Being just and fair: IIMA Director at 56th Annual Convocation

The Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA), the country’s most premium management institute of global stature, held its 56th annual convocation, which was also its first virtual convocation.

The ceremony saw students gain an in-depth perception of loyalty and its multifaceted elements followed in groups, organisations, industries and even armies.

Sharing the reflections from his rich life experiences, Prof. Errol D’Souza, Director, IIMA used the forum to educate the virtual gathering of young aspiring management executives the true meaning of the term ‘loyalty’. He introduced them to the extremes of this strong emotion, which was capable of bringing immense good to society and was equally capable of causing mayhem, when followed blindly.

He urged the future leaders, who were set to claim the corporate world and experience new cultures, not to delve deep into various constructs of an organisation, which could drift them away from their rational outlook, required to differentiate between right and wrong, ethical and unethical. D’Souza emphasised on the need for his students to find ethical grounds to base their morals upon, as in the end it all boils down to ‘being just and fair’. While recalling his personal and general life experiences, he asked his students, who were soon to be tangled into the mire of bigger organisational groups, to always choose right and just path based on their moral radar, irrespective of the rules set by the institution.

He said, “The bonds of loyalty to an organisation or group makes demands on persons to support each other in every way. Identity cues in the workplace often help employees define and make sense of who they are and if they come to believe that there is congruence between their values and those of the organisation, they develop a strong sense of identity and experience pride to be a part of the organisation. Organisations that demonstrate positive treatment towards their employees often have personnel who manifest high levels of commitment and emotional attachment to their workplace. Both identification with an organisation and high commitment foster loyalty and organisations that nurture loyalty tends to have affiliated values such as honesty and benevolence. Their employees demonstrate good citizenship behaviour and a strong inclination to help others i the organisation. Loyalty activates moral traits which motivates people to behave ethically.”

Various instances across sectors have seen how loyalty to an organisation or a group has resulted in malpractices, that have not only dampened the reputation of the individuals involved but also questioned the vision and mission laid out by the organisation. Adding to this, he further elaborated that doing what was fair could often come in conflict with showing loyalty and gave examples from different industries justifying his belief.

He said, “There are instances where we experience the dark side of loyalty when those who are loyal to an organization act unethically mainly for the benefit of their in-groups. We have many instances of such deviant behavior. Accountants often misrepresent firm performance for the benefit of shareholders and clients. Or the corporate elite may collude and engage in fraud. In sports too we have witnessed unsportsmanlike conduct as widespread doping programs have been uncovered in running, soccer, professional baseball and cycling. In the military and police force there are many instances of loyalty fostering cultures of crime by demanding members silence to others ‘transgressions which have sometimes involved the physical abuse of local civilian populations during a deployment. These examples force the realization that when we have salient group affiliations, we are more willing to forgive bad behavior and group identification can result in unethical action and out-group hostility.

Even as loyalty engenders a culture of good networks within the company, if taken too far can discourage whistleblowing and encourage collusion in any wrongdoing – or at the very least strategic silence. He stressed on how we need to build an environment where people feel free to offer suggestions and opinions without the fear of being ridiculed or penalised and how it was a much-need requirement of our current social and political spheres. He said,” For organisations to survive turbulence they require agents who feel free to speak up and offer suggestions without those actions being seen as threats. There are benefits to loyalty as it relates to benevolence and good citizenship behaviour. At the same time as we have seen it blinds us to disquieting truths. If we want to avoid situations where people just go along with the crowd and do not act on behalf of the organisation regardless of the cost, we need people to be just and fair. Being just requires us t prioritise that we safeguard ourselves and the organisations we are part of against the worst possible outcomes.”

In today’s world it has become extremely important for young professionals, seeking to climb the ladder of success, to differentiate between loyalty to an organisation and being ethical with a conscience in order to promote the greater good of humanity.