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Analysis:Codifying Character

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The case throws up many issues around human struggle. Western mind struggling with eastern thinking, notions of right and wrong, professional and personal conduct, issues around fairness and above all, individual versus collective beliefs and norms. While at an individual level this struggle is between self and environment, the problem gets accentuated when we are part of organisations where the third layer comes into play. Laws are basic guidelines by which we are expected to behave in a society below which there is a consequence of non-compliance. But the eternal human endeavour is to tame the instinct so that we evolve as better beings and create a climate conducive for posterity to flourish and perpetuate.

But the current view of the world paints a very gloomy picture of diminishing hope and lack of collective will to stem the tide. It is with such backdrop that the happenings at Camfor India make us realise that more laws does not mean more justice. We all can respect the letter but bury the spirit hundred fathoms deep and yet construct a reality around us that we are shining! Our biggest challenge is building a sense of fairness and moderation. Given the immediacy of all issues, expediency takes centre stage in all our actions and thoughts.
Human evolution is a story full of such mental constructs to guide the good over evil and ensure that we survive and evolve. The daily human struggle to align individual soft boundaries with shared beliefs throw up many issues, and Abhay, Rajdeep, Samanta, Paulose, Jai and others are at a loss to understand the dynamics at play.

Individual awareness creates ease, but to make that a collective one is an eternal challenge. We occasionally find sweet spots, but never a perfect winner. Yet the journey goes on to contribute to the collective wisdom and will. But providing the balance between humanitarianism and resource optimisation has to be the corner stone of all leadership endeavours.

Organisations provide us those opportunities as the scope of that challenge is limited to the boundary of the entity. Of course, we are part of the larger system, but we can extend our circle of influence. The team members at Camfor have that opportunity and Abhay Kaul has to lead from the front. I wonder why Paulose is taking a particular stance. But creating a compelling case for change and driving that will lend a lot of credibility to Abhay’s leadership.

Even though organisations have codified values and behaviours, we see a total lack of collective will to make members feel engaged, fulfilled and productive. Economic progress is possible without inclusiveness or vice versa, but then the ultimate dual purpose of any organisation is profitability and people realising their individual and collective dreams. If an individual’s ultimate goal is to become a better human being, organisations too need to become better to enable that. But this can happen only if boundaries are strong, understanding is collective and interdependence is enjoyed. History is replete with examples of individuals who have gone beyond the realm of letter of law and embraced the spirit of ‘being’. The journey from ‘doing’ to ‘being’ has to be a conscious endeavour of organisations, and should be as important as profitability. There is enough historic evidence that companies with strong cultures produce better results.

In such an environment you would see discretion being put to use so that Jai Raman gets his date of birth corrected, and continued employment of Shannu Guha at Camfor India. It takes courage, compassion, collaboration, commitment and character to build ecosystems where possibilities expand to enable everyone to bring their conscience to work. In Responsibility At Work and The Five Minds Of Future,  Howard Gardner talks of the ‘Ethical Mind’ where he envisions work to be good in the sense of being excellent, responsible and engaging.

Larger good is possible only when we move away from confines of work and embrace the spirit of collective winning. The inner journeys of individuals is at the root of creating such minds. While the western world has taught us the value of winning, it is time for us to bring back the tenets of the eastern world where value has always been the central theme. Taming the instinct and a sense of restraint for the larger good is what will transcend us from being strong individuals to stronger communities. Blurring boundaries will have little or no negative impact when human beings seek ideologies that promote progress through collective frameworks. Gandhiji listed seven deadly sins: “Commerce without ethics, Pleasure without conscience, Politics without principle, Knowledge without character, Science without humanity, Wealth without work and Worship without sacrifice.” If left unchecked, these will drive our destiny and we will log one more day of wasted time. Creative dissatisfaction will fuel our drive to work on this challenge daily. The choice is truly ours.

The author is executive vice-president and global head of human resources, EXL Service. Views expressed are personal

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 03-12-2012)