The Messy Picture , A Case Study , Emerald Emerging Markets Case Studies

By: Dr Sangeeta Goel
Nov 2013

What happens when a small showdown between two officers acquires a disproportionate size and unintended dimensions to result in a full blown up organizational conflict? Defence Production Factory Timbuktu (DPFT) India, a defence production unit engaged in production of critical ammunition hardware goes through this small spark blown up into a huge fire. A small row between two officers on the occasion of Hindu festival of Holi, threw things completely out of gear. The factory which always enjoyed a very congenial work environment with docile workforce, cooperative unions and a capable team of officers suddenly became parade ground of show of might of various factions, the officers , the unions and their followers. What followed was moves and counter moves of allegations of atrocity on a minority ST community member by the one and ‘sexual harassment’ by the other, each supported and incited by their family and friends; and subsequent filing of police cases. The Unions and Associations also lapped up on the opportunity and the entire factory got divided into two warring factions bringing the production activity to halt. Ram Sharma, the General Manager(CEO) was in a fix as it was not just the factory atmosphere that had got vitiated but also the production targets that had come under jeopardy. It could result in adverse implications for one and all. But none of the parties were willing to budge or compromise despite his best efforts. So how to break this dead-lock and strategize to intervene in the dispute is his key dilemma, as the case opens. However, it is important to understand that small incidents blow up into major disputes only when there are grievances simmering under the surface. In this case too, students through the discussion of data facts realize that the crisis was embedded in issues that the union was expecting the management to resolve for a long time but in vain. When this dispute came up, the dissatisfied workers fanned the sentiments and unethically leveraged legal privileges to gain power in the messy dispute.

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