The case 'Unraveling the Real' mirrors a typical everyday scenario that manifests within the glass walls of corporate offices and often brushed under the carpet of individual cabins. It is only when the brewing discords break the soundproof acoustics of smaller offices and permeate the department or strategic business unit (in this case business vertical) as a whole that the larger effects implicating organizational culture, team dynamics, skewed inter personal relations, individual and group value aberrations and hidden agendas overtly emerge.
The case unearths several micro issues that over a time converge into 'Moment of Truth' that is neither pleasant nor revocable and brings the stakeholders and actors at a juncture where some bitter truths need to be confronted, few harsh actions need to be taken and a few sacrifices need to be made to rectify situation.
A) Capricious Cusp Amrita
The case opens with Amrita being portrayed as a very important and key functionary in the Mohisin & Mohta Co. Her ability to comprehend business nuances despite not being from legal background, learning agility, people skills, excellent communication and inter personal skills, commendable achievements, consistent effectiveness and performance, leadership traits like initiative and drive etc. can prima facie tempt any understudy of OB/HR to map her on the high side of the BIG Five OCEAN (Openness, Conscientiousness Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism) Personality Spectrum or as The Commander or Director In the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. However, for the more evolved community of professors and professionals in the domain of people management, her behaviour and temperament, as the case progresses offers some deeper insights into her personality. The case subtly underscores her emotional insecurities, high Machiavellianism, and an incessant attempt to camouflage her sub optimal technical/functional competencies and domain knowledge under other better evolved conceptual/ managerial and behavioural competencies. Evidence abounds in management literature today that a blind spot in technical/ functional competencies, specially at the strategic leadership level like Amrita's, will sooner than later annihilate the very existence of SBU. Having said that, evidence also favours the proposition that in roles where other competencies are equally needed for survival and growth, the leader can compensate individual shortcomings through wise delegation coupled with autonomy to technically competent team members. Perhaps this was how Amrita had been managing so far and reached thus far. The devil lies in the detail where the case mentions that nothing much was credited to the two team members associated with her. This very clearly underlines the high need for achievement and power Amrita had, that blurred her wisdom to share or confer credit to the team that she was both a part of and led.
B) The Ethical Quandary
People work for organizations and NOT vice versa. There was nothing improper in Nisha accessing Amrita's computer and searching for required information in her absence. All data and information in an organization is created, stored and is to be shared and used by everyone in the organization with a single overarching objective of meeting organizational goals. There's nothing wrong if anyone accesses any resource, which is not of discretionary nature or has access restrictions-and thus was the case with Nisha-neither in intention nor in action she meant otherwise. Would we have asked the same question if Ravindra Mohan would have himself or asked Nisha to access the system?? Or if Amrita would have accessed Nisha's System in her absence.
C) The Moral Dilemma
Entry of Nisha in the scene through the reference of Ravindra Mohan, the reporting authority of all verticals, further enhanced both the insecurity and vindictive aura of Amrita. Despite Nisha's overall package promise of desired competencies (technical/functional, Conceptual, managerial and behavioral), her entry in the department through reference, made her a soft target for individual and organizational politics being played by Amrita. At the same time considering the inexperience of a first-ever-full-time-job-holder, Nisha in her innocence could not pick up the negative cues of subtle restrictions. Every time she felt constricted she opted for a coping mechanism, where she justified Amrita's behaviour of patronizing in terms of learning and training. Now that the dust is brushed out of the carpet in the open; now that she has a validation from her predecessor who also worked under Amrita; now that she has been publicly harassed and insulted by Amrita, Nisha should break her dilemmatic silence and talk to Ravindra Mohan. Confrontation is considered a virtue not weakness in organisations that boast of a progressive HR culture and professional values. Confrontation for the right reasons, in the right manner, to the right person, at the right time, shall not only offer closure to the victim but also bring an end to unethical practices and vested interests of misaligned few.
D) Straightening the kinks
Assuming the business head is now privy to the departmental dissonance there are a few short term and long term actions needed to not only handle the immediate situation but also to ensure that all business verticals remain aligned to organizational goals with least deviations.
In the short term, Business Head should talk to both Amrita and Nisha separately. It is assumed that the business head will collect the facts before initiating discussion with both, through his own network. The incident of Amrita shouting on Nisha publicly has first hand witnesses and it would not be difficult to corroborate the facts. He should also talk to the other two members and Nisha's Predecessor who left because of marriage reasons (really?). Based on the facts gathered he should counsel Amrita on her behavioural issues and also suggest mending ways. Meanwhile he should also consider either changing the portfolio of Nisha to any other or an independent portfolio in the same vertical. Alternatively he can consider changing the reporting relationship of Nisha to him directly with a sub-portfolio in the same vertical. However any of these actions will have consequences that he will have to be mindful about. For instance, the dyadic relationship of Amrita and Nisha have been charred beyond repair and the scars will remain for long times to come. Special care needs to be taken to not to humiliate Amrita as she has been a good and contributing member with her own set of insecurities but at the same time corrective advances are called for, for greater common good of all.
Long term strategies should include an emotional intelligence training for both Amrita and Nisha but with different objectives. For instance, where Amrita needs to address her deep rooted insecurities, accurate self assessment, transparency, teamwork and collaborative leadership, Nisha needs to develop her emotional competencies of organizational astuteness to survive in the sector where veterans of corporate politics have dominance.
The case also compels one to think about the role of HR in Mohisin & Mohta Co. If Amrita felt that the role of the team member who left was redundant and no replacement was needed-- given her expertise and experience due cognizance should have been given to her opinion. It is pertinent to question, if HRM department did their homework or review to rationalize the vacancies or job roles. Every Job is a cost centre and needs to be reviewed periodically for its relevance and utility. If the department head submits that the job is no more relevant, why should one create or continue with that job. The case also puts under scrutiny, the talent acquisition practices in the company. For such an important role (as perceived by Ravindra Mohan and validated by exemplary credentials of Ms Nisha), was reference the only method available or should they have gone for an elaborate, scientific hiring process. Notwithstanding the short comings of Artificial Intelligence, the HR Departments must start using it for at least initial screening and job-person fit match.
In conclusion, the case once again, reiterates the importance of aligning individual goals to departmental goals which in turn should be in equilibrium with the very raison d'être of the organization. Whenever individual insecurities and aspirations subordinate the organizational objectives, Amritas are bound to prosper and Nishas are bound to suffer.
Tanjul Saxena - Consultant META AIDE, Jaipur