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Case Analysis: Built To Last

Leadership must take decisions that try to achieve fairness and not be seen to take sides

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The turbulence of emotions at Kayplas is a sign of changing social norms, and especially a concerted expectation to bring about fair play towards  women. Such turmoil is seen regularly as organisations grapple with ‘who do we believe’ and ‘how do we prove’.

As we assert the need for gender inclusivity and respect in the workplace, new situations will stare us in the face. Without doubt, it is also the newness of treating what was earlier swept under the carpet. Balancing fair play and justice will be a slow haul, and something from which the collective organisation community will watch, cogitate and learn. In the meantime, we will necessarily have the passion that we witness at Kayplas.  The urgency to act will be accompanied by disproportionate intensity. With time, decisions will be tempered by a firmness sans emotion and anger, just as we treat scams and frauds today.

Leaders  carry the load of right action in organisations, as they set direction. They have to temper their emotions, take a long-term view and keep the impact on the organisation’s culture as their lodestone in making decisions. A leader must take balanced decisions without being carried away by the heat of the moment. Long-term interests of the organisation must be achieved by these decisions. In this case, the issues are:

—Is it fair to JD to terminate him summarily with no consideration for his 36 years of service or to Ananya if JD is not so terminated?
—Should JD’s retirement benefits be paid to him in full or should they be curtailed to the extent allowed statutorily?
—Should such decisions be based on law, length of service, emotion, or some other criterion?

In the heat of the moment, one is drawn into the immediacy of the situation of Ananya versus JD and whose side one should take. Leadership must take decisions that try to achieve fairness and equity for both and not be seen to take sides. Rather, leaders should be on the side of the organisation. What is best for the organisation in the long term? What will set the right tone and culture for the organisation -- this is what the leaders must ensure and what the wise old Palsetia was thinking about.

The majority of employees would want to see JD punished for his behaviour but equally many of them would like to see that he was dealt with fairly considering his long years of service. As a leader, I would have wanted to take a decision which is seen to be fair to both and with which my conscience would be comfortable. With such an objective, JD’s service should be terminated through a resignation and all retirement benefits paid to him. This would not be seen as diluting the punishment of termination. In fact, most employees would not know such details. Further, the matter will be explained clearly by Desai in town hall meetings. As explained by Palsetia, even those who want to see JD punished would want to know that he was fairly treated. This is important to the building of a good culture.

When a supplier has to be castigated for poor quality or late delivery, for example, there must be generosity of spirit in the communication so that she is not made to feel small or personally diminished. If the supplier feels fairly, if strictly, treated, she will use the feedback positively, improve in future and have a better relationship with the organisation. Building the capacity to manage the tension between punishment for poor performance or inappropriate behaviour and treating individuals with dignity is critical to a creating a culture in the long term that will support a successful organisation that people feel proud to belong to. JD should also accept that the punishment was appropriate and, in time, come to see that he was fairly treated. This will prevent him from being negative towards Kayplas and spreading ill will. In the long run, organisations/individuals need widespread goodwill from all stakeholders and the public to flourish.

It is difficult to maintain the calmness and distance to take such decisions as well as to explain them to all stakeholders so that they see the balance being sought to be maintained. The stakeholders will eventually appreciate the effort.

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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Magazine 8 July 2017 case analysis case study leadership

Viju Parameshwar

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

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