Human Resource Management – Case – PROMOTING THE PROTÉGÉ


The die was cast.  Prem Nath Divan, executive chairman of Vertigo, the country’s largest engineering project organization, decided to switch tracks for a career in academics.  Divan was still six years short of the company’s retirement age of 65.  His premature exit was bound to create a flutter at the Vertigo board.  Having joined Vertigo as a management trainee soon after college, he had gradually risen through the hierarchy to take a board position as the marketing director of the firm at 32.  He had become the president five years later and the youngest chairman of the company at 45.  But, by the time he was 50, the whizkid had acquired a larger than life image of a role model for younger managers and a statesman who symbolized the best and brightest face of Indian management.

          On his wife’s suggestion that it would be wise to discuss the move with one of his trusted colleagues before making a formal announcement of his intention to seek premature retirement, Divan called on Ramcharan Saxena, a solicitor who has been on the Vertigo board for over a decade.  Sexena was surprised at Divan’s plan.  But he was unfazed.  “If that is what you want to do for the rest of your life, we can only wish you well”, he told him.  “The board will miss you. But the business should go on.  We should get down to the task of choosing a successor.  The sooner it is done, the better.

          “I think the choice is quite obvious, “said Divan, “Ranjan Warrior. He is good and …” Divan was taken aback to see Saxena grimace.  “You don’t have anything against him, do you?” he asks him. “No, no,” said Saxena, “He is good.  A financial strategist and a visionary.  His conceptual skills have served the company well.  But he has always had staff role with no line experience.  What we need is someone from operations.  Like Richard Crasta.”

          “Richard known things inside out alright”, said Divan, “But he is just a doer.  Not fire in the belly.  Vertigo needs someone who understands the value of power and known how to use it.  Like me.  Like Ranjan.”

          “That is just the problem, “said Saxena. “Prem, let me tell you something. Ranjan is a man in your own image. Everyone known that he is your protégé.  And are never popular.  He has generated a lot of resentment among senior Veritigo executives and there would be a revolt if he were to succeed you.  An exodus is something we can’t afford to have on our hands.  We should think of someone else in the interest of stability to top management.” Divan could not believe what he heard.  He had always prided himself on his hands – on style and thought he had his ear to the ground. “How could I lose touch?”  he wondered, somewhat shaken.

          “When you are the boss, people accept your authority without question,” continued Saxena. “In any case, you have been successful at Vertigo and it is difficult to argue with success.  But the moment you announce your intention to leave, the aura begins to fade away.  And in deciding on your successor, the board will seek your opinion, with due regard to your judgment.  The board member must do what in their view is right for the company.  Having said that, may I also mention that if there is a showdown in the boardroom, you could always choose to stay on ? We would like it.  Or we could bring in an outsider.”

          “I have finalized my career plans and there is no question of staying on beyond six months from now,” said Divan.  “The board is scheduled to meet next month.  Let us shelve the matter till then.  In the meantime, I rely on you, Ram, to keep this discussion between the two of us.”

          “Of course yes,” said Saxena.

          On his way home, Divan thought about the matter in detail.  Bringing an outsider would undo all his life’s work at Vertigo.  There were considerations like cuture and compatibility which were paramount.  The chairman had to be an inside man.  “Richard lacks stature, “Divan said to himself. “Ranjan is the one I have been grooming, but heavens, the flip side of it all had missed me completely.  There is no way I can allow a split at the top just before I quit.  I must leave on a high note in my own interest.  I must find a way out of he imminent mess.”


1.        What should Divan do?


Manjula Srivastav had been head of marketing for the last four years at Blue Chips, a computer products firm.  The company’s turnover had increased by two – and a half times during the period and its market share in a number of precuts had also moved up marginally.  What was creditable was that all this had happened in an environment in which computer prices had been crashing.

          Although she had a talent for striking an instant report with people – particularly with the company’s dealers – Srivastav often found herself battling against odds, as she perceived it, as far as her relationships with her subordinates and peers in the company were concerned.  Srivastav had to fight male prejudice all the way.  She found it unfair that she had to prove herself regularly at work and she used to make her displeasure on that score quite obvious to everyone.

          Six months ago, Blue Chips had been taken over by an industrial group which had a diversity of business interests and was, more importantly, flush with funds.  The change of ownership had led to a replacement of the managing director, but it had not affected the existing core management team.  Anand Prakash, the new managing director, had his priorities clear.  “Blue Chips will go international,” he had declared in the first executive committee meeting, “and exports will be our first concern.”

          Prakash had also brought in Harish Naik as his executive assistant with special responsibility for exports. Naik had been seconded to Srivastav for five weeks as a part of a familiarization programme.  Much to her surprise, he had been appointed, within two months, as the vice president (exports), with compensation and perks higher than her own.  Srivastav had made a formal protest to Prakash who had assured her that he was aware of her good work in the company and that she would have an appropriate role once the restructuring plan he was already working on would by put into effect.

          One morning, as she entered the office and switched on her workstation, a message flashed on her screen.  It was from Prakash. “Want to see you sometime today regarding restructuring.  Will 2.30 be convenient?” It went.

          Later at his office, Prakash had come straight to the point.  He wanted to create a new post called general manager (public affairs) in the company. “With your excellent background in customer relations and connections with the dealer network, you are the ideal material for the job,” he said, “and I am offering it to you.” Srivastav was quick to react.  “There is very little I can contribute in that kind of job,” she said.  “I was in fact expecting to be promoted as vice president (home marketing).” Prakash said that the entire gamut of marketing functions would be looked after by Naik who would have boardroom responsibility for both domestic and export sales.  “If you continue in marketing, you will have to be reporting to Naik which I thought may not be fair to you.  In any case, we need someone who is strong in marketing to handle public affairs.  Let me assure you that the new post I am offering will in no way diminish your importance in the company.  You will in fact be reporting to me directly.”

