1. Anybody with or without a management degree or background can label Kewal as insecure, system defying, autocratic, insensitive, and incompetent manager and aptly so. The whole case underscores ineffective management style practiced by Kewal at every juncture-routine or exceptional. A highly only-results oriented (by hook or by crook) manager, with no respect for human beings, characterized by inflated ego, ineffective manners, inefficient work ways, myopic vision, lack of planning, and crooked thought process; makes one wonder that despite the unending list of malefic adjectives, how did he survive and reach this position without being noticed or taken to task or written off by the management.
Perhaps the answer lies in the second part of question that the reason he survived so long was that he resonated well with the organisation culture. The case overtly mentions absence of systems, highly disorganized processes, toxic work culture, dirty politics, unethical practices and nepotism. In such environs only those who can become a part of culture and find convergence with the practices can survive. Perhaps that is the reason why Kewal not only survived but thrived so far in the organisation.
However, circulating the video was not appropriate. It is not mentioned in the case as to what was the source of video leakage. Nevertheless, given that it was a closed group departmental meeting, it is assumed that the video was circulated by one of the attendees. The video clip could have been evidence to be produced at the right time to a select few, holding enquiry against KK. Widely and publicly circulating the video clip raises several questions that dilute the complainants case in addition to irrevocable damage to company's name and image. Since before the meeting none of the participants knew what will be transpired in the meeting, some of the ethical concerns involved in recording and circulating of the clip are; was the call recorded with permission and knowledge of all involved? Does it breach the confidentiality clause of departmental/official information being accessible to outsiders? Was KKs behaviour so predictable that the participants actually were motivated to generate evidence? Was there something planned amongst the key employees that they took leave together, left office without sanction and approval of leave and recorded the call. Did they anticipate the extent of circulation of the video clip to reach news media?
3-a) Not just this particular incident but the whole case reeks of miserable status of HR in the organisation. Letting the culture vitiate to this low, tolerating abusive employees for so long, not addressing the constant fire fighting style of management, inability to respond to crisis situations are just a few manifestations of HR function being superficial and not really authentic in this organisation. There is a conspicuous absence of HR policies whether related to reporting relationships, or Covid related leaves/absence, or maintaining confidentiality of internal meetings in the times of work-from - home formats, or for that matter job analysis. Spending nights at the vendor to ensure minimum parts are manufactured to feed the next day production, crisis situation all the time, unethical practices are other extreme of absence of systemic management practices, a great share of which is HR responsibility. It seems that HR function in this organisation had a very myopic vision of their domain and was in a 'please the management' mode with no courage of conviction to assert what was right for greater common good.
b) First and foremost HR (represented by its Head) should not have let this incident transpire on the first hand. If there would have been a culture of trust, authenticity, openness, collaboration and respect…, If there was a Covid related protocol and leave policy, at place…, If the HR would have informed about the reports of the four employees of supply chain department to their head through proper channel …, if there would have been a counselling/catharsis provided by HR to the employees for their stress related issues…, if there was a mechanism for grievance handling and mitigating……..the ifs are several, unfortunately now the things have gone out of hand and out of proportion.
Nevertheless the damage could have been controlled to some extent if the HR would have taken some action the moment he received Naveen's mail. But alas that was not to happen. KK was until then trying to play games to diffuse the situation before it could tell negatively upon him. From morning to noon till the video started circulating, if HR would have acted responsibly, probably the video circulation could have been averted.
4. The situation has got out of hands now that the video is doing rounds in the social media including news media. Several short term and long term measures are called for, to control the damage done and to salvage whatever is left. To begin with, an intelligently worded public apology by the HR or MD along with an enquiry against the accused and reiterating the positive values of organisation around respect for dignity of people is warranted immediately. The intensity of situation can be little diluted taking recourse of unprecedented times, stress, and disruption of production due to key people falling victim to COVID. An assurance of appropriate action against the accused, and generous compensation to the petitioners is also vital.
It is important at this juncture, for the organisation to put forward a work policy in times of pandemic. It is not only important for those contracting the disease to go on leave for themselves but also for safety of others. All HoDs need to be sensitised to be ready to adapt plans based on available resources especially human resources and ever changing rules in the ecosystem because of pandemic restrictions. The times are unprecedented and thus a quick response time and agility to adopt is non negotiable must.
In long term a fresh look needs to be taken of the organisation culture, systems, structure, and practices. There is merit in considering an organisational development initiative with HR in the driving seat to turnaround the organisation from a dysfunctional style of management to a great place to work. It is high time not only the organisation in case but ALL organisations start honouring the concept of decent work encompassing physical and mental integrity of employees.
Dr. Tanjul Saxena - Consultant, META AIDE, Jaipur