Canteen services debacle:
This ugly incidence remains carved in my memory for multiple reasons. It was a result of national level trade unions having given a call for strike across the nation. The union sponsored by the party in power obviously was interested in establishing their strength by ensuring that the production in all units remains unaffected. The government also had instructed managements to do what ever can be done to maintain production continuity. Management appealed for continued operation of plants. The appeal to employees including supervisory personnel was taken a bit too seriously and representatives of the groups not joining the strike demanded facilities above normal levels. I was then responsible for Canteen services besides other administrative ones. The contractor’s employees providing canteen services were members of striking union.
On demand from the Leadership of Union which had not joined strike, and Supervisory personnel, it was decided that evening meal services should be augmented in terms of both quantity and quality. I had recommended not to do so, since strength of canteen workers also would be depleted. But the decision was there to implement.
Knowing my views Head of Administration involved him self fully and made contractor agree to providing food items which are normally difficult to be prepared in an industrial canteen. Why should he not? He was also expecting his pound of flesh.
Add to this decision it was also decided, obviously on recommendations of some groups, that the services should be free. As it is employees were paying a token mount for meals coupons. The system was more for getting advance intimation for quantity to be produced. Free service meant no such support. I opposed the proposal and went to the extent of mentioning that if that is going to be the decision, count me as on leave. I was convinced the decision shall have disastrous effect. As a solution Time offices were advised to collect requisitions and pass on the same to canteen administration.
Normally evening services started around 6:30 PM. On that fateful day requisitions were being received till 7:00 PM.
Administration boss, who was so supportive came to my office along with Engineering counterpart and they checked the quality of food being prepared and were happy with the same. Little knowing that superior quality would have cascading effect on quantity requirement, more so because of being free. Both the gentlemen were planning about next day’s services. I cautioned them and requested to take any decision only after experiencing what happens during evening meal service.
Canteen could not serve half the requirement by normal time. Meals were being served till much after second shift end time of 10:00 PM. Union and Supervisory group leaders made frantic calls to Directors and ultimately succeeded in summoning them to plant to placate the furious leaders in plants.
That was shameful failure on my part. I reached home around 1:00 AM after the condition normalized it self.
Next day morning when I reached canteen, what I see is friends from Corporate office, including the Executive Director and my very dear friends, were already there to support canteen in general and me in particular. They were there not because they were asked to be there, but they genuinely felt like helping me knowing my weaknesses.
Post lunch that day, I submitted a note to management outlining what happened and accepted failure to perform, identifying lack of my commitment to decisions taken, as possible reason. My immediate boss must have agreed with my submission. However, on that note CEO wrote, I can not quote, but it meant, “he is a sensitive person and needs to be supported” and that was all.
I recall the gentleman to whom i reported later, another fatherly figure to me, whom I consider as my mentor, used to advise me, and he had to do this repeatedly, that one must develop “Sakshibhav” when it comes to decision making and later implementing. In the process of making decision, he would advise, one must objectively state his considered views, but when superior wisdom has taken a decision, one must implement without questioning. His advise would be “do not get attached to your views” and accept superior wisdom.