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Case Analysis: Discernment Is Crucial

Madhav will need greater depth of intervention for every right step he takes

Photo Credit : Tarun Gupta


The case highlights the complexity involved in bringing behavioural changes in employees by organisations. Even when appraisals are authentic and changes are foresighted in the long-term interest of employee and organisation — it does not follow that change will happen. Top management’s investment in employee training, will work only when there is desire, will and efforts made by employee to change. Madhav has to develop assertiveness to be effective in sales, and later as marketing head; but Madhav is just not the assertive type; and even though he is trying — it is not enough.

Coach Raghav explains the guna theory from Bhagvad Gita as a possible way to inculcate lasting assertiveness in Madhav. The theory says, each individual has a natural constitution — the latent and full potential of all that the person is capable of: playing out as thoughts, speech and action through force of the three properties (guna) of energy (prakriti). Actions and even emotions are formation of energy differentiated by particular combination of the trigunas. Satvic guna denotes clarity, calm, balance, interdependence, long-sightedness and harmony; rajasic guna is dynamic, active, goal focused, evaluative and ego centred; while tamasic guna indicates rigidity, inertia and bluntness. When we study with concentration satvic dominates; organising an event is more rajasic and sleeping has tamasic guna. By this description assertiveness has domination of rajasic guna and Madhav’s orientation is satvic which is where the disconnect is.

To see how the guna theory can help Madhav, one needs to understand reasons behind right combination of gunas in actions. Mindfulness is ability to focus on a task detached from any distraction. ‘Consciousness’ or ‘mindfulness’ leads to discernment, the key to right choices. When choices are right, there is natural good formation and alignment of prakriti’s threefold guna, and perfect actions result. Imperfect actions arise from misaligned gunas caused by an inefficient mind. A conditioned mind with vasanas (deeply entrenched attitudes, values, experiences and emotions)obstruct mindfulness; and an external environment, which is too tajasic or tamasic disturbs the mind leading to poor discernment, inappropriate choices and consequent misalignment of gunas and imperfect actions. Madhav appears to be satvic and needs to be rajasic which is where assertiveness comes from. Satvic qualities nurture mindfulness and so, we can expect Madhav to be more discerning and with coaching, he could internlise required Rajasic element in his behaviour. But if ‘ satvic –ness’ is masking a conditioned way of responding acquired over years, then it does not reflect mindfulness, hence greater efforts will be needed to bring change.

In Indian mythology, Sage Parashuram (a satvic Brahman) becomes Rajasic when he vows to save the world by killing all Kshatriya kings who had become evil. In the Mahabharata, Krishna and Kunti convince satvic Yudhishtira of the necessity to wage war against Kauravas for good of humanity and he too becomes rajasic and fights ably in the battle. How did Parashuram and Yudhishtira transform? Parashuram, by the power of his tapas (meditation ) was self aware, and transformed for a larger cause by himself. A less evolved Yudhishtira, though very learned, needed Krishna’s counsel, exhortations of mother Kunti, and cry for justice by wife Draupadi to transform. Madhav, an ordinary human being, will need greater depth of intervention like counselling, mentoring and reinforcement for every right step he takes. A beginning can be made by an authentic discussion with CEO — for transformation must begin with trust. Sessions with Raghav can help examine Madhav’s nature and bring clarity regarding trajectory of his career. It may be discovered that Madhav is not the right person for change; but if he is, the quality of discernment can be applied to initiate transformation.

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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Mala Sinha

The writer is Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Business Ethics at Faculty of Management Studies, University of Delhi. Her research interests are women issues and Eastern spiritual philosophies

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