – Kayplas had better shape up or return to stores.

The role of HR is critical in helping leaders and organization understand the winds of change and in fact be the architects of building the right culture in the organisation. I would have expected the HR head to demonstrate strong leadership here. First, to have taken a very serious view when the complaint was received and influence the right outcomes. Second, to have been an employee advocate and ensured that Ananya was treated right and that there was genuine understanding of her situation and finally to drive for a fundamental change in the organisation culture.

I worry that HR leaders think that being an effective business partner means being the “gofer” for the CEO and the leadership team. Organisations where HR is not positioned as a transforming enabler, may end up being unable to resolve the inherent conflicts of changing beliefs and cultural paradigms. It is vital for us leaders to lead from the front, be the change we want to see and be committed to building a truly inclusive workplace.

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.

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case study case analysis Magazine 24 June 2017

Matangi Gowrishankar

The writer is currently the Director for BP’s global Leadership Academy. She has extensive India and global experience and is passionate about organisation and leadership development

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