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Case Analysis: Behavioural Codes

Given the ‘perform or perish’ culture that exist in many industry verticals, the organisation culture more often than not, reflects business reality

Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick is responsible for the company culture at Uber. He set the tone for it from the beginning. Is ‘winning’ the single overriding goal at Uber? And everything else secondary? Did Travis Kalanick’s resignation solve the problem? He had no one but himself to blame for Uber’s toxic culture.

So, is Malhar’s predicament a one off incident or is this the growing trend? In well established MNC and local organisations, there is an unwritten code of inviolable conduct. These behaviour codes are can be very formal or informal, like those in software or creative organisations. Why are these codes important?

Because any human organisation runs on communication. The quality of that communication is dependent on the source, context, content and tone and manner. The codes are now especially important in dealing with women employees due to sexual harassment cases. However, are these codes always followed? Personal charisma sometimes over ride these codes and they are perfectly acceptable because of the personal relationships enjoyed by the violator.

Violations also become acceptable due to very tough work sub-culture in external business interfaces or internal teams like construction teams in infrastructure companies; labour management; field sales team in certain competitive markets. However, abusive language is simply not tolerated.

Corporate management rarely overlooks these codes even in delivery of exceptional results. I was once given the example of the sales head of a big Indian consumer product company, famous for his ‘rustic/crude’ style of management who is now the head of that organisation. While he believed his style of management leads to success, his reputation overtook him and he now finds it very difficult to hire people!

The other angle to this came from a friend who used to work with a well known East Asian multinational. The East Asian corporate cultures can be extremely hierarchical, command driven and operates on subservience. The truth is, there is a wide spectrum of organisation cultures from genteel, suave, civilised and democratic to boorish and totally uncharitable. They all have the same issue. People. No one wants to work in a toxic atmosphere.

Given the ‘perform or perish’ culture that exist in many industry verticals, the organisation culture more often than not, reflects business reality. In many of these organisations, the pressure of succeeding, delivering on financials and enhancing wealth quickly creates enormous stress. Particularly startups that are scaling up to astronomical proportions. The rewards for success are financially enormous and the focus is on deliverables.
What gets missed is larger issue is about organisation EQ and culture.

There are, of course, many instances of behaviour emanating from an inherently aggressive personality. In many professions like the services, police, customs, sports, films there are men and women with very aggressive behaviour.

So, to sum up, there could be many reasons for this kind of behaviour that Malhar faced. It could be inherent character/personality, learned aggression or defence. Or just an aberration due to the pressure of the job.

On the Kumble versus Kohli issue: What makes Kumble qualified as a coach? The best school teacher wasn’t necessarily the most learned! Irrespective of the domain, a coach needs to learn to nourish, nurture, protect, guide and mentor so that those under him have the freedom to be at their best. Coaching requires training and skill development not just in the functional responsibility but also to deal with the human mind.

Did Kumble go through the process? Is there any such consciousness in BCCI? The conflict with Kohli has nothing to do with playing ability. It has got to do with Kumble’s ability to deal with the mind, with personality and behaviour. There are two fundamental dimensions in a coaching role: Love and respect. Both have to work. It can’t be ‘I hate him, no matter how good a player he was’. The rejection is of the person in his role as a coach, not the player. ‘My way or highway’ does not work.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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case analysis case study magazine 1 oct 2017


Subhabrata Ghosh ‘SG’

The writer is CEO, Celsius100 Consulting, Bangalore

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