Article (February-2018)


Shifting the ball

Editorial Team

Designation : -   Editorial

Organization : -  Business Manager HR Magazine


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Deputy plant head Mr. Banerjee was quick to shift the problem on HR when during morning meeting expat Manufacturing head was asking him why production targets were not achieved as per plans and why workers were not disciplined. Banerjee put the story before him like this:
"It was difficult and not possible at all to command discipline among workers because HR has not been able to enforce discipline by terminating the services of one process operator Jagpal Singh and his disciplinary proceedings was pending from last one year. Whenever I ask them to give a particular date and time plan to remove Jagpal from the services, they just put off and give me excuses. So, unless that Jagpal Singh is not terminated, nothing much can be improved upon. Better to call HR people and ask them about their dead line."
Expat Manufacturing head called HR and asked about the delay in terminating the services of Jagpal Singh process operator and why disciplinary proceedings were pending from last one year.
HR head Mohit Batra put the story to Expat Manufacturing head as below:
"The process operator Jagpal Singh cannot be terminated without completing the disciplinary proceedings and it was pending because manufacturing people working under Dy. Plant head are not coming up to give evidence in person against  Jagpal  during the inquiry. The two officers who were prepared with much effort for the purpose have also resigned. So, unless Dy. Plant head does not cooperate in the matter and help us in completing the strong evidence through production officers who were present at the time of incident and saw Jagpal committing misconduct, nothing much can be done in the matter and terminating him directly without completing enquiry would be illegal."
Expat Manufacturing head who has recently been shifted to India from Japan to head manufacturing operations of this MNC suddenly finds himself in a situation which demands more digging to know the reality and assess the plant environment where discipline was casualty, as it was not that simple as was told by Dy. Plant head Banejee and HR head Mohit.
Actually, the process operator Jagpal Singh was perceived as very negative, violent and arrogant workman having strong command over workers. Last year when one line leader asked him to complete his target production by staying extra time for which he was to be paid extra, he bluntly refused to complete the target and left the workplace by abusing and threatening the line leader. Next day when Jagpal was called in HR office to investigate the matter and find out the correctness of allegations put by line leader verbally, he refused to abide by the instructions and did not report in HR office. On hearing through some one that HR was planning to suspend him, he instigated the workers to resort to stay in strike and stopped production to frustrate the management's proposed action of suspending him. He was charged for instigating illegal strike, staging demonstration in the plant and causing workers forcefully to stay in the plant for two days and bringing the plant production to a halt and abusing line leader. Jagpal  was having control not only over his own plant workers but also having good influence in other nearby industries also. It was Mohit Batra who aggressively put forward the point to charge sheet Jagpal and take strong action against him to establish discipline and rule of law which was agreed by the Dy. Plant head Banerjee also and he commented that "Do whatever you HR people want to do but I want him out. I should not see him in production area". HR charge sheeted him and when attempted to suspend him simultaneously, Banerjee intervened that he will not afford loss of production as it was peak season and orders were pending to be completed. Mohit said that there may be a temporary disturbance on his suspension but they will manage and control. Banerjee did not buy his argument and said that he would not agree to suspend a person at the cost of loss of production. If HR can guarantee no disturbance, they can suspend. Ultimately Jagpal was not suspended. It took about 15 days to have marathon meetings on charges, complaints from production people against Jagpal, course of action, impact on production, PPTs were made and presented, disaster plan was also prepared as to how things will be handled and who will be in-charge and responsible for different actions in different situations. Net result was that former expat manufacturing head under the influence of Dy. Plant head did not approve the idea of suspending jagpal. Later on it was revealed that local senior police officer pressurised Banerjee not to suspend Jagpal, which he did not share this information in meetings with HR and other HODs and even former Expat Manufacturing head.
When Mohit asked the Dy. Plant head Banerjee to give names of production people who will appear as witness in enquiry to prove the charges against process operator, he shouted on HR people by saying that no body from production will come forward as witness as it was none of their business. They reported the matter to HR about all the indiscipline and it was now HR's baby and they have to see how Jagpal is terminated. The matter was brought to the knowledge of former Expat Manufacturing head and then with much reluctance two persons from production were "forced" to depose against Jagpal in inquiry truthfully.
But before it could happen, both resigned and stopped coming. Banerjee called the manager who was conducting the inquiry and asked him to close the matter. He updated that the two persons whom he deputed to give evidence have failed to do so and resigned. Banerjee got furious and also called Mohit. He said, "It appears that you are all bent upon to continue this for indefinite period and are not interested in closing. I dam care about your procedure and legality. Don't tell me stories and excuses. Plant people are not here to become witnesses and exposed to threats. I want his termination immediately". HR person and manager conducting the inquiry came out of the meeting room. They were like heading in a dark tunnel with no sign of light.
By the evening Mohit Batra got a call from Expat Manufacturing head again to come to meeting room to brief on the next step to terminate the services of Jagpal.

Questions for Discussion:
1. How do you assess the leadership style of Dy. Plant head Banerjee and new Expat Manufacturing head ?
2. What are the basic issues responsible for this situation?
3. Discuss the role of HR in the scenario. Did HR discharge their functions and responsibilities properly?
4. What is the way out and how matter should be handled now?