A situation that happened with me.. let's say - there is a boss and he has 2 subordinates A and B
A: comes late but is very efficient in his work
B: always comes in time but is dumb (less efficient)

One day B comes 1 hour late so the boss asks him to hand in an application for half day if not then action will be taken against him. But B retorts that this rule doesn't apply in general to anyone and especially to Mr. A so, I'll not submit the application.

Q1. Do you think the boss is wrong in handling the situation? If you were the boss how would you've handled it?
Q2. Was B correct in his approach? If you were B what approach would you've taken?
Q3. What suggestions and approaches do you have for this company and its management?

From India, New Delhi
Dear Nehakriti,

The replies to your questions are as below:

Q1. Do you think the boss is wrong in handling the situation? If you were the boss how would you've handled it?

Reply: - Yes, the boss is wrong in handling the situation. He has violated the principle of equality. The rules of punctuality should be equal to all. There cannot be a trade-off between good performance and punctuality. Secondly, if employee B was not so efficient, then what efforts did the manager take to elevate the performance?

Q2. Was B correct in his approach? If you were B what approach would you've taken?

Reply: - Employee B could have been a little moderate. He could have given an application, however, raised the grievance later. Otherwise, he may not have retaliated upfront. Before submitting an application, he could have raised the grievance and left the matter to the discretion of the senior management. His open defiance could weaken his case.

Q3. What suggestions and approaches do you have for this company and its management?

Reply: - This could be a failure of the HR Department. If employee A had been coming late, then why was it not noticed by the HR professionals? If it was noticed, then why was he not called to the HR department and asked for an explanation? Why was the persistent late-coming not reported to the competent authorities? For a while let us believe that the HR department was laid back and official information was not given to the competent authority. However, the senior management was also laid back. Why hasn't nobody checked the attendance records? Why was the late-coming not noticed by them? Why was the manager of a latecomer not questioned? The top management is expected to keep an ear to the ground. It appears that this has not happened.

Final comments: - Such situations are common in homes or offices. A child with good academic performance is pampered and a child with not-so-good performance is neglected. In organisations, the wayward behaviour of star performers is overlooked. However, it sets a wrong trend in the company. That is why Chris Argyris has compared discipline with a hot stove. If touched, the hot stove gives burn to one and all. It does not discriminate amongst people. We should adopt the same principle while running an organisation. Though implementing the principle of equality is difficult, that is what leadership is!


Dinesh Divekar

From India, Bangalore
I agree with Mr.Dinesh; Rules of discipline shall be the same to all.
Efficiency is always relative whereas discipline is absolute. Therefore, disciplining lapses should be always objective. It is quite natural on the part of a usually punctual employee when pulled up excessively for an occasional lapse to retort like that.

It is better to leave this as it is without precipitating. May be the boss's suppressed thoughts about the inefficiency of B found its vent through the particular late coming. Certainly it cannot be a proper approach. Any way, the boss and the employee B, both were emotional rather than rational on this incident which could have been simply ignored.

From India, Salem

This looks like a textbook situation, is it a caselet given for answering ? For one instance of coming late by an hour, half day leave application is not sought generally, at best only a sort of mild reprimand is given.
You can reply using the 'Hot Stove'Rule pointed out by Umakanthan Sir.

From India, Mumbai
Dear colleague,

This is text bookish , black and white , hypothetical case of obvious discrimination.

The case , therefore , does not deserve any elaborate comments.


Vinayak Nagarkar
HR and Employee Relations Consultant

From India, Mumbai
Dear member,

The cases of unequal treatment are not new. Instances of these types happen everywhere. The instance that you have quoted is a minor case of inequality. Those who have better exposure will confirm that the worst kind of discrimination has taken place, and it could repeat in the future too.

However, two things were missed out on in my previous reply. Hence, these are my supplementary comments to the previous post.

a) If the subordinate reports late for the duties, then the functional head can very well write to the HR for the late coming. However, in this case, he/she is ordering the subordinate to submit a leave application for the half-day. If the leave application is not submitted, then he threatens that disciplinary action will be taken. Does this mean that the power to penalise is also vested with the functional head or a manager? If the functional heads are empowered to take punitive actions, then what is the role of the HR Department or even the top management? Punitive powers are always with the third party which is expected to act neutrally. Probably the managers, in this case, are police and a judge too!

b) The cause of the instance of unequal treatment to the employees could be the non-promulgation of the organisational values. Many MNCs do not just stop at framing the vision and mission statement but explicitly declare the values that the company follows. Each manager is expected to live with the values of the company. If the action or decision contradicts, any employee can raise the matter. In fact, in a few MNCs, a whistleblower is also nominated who can take up the matter of the violation of the values with the top management. In the organised companies, a subject of the values is discussed right during the induction training itself. The newly joined employees are not just told the list of the values, but given examples of how the managers have lived with those values in the past. A value-based company administration fosters harmony and a sense of justice in the mind of each staff member. This, in turn, naturally lays the foundation for employee engagement.


Dinesh Divekar

From India, Bangalore

I have gone through all the comments. First in question it is presumed only two employees and there is comparison in only 2 employees. In small company no hr department is there. In large organization there is electronic system of attendance is there hence hr department know automatically about the incoming and outgoing of any employee.
In the question it is admitted one is efficient and another is dump. We are human beings drive with emotions. Hence it can be possible that boss is giving leverage to efficient employee.
All are talking about equality, I agree there should be equality at the same time employee should also think about his/her performance. Everybody talk about right but not about their responsibilities.

From India, New Delhi
Dear Anonymous,

I wish you had expressed your views without a cloak of anonymity. Anyway, my rejoinder to your views is as below.

In the first paragraph, you have written about the difference between small and big companies. However, the originator of the post has not written about the employee count. However, the rules of the company's administration do not differ. Whether small or big, these remain the same.

In the second paragraph, you have justified the boss giving leverage to one of the employees for being efficient. I have written in my first post that come what may, there cannot be a trade-off between good performance and late reporting. In boss-driven smaller companies, the top boss may allow this mutation of a sound management practice, however, they will have to pay the price of instituting the practice of inequality.

The top-notch IT companies do not have strict reporting timings. However, each employee, whether supersmart or a "dump", has to log 8 or 9 hours of duty hours. Just because someone is too smart, concession in the number of hours is never given.

By the way, you may quote an example of any branded company wherein concession of late reporting is given to an employee for having excellent performance. The definition of excellence in performance is exceeding deliverables in spite of adhering to the service conditions that are common to all. Nothing great about just meeting the basic service conditions.

Now about the last paragraph. Come what may, there cannot be any justification for the subpar performance. Nevertheless, two things emerge here. If the employee has a poor performance, then it is a recruitment failure, at least partially, if not fully. Therefore, the buck again stops at the company and not with the company. Secondly, if the subordinate has poor performance, then what efforts did the reporting manager take to improve the performance? Imposing strict conditions of punctuality is not a solution.

Now coming to the rights and responsibilities. Both the employees are responsible for maintaining punctuality and performance. An artificial balance was created by the reporting manager out of the imbalance between these two factors. However, no organisation can grow on the foundation of artificiality. A condition of naturalness is fundamental.


Dinesh Divekar

From India, Bangalore
I would like to say in this case that the problem is not of coming late, but the problem is that another person is late, then why is no action taken? When you will avoid such questions then probably you will not have this kind of problem. If you are talking about coming late for your hours, then you should talk to your officer for that.
You will get to see this kind of trouble in life often, it does not mean that you will always be upset.

From India, Rudarpur

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