1. The ED Divakar Shah lacked empathy and compassion. He lacked understanding capability from the employee's point of view and his only sole purpose was to support his boss Ketanbhai's decision and ensure that his instructions are carried out. It can also be seen from the case study that ED didn't walk the talk as he only had withheld handover of dead body from hospital to patient's relatives till the dues were cleared. And when the matter came to notice of media, he rebuked Prem in front of the public as if it were fault of his. So it can be concluded that the ED lacked both character and values. Also ED couldn't handle pressure. He would lose his temper when under pressure as can be seen by him abusing Prem over phone when Prem apprised him of situation of discontentment amongst employees when they came to know that their additional allowances due to Covid-19 was withdrawn and as a consequence, hospital work was paralyzed by the staff and new patients were not allowed to be admitted. ED may seem to be strong outside through his use of abusive words and short temper, but he is definitely not kind.
Given such leadership at the helm of affairs at Life Line Hospital, it is apparent that the work environment is such where one cannot trust each other. Anything is possible since it's at the whims and fancies of few key people who take all the decisions. This is a risk for the long term sustainability of the hospital, decision making in hands of few key people. Prem as HR Head of the Hospital also has no key leadership role to play except that of carrying out instructions from Executive Management. His is more of an operational role as compared to strategic employee decision making role. He is merely a puppet in their hands. It is also evident that the employees are stretched in terms of work limits due to covid-19 pandemic scenario with meagre additional allowances to reward and recognize them for their hard work. The act of Prem by choosing to remain silent implies that he feels it is more beneficial to avoid workplace disagreements than discuss them, because the environment doesn't promote open discussions. There could be financial or social consequences of challenging the status quo. This act of silence isn't an act of defiance, but rather of self-preservation. So all in all, it is not a healthy or an ideal work environment to look forward to whilst working in an organisation.
2. Although the decision of withdrawing allowances was appropriate and justified given the fact that it was temporary, the timing and manner in which it should have been done was not done. Ideally the ED should himself have communicated this decision to all employees as he was the decision maker. HR would have post it carried out the orders. Also if the ED himself had communicated the decision, then the chances of resentment amongst the employees would have been less, the agitation could also have been avoided as no one would dare to raise their voice against the ED for fear of retribution. The employees knew that Prem had no authority and so they could vent their frustration on him instead.
In an ongoing crisis, clear communication is more important and more difficult than when things seem normal. Employees are hungry for information. The decision should have been thought about and communicated with careful planning at not just because number of Covid-19 admissions were decreasing, revenue also declining from last two months as covid cases has dropped significantly and other cases reporting did not improve. The decision should have been communicated by addressing the employee's core questions of what, how, and why, that would have brought about more clarity than confusion and thus avoid the current scenario.
3. If the employees don't know why a new action is necessary; they won't be motivated to help you. Which is exactly the reason as to why Prem was feeling the pressure of the management decision and thereby under stress. Ketanbhai Shah & Divakar should have considered the ramifications of their decision from the employees' perspective. But they didn't. Many leaders don't even consider the "why" from the audience perspective because it seems so self-evident to them, they think it's obvious to everyone. Prem was not agreeable to their decision but was unable to put forth his view and simply kept quiet as others did. He could visualize the problems coming in his way once the decision was announced. This was another reason for his stress. Also it is to be noted that Ketanbhai Shah was not a medico by profession to understand and appreciate the intricacies of the medical profession. So lack of knowledge & know-how of medical profession by leadership who were there merely for ROI and not for medical service to humanity also led to burden and stress for Prem. The values of the leadership were not aligned to what the medical profession required.
Also problems at the workplace were having an effect on the personal life of Prem. Work dissatisfaction levels of Prem during pandemic period was increasing. His job had become monotonous and he was mentally scared due to pandemic. Home environment was also disturbed. The tense hospital environment also drained Prem frequently. Prem's wife was also pressuring him to change the job or sit at home as her priority was of saving the family from Covid. On petty issues, Prem and his wife often quarreled. Gradually he started to think that his work environment resulted in anxiety and depression for him, which created bad environment at home also. Not only at home, Prem felt the pressure at hospital too. He was not sure on which moment and on which matter, he will be abused by ED given his temperament. So to conclude all these were underlying factors that resulted in increasing stress levels for Prem.
4. Prem's approach of handling the employees' discontentment was definitely not right. He should have verbally communicated the decision to them once it was decided as well as also informing that formal orders with signature of ED is on the way. That would have quelled the matters to some extent there and then instead of Prem being quite about it and letting it build up not only his personal stress levels but also frustration and discontentment amongst the employees. If Prem had not kept quiet in disagreement and rather just done that what was instructed to him by executive management, then the news leakage incident could also have been avoided which was further aggravated by the employees in uniting amongst themselves and paralyzing work. It is seen here that one frustration level builds up to another and till such levels that work comes to a standstill. Prem could have exhibited better people handling skills in this matter here.
5. Handling the issue tactfully is key for Prem. Agreed that most managers don't enjoy tackling thorny issues but in this case since Prem has undertaken the responsibility of HR, he has to handle the situation tactfully. First of all he should stay calm and park his own frustration at the door. That will enable him to focus on the organisational problem in hand, leave aside his personal frustrations. He should look at remaining calm, objective and helpful that will increase his chances for achieving a favorable outcome for both the employees and himself on a personal level.
Next Prem should look at building respect via communication as a crucial key step to establishing a good rapport with the ED, it's not advisable for him to be a pushover and quitting or running away from the problem is not the solution. Prem should look at building a respectful relationships with the ED and thus resolving issues as the key to diffuse any festering bitterness between them. He needs to speak informally to the ED, apprise him of the situation in hand and the consequences arising as a result out of it. If by doing so this, Prem can convince the ED to hold off the decision for some more time, it would have been half a battle won for Prem both on the organisational front and also on the personal front. Improved working relationships with his superior would definitely result in reduced stress levels for Prem and a healthier, peaceful and better life at home. This action of Prem would have also quelled his reason for putting in his resignation papers and running away from the unpleasant scenario as compared to fighting it out.
Prem could also look at apprising to the ED that for every important disagreement avoided, how much in terms of revenue and a workday was lost. Quantify the revenue lost due to employee agitations and stoppage of new patient admissions. Silence also has a negative impact on employees. When conflict isn't resolved, they tend to complain and gossip about it to others. They spend days worrying about the problem, instead of focusing on their work. These repressed feelings cause humiliation, anger, and resentment among co-workers. This leads to higher turnover rates, lower workplace morale, and poor employee engagement.
Prem would have emerged a better and stronger person if this situation was confronted heads on and resolved through meaningful dialogue and difficult conversations. Put simply, it's the art of embracing healthy conflict that Prem should look at initiating. Only if you are a proactive leader that supports and reinforces discussions of constructive discontent can you expect tough issues to see the light of day and be resolved.
Mihir Gosalia, Pune