It was around 9 AM when Kewal Khurana (Popularly known and called as KK by all) checked his inbox before preparing for routine meeting with his managers and teams; there were mails from all the four executives including Naveen with whom he had a video call. The mail narrated the abusive language and humiliating behaviour of KK with them last night over video call. Kewal also noticed that the copy of the mail was marked to AGM of the supply chain, HR, and MD also. Naveen was Sr. Executive in supply chain department including three others. Kewal was general manager of the department.
It was unbelievable for Kewal to accept and digest that all these boys would also dare to write such mail with copy to his seniors. Because he was in habit of having such meeting with all his subordinates using foul language, KK thought that it was his USP to get the things done from subordinates and got indirect acceptance. Last night around 10pm Kewal decided to do a video call meeting with all the four executives of his department collectively. He was annoyed that four boys were not attending office since last four days and even left to their home towns. The reason cited was that they were detected covid positive while working in plant. Since all were bachelors and were residing as PG in nearby locations, they packed up and left for their homes. Their absence in the department crippled the functioning. Plant production head cautioned Kewal that supply of parts were insufficient and stock was only up to next day 12 noon. After that production may get affected and line may have to be stopped. Kewal became tense with this information from plant production head and absence of the four executives who were responsible to coordinate with vendors and ensure the uninterrupted supply of parts and other materials. KK was sure that it will be accelerated up to MD by the next morning. Problem with KK was that no other was aware of what was happening with vendors supply status and how things were managed on every day basis by these four executives.
In this back ground Kewal did a video call meeting with all the four executives. Kewal was furious as to how they dared to leave the location for their home towns without getting leaves approved and submitting the covid positive report. All boys one by one explained their circumstances that landlord asked them to leave as they might spread infection to others. Since they were all alone and there was no one to take care of them, they informed their family and on their instructions, they left for their home towns.
Kewal was not ready to buy this story. He thought that all were manipulating and wanted to take gain of the situation. First was Naveen on his target. Kewal commented to Naveen after abusing in vulgar language, Kyon maa ki shadi mein aaya hai kya ghar pe? (Have you come to home to attend the marriage of your mother?) Naveen kept quiet. There was a stunning silence for few seconds. All said that they have already forwarded their test reports to their seniors through mail and asked for leave till they are diagnosed covid negative. On this Kewal became infuriated. He threatened, abused, humiliated and warned that either report for duty by next morning or send resignation and disconnected the call.
Naveen could not take his words. He was from a poor family. Father was retired clerk from Govt. Department. He was the only son in the family. Somehow he could manage his studies and got B.tech degree in Electronics engineering and MBA in materials management. He got this job three years back. Naveen could assess that he had no future in the company as the work culture was very toxic and processes were highly disorganised. Since the vendors were directly or indirectly appointed and promoted the company MD, so they were not bothered to listen to the department executives and managers. He could also sense that there were some unethical practices prevalent in the department and cut throat politics of survival existed. He felt suffocated but on the other side he had to feed his family also and provide financial support. In this vicious circle, he continued tolerating all abuses of managers, humiliating behaviour meted out to him at work. There were occasions when he had to spend his nights at vendor workshops to ensure that minimum parts are manufactured to feed the next day production. It was hand to mouth crisis situation all the time and all these boys were on their toes to move around from vendors to vendors places every day from morning to night to ensure that production keep continuing.
After Kewal disconnected the call, all the four talked to each other, released their stress, had some laugh, talked about medicines they were taking for covid and hoped that all will be well and neither they will send resignations, nor report for duty as they were covid infected and were under their local administration and medical team watch list. Even if they wanted, they were not in a position to leave as they were in home isolation and daily medial team weas visiting them for check up and medicines. All said good bye to each other and promised to be on video call next day. They decided to bounce back as it was enough to tolerate.
But, as the night moon moved and time clock needles indicating time, it was becoming difficult for Naveen to sleep. Kewal's sentence was hammering his mind. He wrote the following mail to Kewal :
"KK Sir, you have abused me, humiliated me for last three years, I did not say anything, all just tolerated. I worked day and night for you and the company. You made my life hell but never complained. You penalized me many times just for no fault of mine but of the company systems, I did not say anything. You took me for granted. Today you abused my mother that too in front of my other colleagues. This is something beyond my capacity to bear. What wrong I did with you that today you abused my mother also?" I am unable to come tomorrow to office as pressurized by you over video call. How can I come? How can also I submit my resignation as you demanded? Don't be so inhuman in this critical time. I don't expect any kind words or wishes from you but at least don't abuse and humiliate. In these aggravating situation kindly grant me medical leave till I recover from covid."
He also marked the copy of the mail to his immediate boss, HR Head and MD also.
Others also sent the mail to Kewal almost expressing the same feelings and refused to submit resignation and requested for leave.
Kewal realized that this time it was a wrong hit. He decided to play down the whole incident and made a strategy as to how to respond to HR and MD to diffuse the situation.
Kewal held morning meeting, where he rearranged the working responsibility with available persons because of absence of four executives. He also asked his AGM who was immediate boss of these boys including Naveen to talk to them and pacify individually and diffuse the situation. KK also decided not to grant the leave to all the four executives equally to maintain the pressure.
Before AGM to whom these executives were reporting, could talk to them and had an emphatic conversation, by the late noon, the video call recording was circulating in different social media platforms drawing a huge sympathy from people and professionals to four executives. There was a strong sentiment against the insensitive management working style of the organisation and HR where people badly criticized the company and its HR policies. The video was in all employees and officers phone and it became the talk of the day. It went so viral that electronic news media portals also published the news on their portals along with Video clipping. MD also got the video from some of his colleague of other organisation and expressed his concern about bad name organisation earned. He also advised to take some immediate strong damage control measures to save the organisation brand.
Kewal found himself standing at a point of no return. He got a call from HR head that MD has scheduled an emergency meeting of all HODs in his office immediately and agenda was the social media post of his video clip. He was also asked to come prepared with his version abound the incident.
Questions for discussion :
1. What kind of Kewal is a manager? Is there a resonance between the management style of Kewal and the organisation culture?
2. How do you critically analyse the step taken by Naveen and other executives of writing the mail to his boss and posting video call recording on social media? Was it fair/necessary for them do so?
3. Do you think HR has made his presence felt in the organisation? What he could have done?
4. How management should handle the crisis now?