Friday, August 31, 2012

Are Bank's Chief HR Masters, Culture Percolates Down From Top to Bottom

Public sector bank chiefs are not paragons of HR virtue
This article collected from Rediff .com

Human resource, or HR, development is one of the key portfolios that K C Chakrabarty handles as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) deputy governor. 

And there is no doubt that he has initiated sweeping administrative reforms to ensure fairness in transfers and postings in the central bank. 

He is also known for his outspokenness in an organisation that seems to specialise in a language that hides more than it reveals.
In the past, Chakrabarty has paid the price for his outspokenness. In August, 2010, he was stripped of most of his portfolios after his reported statements that interest rates should have been much higher and how RBI is not the real monetary policy-maker. 
The statements came shortly after the central bank's monetary policy announcement.
Chakrabarty got back his portfolios after five months as suddenly as he was stripped of them, but he seemed to have taken the temporary setback sportingly. 

When he was left with just three portfolios, journalists asked him to comment on RBI governor's views that public sector bank CMDs needed to be paid better. 

His reply was spontaneous and displayed his sense of humour: Do you want me to disagree so that I am not left with even the Rajbhasha department?
In that context, it was surprising that a man who was at the receiving end of public humiliation chose to mete out the same treatment to the chairman of the country's largest bank by saying he (Pratip Chaudhuri) should "find some other place" if he didn't agree with the country's regulatory environment and that RBI doesn't need to seek anybody's opinion for its decisions.
The person who controls the HR department in RBI should have at least learnt to keep his private emotions in check when he talks in public forums about the heads of the banks he is supposed to regulate.
This is indeed against basic HR rules that say you should first learn to respect the dignity of your colleagues. 

The regulator surely had many other ways of expressing his disapproval of the State Bank of India chairman's views on the abolition of the cash reserve ratio (CRR). 
Many, however, say the deputy governor's statements were only a sophisticated version of the treatment that chairmen of most public sector banks routinely dish out to their senior colleagues. 

Remember the example of the Mumbai zonal manager of Indian Bank who was suspended by the bank's chairman for his failure to extend "basic minimum courtesies"? 

His crime was that he kept the CMD waiting at the airport for over an hour since the keys got locked in when the luggage was being loaded into the car.
The general manager apologised for the incident and explained how he made alternative arrangements that included hiring a cab, arranging two sets of new dhotis and towels, organising a duplicate car key and delivering the CMD's luggage at the guest house by 1 a m.
But he was suspended nevertheless. The suspension was revoked only after media pressure, though the general manager was subsequently transferred.
There are many more examples of such high-handed treatment. In another case, the chairman of a public sector bank called an urgent meeting of regional heads who assembled dutifully at 10 a m but were kept waiting for over four hours only to be told that the boss wasn't in the mood to meet on that day
When they met the next day, the chairman called one of the general managers "impotent" and another an ass. The chairman may have run out of adjectives by then, since the third general manager was called a donkey. 

One doesn't know if the three gentlemen deserved such a description, but would such comments made at a public meeting at which quite a few juniors (deputy general managers and additional general managers) were present serve any purpose apart from demoralising the senior-most staff of the bank?
Then there is this sad case (reported by the media in the middle of this month) of M U Kini, a former Union Bank of India executive director, being slapped with a corruption charge by his chairman who accused him of making several improper advances worth a few crores of rupees.

 It was in 1986. The chairman didn't wait for the executive director's response and handed over the matter to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). 
It wasn't just a coincidence that Kini's file for appointment as chairman was pending for approval.
Kini, who has finally been cleared by the CBI of all the alleged crimes after 24 years, has now attributed the action of the chairman and his coterie to their desire to sabotage his promotional opportunities.
Senior public sector bank employees have many such "exemplary" HR stories to share.
One would have thought the RBI deputy governor, who was the chairman of two of the country's top state-run banks, will score better on this front.

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