There has been a history of jobs being traded amongst
workers. So much so that a Union office bearer reportedly
told a personnel officer who pleaded that there was no
work available in the factory for the formers` friend
- "Saab, hum nowkri pooccha, kaam nahi" ("Sir,
I have asked for a job, not work"!).
would absent themselves so that others would earn over-time
wage. Some contrive to get a job contracted out by going
on sick leave. In the rural areas, some teachers and para-medical
staff are known to appoint someone else in their place
while they prosecute other vocations elsewhere in towns
and cities. There have been reports of those who have
got themselves discharged on medical grounds on selling
the job to the next prospective. These instances reflect
a notable impression in the minds of people that a job
is, in fact, a property and to work in it is a matter
of choice to keep the property adequately "maintained".
It will take a while for this mind-set to change among
workers despite the induced insecurity due to large-scale
downsizing, sickness, closures, retrenchment and lay-offs
in all sectors.
managerial jobs are too visible for such crude trading.
But, do managers and officials suffer from the same mindset,
even if their jobs cannot be traded? A senior official
once remarked that he was gifted the police service by
God, promotions by the rulebook and good postings by patrons
in the system. Having acquired the position, he said,
it is left to the individual to "use" the power and authority
(or "misuse", if you wish to be puritanical) to the fullest
advantage. He said, that using positional power is an
art and it must be periodically practiced - like a knife,
it gets rusted if you don't use and gets blunted or broken,
if used too often!
the days of kings and Nizams, people were assigned some
positions with a tacit understanding that they can use
them for purposes other than those explicitly required
by the State. Thus, officials would derive benefits and
give some part of it to the King as "Nazrana".
Some of this went to the King, not to the exchequer. A
respectable and eulogized episode is that of "Bhakth Ramdas"
who used his position of Tehsildar to collect revenue
but constructed a Temple instead - folklore chose to get
God into the Nizam`s dreams and save him from the gallows!
It is obvious that in those days of monarchy, positions
acquired the characteristics of a property. And those
who occupied them had to extract rents to the best of
their ability for personal goals - selfish or altruist
- as also for the King or the State.
famous quote that "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts
absolutely" was made mainly keeping in mind the misuse
of "Positional Power". It was not an indictment of the
power of a professional doctor over that of a patient
nor that of the power of love, Bhakthi, knowledge or ethical
conduct. Positional power tends to be misused because
each position is essentially a "monopoly", as long as
it lasts. There is no competition so long as someone is
occupying it, though competitive conditions may be applied
by making others aspire for it or by threats. The clever
can collectively use their individual monopoly status
to bring in a group-think of using the positional power
to promote each others interests. Subordinates, suppliers,
retailers would like to fuel this by appropriate reciprocation
in the hope of getting a favour or at least, not to fall
foul. This has been commented upon in literature and terms
such as the "old boys club" and "cronyism" have arisen
to depict the safe and yet unsound conduct of those misusing
may want to control resources such as Jobs, Franchises,
Purchase Orders, Consulting Assignments, Advertisements,
Sponsorships and the like by limiting competition and
the flow of information. They may wish to expand the zones
of discretion as much as possible to give them the scope
for using the position to their advantage. Such advantage
may be only to help some one, promote professional interests
and may not be corruption as such. Thus, in the decades
of commodity scarcity, selection of distributors, retailers,
transport contractors and suppliers, had been by nomination
and vastly subjective criteria. Even now, managers tend
to indulge in cronyism - promoting their reputational
interests, if not material ones. These have a cost that
is borne by the shareholders and not reckoned as part
of employment. Most companies do not have a "disclosure"
mechanism for their managers that can be certified and
placed before the share-holders. Consequently, the CEO
may permit such behaviours among managers to buy personal
positions for results other than that for the corporation
leads to organizational entropy and eventually, loss of
shareholder value. If managers look upon their positions
as property - even without being corrupt as such - companies
will bleed with leakages, higher costs, idle assets and
mounting risks. Obviously, shareholders lose value, as
the attendant managerial omissions and commissions would
have affected their residual income, adversely.
phenomenon has been recognized at the macro level and
debated for the possible loss of welfare to society. Anne
Kreuger, who is currently a Deputy Managing Director at
the International Monetary Fund, had coined the term "rent
seeking" behaviours in 1974. The move to "roll back" governments
through aggressive privatization in many countries can
be associated with this recognition. The problem identified
was that officials and politicians by their actions create
competition among parties to derive an unfair concession/benefit.
This action leads to people expending their resources
for the special dispensations that eventually result in
loss to society. A related phenomenon was discussed by
the well-known economist, Jagdish Bhagwati in 1994 and
termed as "Directly Unproductive Profit Seeking" which
the economictionary recognizes. There are policy
solutions to address this macro-problem. Is there a way
at the corporate level?
be, if all - repeat all - actions and communications arising
from managerial positions are tightly recorded, as per
a manual and have a close fit with strategy. The scope
for discretions can be controlled with the prospect of
a post-mortem by independent authorities such as the internal
auditors - there will no space for the "art" of using
the "knife". But there are two obstacles that need to
be tackled in the process.
is the tendency of perpetuate the scope for using the
"art" by resisting all change. Everyone wants to buffet
positions with discretionary powers and collective interests
will demand a death to controls. For instance, politicians
and bureaucrats thrive on the case-by-case approach and
multi-stage controls to create competition for the service
they will provide. If this situation has to be rectified,
it becomes a virtual war against vested interests - a
war no one wants to be engaged in India.
second arises from is the very nature of managerial positions.
Managerial positions are those, which require judgements
that have no precedents to go by in some of the decisions.
Such decisions also may have costly and complex implications.
If judgment elements are not in the job, the principles
of job worth will demand that it be construed as clerical
or mechanical - best done by computers than human beings.
this, the scope for the discretionary judgemental decision-making
appears to be vastly reduced if:
The structure is flat instead of a pyramid and there
are self-managed and high performance teams instead
of "cubby-holes' of individual slots. Ricardo Semler
("Maverick", Century, London, 1993) should tell us if
this works. The future corporation (see Economist of
3-9th November 2001) any case ends up as a flat and
networked construct, and
is better documentation of all predictable, tractable
processes than now, so that judgmental areas are minimized
and the reasoning becomes transparent. Documented manuals,
especially with IT support, will ensure that transparency,
equal opportunity and competition prevail and crowd
out cronyism. The software industry appears to indicate
are the documents, manuals and IT control sufficient?
Obviously, these are necessary but not sufficient as some
can find ingenious ways of subverting the system. Managers
will refrain from viewing their positions as property
only when they realize that they are "trustees".
great challenge, especially to the HR function, is to
make each manager accept that he is a custodian and a
trustee to the shareowner first and that he must do all
that is possible to enhance the shareholder value or the
EVA, as the case be. All actions must be justifiable from
must take a cue from the teachings of Gandhiji lest they
are accused soon, by shareholders and the profession,
of profligacy and self-dealing. Gandhiji approached the
issue of property rights from a deeply philosophical perspective,
which is a middle ground between Marxism and the Western
capitalist. Trusteeship meant that the wealth eventually
belongs to the society and each individual will have a
common right to livelihood. Managers must be reminded
constantly that the position one occupies is a trusteeship
contract not a property on lease. May be we need to have
display boards invoking an attitude of trusteeship in
companies a la 5-S or Quality Policy.