HR management lessons from Delhi police vs advocates episode
The incident of Delhi police force taking on to streets on Tuesday,5th Nov.19, can be termed as unprecedented and a dangerous sign for the future. How a small incident turned in to a big violence and law and order problem, leaves many lessons for all managers, HR professionals and especially for Industrial relations managers to learn and take pro active and preventive actions before hand to avoid such ugly situation in their organisations.
According to various reports, on Saturday, 2nd Nov.19, it started with a car parking issue by an advocate in Tees Hazari courts campus in an area which is kept free for Delhi police vehicles that bring accused persons in buses from Tihar jail to court for regular hearings and it is taken as sensitive area. When requested by police personnel not to park his car there and remove, scuffle started. After some moments, a bunch of advocates came there, embarked upon the lock-up room area where accused were kept for hearing, thrashed the police constables, ransacked the administrative area and put the police and private vehicles on fire. It is also reported that one woman Police officer of senior rank was attempted to be molested by mob, her operator was also thrashed while tried to protect her, and police opened fire in air which hit the advocate. Few advocates and police personnel got injured. Police lathi charged to control the situation. Videos of advocates beating police personnel mercilessly in Tees Hazari till he fell down unconsciously went viral. On Sunday, Delhi HC took cognizance of the incident, orders judicial inquiry of the incident, restrained police to take any coercive action on advocates, orders transfer and suspension of few police officers. On Monday, a video of advocate beating police constable and a three wheeler driver also went viral. Other fellow advocates and Delhi CM went to hospital to meet injured advocates but no one cared to find out well being of injured police officials and on Tuesday what country witnessed was a big protest and demonstration of police force before their HQ. It was a manifestation of long time suppressed frustration, anger, helplessness and not lending support to them by their senior officers.
If we see this situation in organisational perspective, following can be the learning lessons:
1- When there are signals of even small conflict between two class(management and employees or two groups of employees), Top people responsible for running the business should take it seriously and make all serious efforts to diffuse/resolve the issue quickly before it goes out of hands. In this case it appears that neither advocates’ senior representatives nor senior police officials took it seriously, made no efforts at initial level to diffuse the situation rather proceeded to act against each other to demonstrate their power resulting into loss of public property, arson and vandalism etc.
2- Bosses of both classes should act with maturity in such difficult situation to contain the anger and animosity and avoid making statements which may flare up the situation. In organisations sometimes middle managers or employees deteriorate the situation by making irresponsible/loose comments/abusive language against each other and ultimately organisation pays the cost in terms of labour unrest/ Industrial relations crisis.
3- The incident of police coming on street is not the sudden outcome of this single incident of assault on them by mob in court campus. It is culmination of long time frustration where police force was used by bosses, authorities, society and media as punching bags. Police force is also used by political bosses to meet their objectives. Nothing specific is done by their bosses to understand their mental health, tough working conditions, stress and strain they carry while discharging their duties. Suspending, transferring the officers, restricting the action on erring advocates, not meeting of police bosses to injured police personnel has further fueled the anger. When you see from advocates’ angle, the reputation of police is also not very good. There might be some long suppressed negative feelings among advocates against police behaviour and attitude towards them experienced while interacting with in police stations or courts which escalated the incident.
In organisations when tough working conditions prevail, inhuman treatment is given to employees by managers and a sense of injustice pours in due to impartial certain actions/decisions of senior management, employees anger comes out either in shape of protest, demonstration, dharna, or even violent actions. Management should not view such actions merely from the angle of discipline and a challenge to their authority, but also from the human angle as to what provoked them to resort to such unacceptable course of action. No one should wait fire to spread and then contain because they had only big fire brigades and not small fire extinguishers. What went wrong in past which resulted in disorderly behaviour and unrest- must be introspected by managers.
4- It was very unpleasant to notice that when Chief of police came in front and appealed the protesters to stop protesting and go back to their homes, it did not work; He had to hear the slogan “GO back”. It was complete leadership crisis and utter failure. It indicates that protestors had no faith and trust in their chief. Same happened with advocates. Their body seniors appealed all associations and advocates to withdraw advocates’ strike and return back to work and bring normalcy but advocates did not listen to their appeal.
In organisations, it also happens. When employees protest and demonstrate, many managers don’t even find courage to go in front of them and initiate discussions, because they know that they will not be accepted/ honoured by them as trust worthy person/leader. An acceptance crisis remains there. Leaders/ managers who deal with employee relations should work hard on building their trust and respect among employees. They should not behave like an authority or employer agent but also employees’ champion to raise their genuine grievances and help them resolve. Leader has to be protector of his subordinates. He cannot enjoy the right of canning them without bearing the responsibility of taking care of their well being.
Next time when you see even small indications of conflicts or hot exchange between any two persons or group in organisation, don’t pass it under carpet and avoid. Wake up, take notice, go to the roots of cause, remove that, deliver justice in a well demonstrating manner and keep a watch on follow up action. Ensure that it worked.
Business Manager -HR Magazine
B-138, Ambedkar Nagar, Alwar - 301001 (Raj.) India http://www.businessmanager.in From India, Delhi
Your article is a graphic and unbiased presentation of the unfortunate incident of violence between two groups of the society viz., the police and the lawyers who have the primary official and professional responsibility of upholding the rule of law. It is all the more disturbing that the incident took place in a Court complex which the lawyers and the police personnel have to regularly visit.
The stand-off between the police and the lawyers isn't new. If we make a dispassionate analysis of any such incident, we can easily find out that lack of professional courtesy and emotional outburst are the basic reasons for the conflicts. Each one is always skeptical about the other. As for as the Police are concerned, though they have sufficient basic training of handling situations, the lower rung of officers and constables who have to frequent lawyers in Courts as well as at the police stations have to be advised by the superior officers to observe utmost courtesy in their transactions with the lawyers. Interestingly, we don't hear of any senior lawyer or any senior police officer getting involved in such unsavory incidents. Therefore, it is imperative on the part of senior counsels and Bar associations also to inculcate emotional intelligence in the minds of junior lawyers to avoid unnecessary confrontations with police.
Coming to your observation about the uneven handling of the unfortunate situation by the Delhi Administration that culminated in dragging the policemen to the streets with their families, it reminds me of the succinct remarks of Mangal Pandey prior to the Sepoy Mutiny in 1857 " If you don't redress the grievance of the sepoy, the sepoy knows how to redress himself ". Court premises is a public place where everyone has to behave properly.
Your analogy of such a conflict situation in industry is very apt deserving appreciation. The occasional blips prior to such a situation should be well taken by an effective manager as a preemptive measure and when that too fails, he has to be very firm with moral conviction.
From India, Salem
Dear Anil, Your analysis of the situation and suggestion are really pragmatic. Our community should be alive to the situation since inception and handle it tactfully. S.K.Johri
From India, Delhi
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