On Corruption and TCS

On Corruption and TCS

“Oh, You too TCS? That seems to be the tone of people’s response on reading the TCS story” I waved the newspaper carrying the ‘corruption in TCS’ story to Lulu, my parrot.

“People held TCS in high regard. They must have felt sad, bad and mad” Lulu nodded in agreement and moved closer. “Big companies are not corruption free, most of them have corruption in some way”

“Wow! That’s shocking. Are you saying all big companies have corruption in some form? That’s a big allegation. Why don’t we see any news reports?”

“Ha, ha! It all depends on what corruption is in your eyes. Look at this is a well-accepted definition of corruption. ‘The abuse or misuse of power or trust for self-interested purposes rather than the purposes for which power or trust was given.’

“Fits well. It will cover many actions. Even using contract labour for running personal errands is corruption by this definition, and it is not uncommon.”

“Yes, many activities will get covered.”

Lulu, My Parrot

“I always wonder how all seem to know about a corrupt employee and nobody really raises voice.”

“Well, what starts as a deviant act gets institutionalized.” Lulu was now perched on my laptop. Somehow a corrupt decision or act becomes a part of the process.”

“I see.”

“So familiar vendor, often an ex-employee, does a great job of providing services. He is now a vendor. The employee or a manager begins to over-rely on the vendor. The vendor returns favour in a personal way. For instance, the vendor arranges cars for the manager’s daughter’s wedding and pays for it; he declines to accept the payment from the manager, saying ‘Oh we have been friends so long!”

“And from there ethics is on a slippery route. Falling for small temptation is the first step. Tweaking a process will be the next step.”

“Because the vendor keeps providing good services, there is a sanctity to the manager’s decisions. In some way, such a vendor contributes to the manager’s success.”

“And his juniors follow the instructions of the manager. Many such junior employees see their role as ‘follow the instructions.’ So, they never discover the corrupt ways.”

“You said it. I know of one company where the new Purchase Head asked all suppliers dealing with the company for over three years to submit fresh quotes, and he invited other suppliers from market to submit quotes too. It caused panic.”

“Ha, ha! I can see what must have happened. The inflated prices of the regular suppliers would have been brought down by the new suppliers quoting lower rates. They were not incurring any ‘add-on’ charges, right?”

“Absolutely! And the TCS imbroglio tells us two stories which seem to have skipped your attention.”

“What’s that? They have already told that they sacked a bunch of guys.”

“It is about transparency. They made a clean breast of it. Once you accept that every organization will have, or likely to have corruption in some form, the best way to handle it is to be brutally frank about it. It keeps the credibility of the organization intact.”

“People are calling TCS a corrupt organization”

“That’s a leap of generalization. And that’s the second point. One incidence of corruption does not make it a corrupt organization. The real issue is how TCS dealt with it.”

“Got it.”

“Wrong doers are not afraid of losing source of ‘additional income’ but almost all of them fear loss of reputation. They lose friends, relatives distance themselves from such guys, they have to go in oblivion for a long time and they have no defenders.”

“Except perhaps their wives who would claim that they were victims of office politics! Tell me, every organization is declaring its ‘values’ and championing them. Why then we do not have corruption free organizations?”

“No way”

“Oh, is there a way to spot corruption early?”

“Yes, of course. Every employee wants to work for a corruption free organization”

“Now, what’s that?”

“Listen to employees. Listen to them directly. Don’t preach values, just listen to them. Everyone wants to practice good values, but something comes in the way. Imagine a CEO listening to every set of employees in a meeting without the presence of their supervisors, he will come to know what ails his organization.”

“Isn’t that spying?”

“No. A CEO’s job is to empower the lowest level of employees, and he is not there to extract wrongdoer’s information. His role is not to spy. His role is to remove inefficiencies. The CEO’s role is to help good employees be above suspicion. And he need not ask for information on their superiors. That’s wrong. But he must create an atmosphere where any employee can have CEO’s ears. By holding such meetings he keeps the channels open. Wrongdoers are always afraid of people who have access to the CEO.”

“Ok. OK. Why do managers turn Nelson’s eye to their employees who are ‘under the cloud?’”

“That’s because such employees are usually very efficient. A manager’s success depends on his juniors’ success. And managers bask in the glory of their achievements.”

“I get your point”

“That is why audits and process audits are important, but there is no substitute to alertness which comes with access of all employees to the CEO.”

“Got it.”

“Perhaps that is the blemish on the CEO of TCS. He was not in touch with his employees. For an organization which employs lakhs of people it may be difficult, not impossible, but it is certainly an imperative.”

Lulu always has a point of view. I wonder where the parrots are trained.

PS: Photo Courtesy Pixabay, Unsplash

Vivek S Patwardhan

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” / Read more Lulu blogs in my book ‘The Lulu Duologues’