          “You are being unfair and your are diminishing my importance in the company,” reported Srivastav. “You know that I am a hardcore marketing professional and you also know I am the best.  Why then am I being deprived of a rightful promotion in marketing? Tell me,” she asked pointedly, “would you have done this to a male colleague?”

          “That is a hypothetical question,” said Prakash.  “But I can’t think of any other slot for you in the restructuring plan I want to implement except what I am offering.”

          “If the reason why you are asking me to handle this fancy public affairs business of yours,” said Srivastav, “is that you can’t think of any other slot for me, then I would have second thoughts about continuing to work for this company.”

          “May I reiterate,” Said Prakash, “that I value your role and its is precisely because of this that I am delegating to you the work I have been personally handling so far? May I also state that I am upgrading the job not only because it is important but also because it should match your existing stature in the organization?”

          “I need to think about this.  I will let you know tomorrow,” said Srivastav and left the office.

            What should she do?


          Dinesh, a machine operator, worked as a mechanist for Ganesh, the supervisor.  Ganesh told Dinesh to pick up some trash that had fallen from Dinesh’s work area, and Dinesh replied, “I won’t do the janitor’s work.”

          Ganesh replied, “When you drop it, you pick it up”.  Dinesh became angry and abusive, calling Ganesh a number of names in a loud voice and refusing to pick up the trash.  All employees in the department heard Dinesh’s comments.

          Ganesh had been trying for two weeks to get his employees to pick up trash in order to have cleaner workplace and prevent accidents.  He talked to all employees in a weekly departmental meeting and to each employee individually at least once.  He stated that he was following the instructions of the general manager.  The only objection came from Dinesh.

          Dinesh has been with the company for five years, and in this department for six months. Ganesh had spoken to him twice about excessive alcoholism, but otherwise his record was good.  He was known to have quick temper.

          This outburst by Dinesh hurt Ganesh badly.  Ganesh told Dinesh to come to the office and suspended him for one day for insubordination and abusive language to a supervisor.   The decision was within company policy, and similar behaviors had been punished in other departments.

          After Dinesh left Ganesh’s office, Ganesh phoned the HR manager, reported what he had done, and said that he was sending a copy of the suspension order for Dinesh’s file.


1.         How would you rate Dinesh’s behaviour?  What method of           appraisal       would you use?

2.         Do you assess any training needs of employees?  If yes, what     inputs should be embodied in the training programme?


          Jagannath (Jaggu to his friends) is an over ambitious young man.  For him ends justify means. 

          With a diploma in engineering.  Jaggu joined, in 1977, a Bangalore-based company as a Technical Assistant.  He got himself enrolled as a student in an evening college and obtained his degree in engineering in 1982.  Recognizing as Engineer-Sales in 1984.

          Jaggu excelled himself in the new role and became the blue-eyed boy of the management.  Promotions came to him in quick succession.  He was made Manager-Sales in 1986 and Senior Manager-Marketing in 1988.

          Jaggu did not forget his academic pursuits.  After being promoted as Engineer-Sales, he joined an MBA (part-time) programme.  After completing MBA, Jaggu became a Ph.D. scholar and obtained his doctoral degree in 1989.

          Functioning as Senior Manger-Marketing, Jaggu eyed on things beyond his jurisdiction.  He started complaining against Suresh the Section Head and Prahalad the Unit Chief (both production) with Ravi, the EVP (Executive – Vice President).  The complaints included delay in executing orders, poor quality and customer rejections.  Most of the complaints were concocted.

          Ravi was convinced and requested Jaggu to head the production section so that things could be straightened up there.  Jaggu became the Section head and Suresh was shifted to sales.

          Jaggu started spreading his wings.  He prevailed upon Ravi and got sales and quality under his control, in addition to production.  Suresh, an equal in status, was now subordinated to Jaggu.  Success had gone to Jaggu’s head.  He had everything going in his favor-position, power, money, and qualification.  He divided workers and used them as pawns.  He ignored Prahalad and established direct link with Ravi. Unable to bear the humiliation, Prahalad quit the company.  Jaggu was promoted as General Manager.  He became a megalomaniac.

          Things had to end at some point.  It happened in Jaggu’s life too.  There were complaints against him.  He had inducted his brother – in – law, Ganesh, as an engineer.  Ganesh was by nature corrupt. He stole copper worth Rs. 5 lakh and was suspended.  Jaggu tried to defend Ganesh but failed in his effort.  Corruption charges were also leveled against Jaggu who was reported to have made nearly Rs. 20 lakh for himself.

          On the new-year day of 1993, Jaggu was reverted back to his old position- sales.  Suresh was promoted and was asked to head production. Roles got reversed.  Suresh became boss to Jaggu.

          Unable to swallow the insult, Jaggu put in his papers.

          Back home, Jaggu started his own consultancy claiming himself as an authority in quality management. He poached on his previous company and picked up two best brains in quality.

          Fro 1977 to 1993, Jaggu’s career graph had a steep rise and a sudden fall.  Whether there would be another hump in the curve is a big question.


1.         Bring out the principles of promotion that were employed in       promoting     Jaggu.

2.         What would you do if you were (i) Suresh, (ii) Prahalad or (iii) Ravi?

3.         Bring out the ethical issues involved in Jaggu’s behaviour.