In the case study, the conflict revolves around a food processing company that had recently handled an accident involving bangles—a woman had caught her bracelets in a machine and cut her wrist. In order to prevent future accidents, the Safety Committee chose to ban bangles. The need for change is evident. In the case study, those who institute the ban and encourage it are presumably white men who seemingly have no consideration for the meaning behind the bangles and only appear to focus on preventing accidents and promoting efficiency. Being that chapter 11 entirely revolves around developing leadership diversity, the weakness of the company is obvious: they lack compassion, understanding, and diversity within the company itself. While there are certainly changing attitudes towards diversity in the world itself, the corporate standard appears to be lagging behind. Avoiding ethnocentrism is essential to producing an inclusive and safe work environment where concerns, much like the women’s bangles, can be raised without fear of reprisal or disregard.
Perhaps the most uncomfortable thing about the case study is Bill Evans’ frustration with Leela Patel’s unwillingness to remove her bangles, especially after she explained their significance. Even after Patel explained why she should still be able to wear the bangle, Evans simply ignored her and responded with a disconcertingly condescending tone, as if her request was childish and she had no business making such a statement. Even more concerning is that plant manager Sam Jones seems unwilling to discuss the merits of the ban and merely suggests it is commonsense. When there is a possibility of discussing this with an organization called the Asian Advisory Committee, he is worried that they will simply be aggressive, so he is stuck between meeting with them and losing efficacy in the work. This unwillingness to communicate truly encapsulates the necessity of change in the company culture, particularly when the situation involves the less-socially-advantaged. The lack of diversity for this company prevents them from having meaningful dialogue with their employees.
The company abused its power in that they did not respect other cultural values. Business ethics are critical to a multicultural workforce. Essentially, the lack of nuance and sensitivity in this approach was very upsetting to Indian employees for religious and cultural reasons. The brutishness of this attitude is ultimately its downfall. Healthy power relies on others to understand and practice empathy. While the company considered it a simple ban for safety reasons, they did not take into account that there are a variety of complex and personal reasons for which the bangles are worn. In this case, the employers and employees may have been accustomed to high power distance.
Thus, management expected the employees to accept the ban as they exerted their power. On the other hand, the employees used a subtle form of power by replacing their bracelets. Nevertheless, it is clear from the case study that the company was very much lacking in leadership diversity, which weakened their ability to communicate effectively the reasons behind the ban on their Indian and Asian employees. Had there been a voice that spoke out in defense of the bangles, or at least demonstrated the cultural meaning, the approach is taken to prevent accidents might have been more understanding and tailored to an inclusive approach as opposed to a traditionally male-dominated environment.
While the power belongs to the company, management abused it in the sense that they did not think to discuss this with their employees who believed and shared in cultural or religious differences. The ban itself denies the women the agency to discuss with their employers their reasons for opposing it. Behind the Safety Committee’s choice, there seems to be no effort whatsoever to find validity in the women’s rationale. Essentially, instead of ‘ordering’ their employees to do something that may have some sort of backlash, it would be more effective to discuss and maybe find a compromise for something that is so integral to their personhood.
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