Management Case Studies: Bribe Me

Bribe Me

The chief engineer Alan Abraham had been waiting outside the office of the minister, now almost for over two hours.

The energy minister was his boss’s boss. Normally his boss, the managing director would call on the minister in connection with the business of his organization. His organization was a state owned company. It was responsible for producing and distributing electricity (power) to the state. However, as the managing director was retiring and was on a long vacation prior to his retirement, Alan Abraham was acting in his place. Chief engineer was the senior most officer on the board after the managing director.

The energy minister Chunni Bhai was the supreme boss of all the power generating and distribution companies run by the government. He was awarded this technology portfolio because he was the only engineer among all the ministers of the government and that too an electrical engineer . It was another matter that he took some ten years instead of the regular four to graduate from the university. The university authorities got so fed up with his long stay with the university that finally they pushed him out as a successful engineer with the minimum pass marks. Rumor has it that even today he cannot tell you the difference between voltage, current and resistance or between a generator and a motor.

He had already started his political career as his engineering college’s student union’s president at a very young age. Soon he jumped into active politics of the country after his farewell from the university. So in a way he was a veteran politician and a dim-witted individual. Current democratic processes easily welcomed such people in the country’s parliament.

Many of the senior students, his own class-mates and even the juniors of his university had joined the state owned companies. Most of them were merit holders and brilliant engineers but they were his assistants now. And he used to take hell of a lot of pride and pleasure in treating them like pet dogs. He would give them appointment for meetings with him and then make them wait for hours outside his cabin. The chief engineer Alan Abraham was no exception.

When the energy minister was sure that he had made Alan Abraham wait for sufficient amount of time, he told his secretary on the intercom, “Send the Chief Engineer in.” Alan Abraham entered the minister’s cabin but Chunni Bhai did not offer him a seat. He liked his senior executives to stand while he sat.

Alan Abraham said, “You called me?”

Chunni Bhai affirmed using his grunt and body language. After a long pause he asked, “Abraham, do you remember how you had refused me to copy your answer sheets in the university examination? Now the time has come to refuse you the promotion you are entitled to. You are the senior most officer in the company and are the natural successor to the post of managing director. But I can stop it. Yet, let me tell you, I am not the one like you.”

Alan Abraham had worked all these years with the hope of becoming the managing director of the organization one day. He had even told his wife, “Now that managing director is retiring and I am the next in line, I will get that post as a matter of routine. We will soon celebrate our promotion.” He did not want any hurdle in his impending promotion. He did not wish to argue and annoy Chunni Bhai. Chunni Bhai had the formal powers to sign his promotion letter. So he played submissively and did not react.

Chunni Bhai easily won his first point over his intelligent and smart chief engineer. He then went on to his second move, “You see I am the king maker now. And I want to see you directly reporting to me as my subordinate. You can be my next managing director despite your nasty behavior with me in the college days. All you have to do is to pay me 5 crore rupees (one million dollars). My party needs the money for elections. Some money will flow to my party chief’s family. Of course I will keep some for my family too.”

Alan Abraham was stunned to hear this. Though he had heard from various sources that some ministers traded the promotions and transfers of the executives under them, he never could imagine the blatant way in which it was actually done. So far it was all hearsay, but today he was experiencing it. He thought to himself, “So what I had heard was true.”

He opened his mouth after a long silence, “How can I ever collect such a huge sum of money? My entire life’s savings are no where near this amount. And why should I pay? I am the senior most person in the organization and as per the rules I am entitled for the post of the managing director. You signature can only be a formality. Don’t you think you can do it easily without the money?”

Chunni Bhai laughed loudly as if he was highly amused by the chief engineer’s statements. He spoke with a hint of ridicule, “Oh, you are one of those few puritan types. I have heard about your clean image. So what I heard is true. Yet, my guess was you already might have amassed crores of rupees by now. After all you had been holding a higher post for quite sometime now; it was very easy for you. There is ample scope for earning the ‘under the table money’ in your setup. Every Tom, Dick and Harry is minting, god knows how much, money. But do not worry. I will make you the managing director and in your tenure of three years on this post you can still make tons of money. Only don’t get caught while making the extra buck. I normally allow full freedom to officers at your level. All I expect is the initial fee and then the occasional demands I will make on you from time to time. That’s all.”

Alan Abraham could not believe what he heard. He was literally frozen. He was in no position to utter a word.

The minister sensed Alan Abraham’s hesitation and so counseled him, “Well, I give you a week’s time. We have to fill in managing director’s position soon; its overdue already. So, bring in 5 crore rupees and I will issue your appointment letter. You are the senior most officer and I will prefer giving the post to you because it will not involve any twisting of the rules. But if you are unwilling to toe the line, I will appoint your colleague Das Babu as the next managing director. I had heard already about your clean image and therefore, I have already conferred with Das Babu in anticipation of your refusal to my proposal. Das Babu has accepted my proposal in toto. Das Babu is quite an understanding type and a willing horse. A clean gentleman. I like him.”

A week later every employee of the electricity generation and distribution company read the circular letter issued by the office of Chunni Bhai (the energy minister) with the following contents:

“Mr Alan Abraham, Chief Engineer, who has not been keeping good health for quite some time has proceeded on a long medical leave prior to his retirement from the Company. In view of this, Mr Das Babu, Additional Chief Engineer is being appointed as the Managing Director of the Company. All the employees of the organization are requested to extend their full support and cooperation to Mr Das Babu.”

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About Shyam Bhatawdekar

35 years’ industrial/business experience as a top executive & 35 years’ parallel academic/consultancy experience in general management, behavioral sciences & technology. Areas: general management, production, human resources, industrial engineering, systems, MIS, computers, corporate planning, audit, sales/marketing. Penchant for information technology & behavioral sciences; integrated with conventional technology makes him unique thought leader. Conversant with academic theories & realities of business, fuses the two into practical approaches. Was associated with Tata Motors, Hindustan Motors, Hindustan Aeronautics & ThyssenKrupp; held top positions as highflier executive. Presently Chairman & Managing Director, Prodcons Group associating with 250 organizations; providing management & I T consultations & conducting seminars/workshops. Been a faculty for IIM’s, TMTC, Railway & HAL Staff Colleges, Symbiosis. Speaker with 35000 hours’ experience benefitting more than 100,000 people. Published 35 articles in Economic Times, Indian Management & Computers Today. Authored 27 books. Invited as key speaker in seminars by AIMA, HRD Network, NIPM, QCFI, CSI, NPC. Widely traveled. Education: Engineering & Management.
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