often, for group discussions, a caselet is given on which the
candidates have to form their opinions and discuss it out. Different
people may have different solutions and viewpoints. This requires a
different approach, since a group discussion is on a particular topic
while a case is situational. Based on this, a student can learn the
methodology to tackle case studies.
CASE: You are the manager
of a nationalised bank in a busy area. The branch has done very good
business in the past but is now facing competition from private banks.
One day, an influential customer comes to get a demand draft made but
finds that the cashier is not on his seat. He waits for 10 minutes
after which he approaches you. You find the cashier and direct him to
attend to the customer. The cashier tells the customer that he would
have to wait another 10 minutes as he is doing an important piece of
work. At this, the customer loses his patience and there is an
altercation between the customer and the cashier. Angry, the customer
walks into your office and threatens to take his business elsewhere.
You pacify him.
Considering the fact that bank unions are very
strong and would immediately call for strike if you took any action
against the cashier, what would you do in the given situation?
I: This is a common situation faced by bank customers. Nationalised
banks have traditionally given poor service and employees have behaved
irresponsibly towards their customers. That is the reason that they are
losing customers after private banks have come in. I feel that the
cashier should not go unpunished. As bank manager, I would like to be
strong and suspend the cashier, since he has led to an important
customer withdrawing his business. It is true that I would have to face
the wrath of the unions but in the long term interest of the bank, it
is better to face the unions once than to live in fear of them. My
action would also send a message to other employees and set an example.
This is the only way that our branch can face up to the competition. We
have to provide good service. By going on strike, we may lose business
for a few days but in the long run, the bank would work more
efficiently. It is time we faced inefficient employees once and for
all, rather than live in dread of them. After all, the prime objective
of the bank is customer service and increasing business. If we cannot
do that, do we have a reason to exist?
Candidate II: I would
like to motivate the cashier and explain to him how his action has
affected the bank and one of our best customers. If he really withdraws
business from the bank, would it be beneficial to us? I think the
problem lies in motivation. If bank employees feel responsible for
their job and realise the importance of the work they are doing, they
will want to contribute to the branch. The solution thus lies in
motivation and guidance. I would try to find out what work the cashier
was doing at the time the customer came. Maybe he was doing something
which was not part of his duties, or maybe he needs some assistance,
which I will provide to him. I am sure he will appreciate my concern
and improve in the future.
Candidate III: Before knowing the
facts of the case, how can I take action? I would constitute an enquiry
committee to find out the facts. If the cashier was found to be doing
something which he shouldn't have been doing,. I would recommend his
immediate transfer or sacking. I would not take an arbitrary decision
like throwing him out or even try to motivate him, since bank employees
do not respond to such things. When I have the enquiry committee report
with me, I can decide about suitable action to be taken. Maybe the
cashier needs assistance or maybe he was at fault. In this way, I would
avoid a strike but send a message to other employees too that I was
serious about my job. An arbitrary decision would hurt my credibility
and also expose me to risk of union activity. Under the circumstances,
an enquiry would buy me time as also serve the purpose. It would also
be safe, as my subsequent action would not be criticised, since I was
going by the committee recommendations.
Candidate IV: I find
that there is nothing much I can do in this situation. Bank managers
have few powers over their employees and can neither motivate them nor
throw them out. We also have to realise that managers are not
responsible for the business of their banks. They have only temporary
tenure and promotions are based on length of service. I would thus try
to ensure that everything is peaceful during my tenure and no major
disruptions take place. My transfer may be due in a few years anyway,
so why should I rock the boat? By appointing committees or taking
action, I would be unnecessarily spoiling my relations with colleagues
and it would also spoil my reputation in the bank. So I would do
nothing. I would try to pacify the customer, but if he wants to take
the business elsewhere, let him. I would also pacify the cashier but
would not take action against him. Wisdom lies in maintaining the
status quo, not in rocking the boat. The case says that the bank is
nationalised, so that is important. We are not in the private sector
where we are responsible. We have to fulfil social responsibility.
Employees are important. Moreover, you cannot change the system. So my
advice is: do nothing. Just sit tight and wait for your transfer. Maybe
it will be to a better place.
We now have
different viewpoints, each quite different from the others. The first
is to take drastic action, the second to motivate the errant employee,
the third to appoint a committee and the fourth, to do nothing. Each
has its advantages, as explained. Clearly, there is no one answer or
the best solution. But when one makes any recommendation, one must see
what impact it will make on the selection panel.
response would show that the manager is tough and ruthless, brave and
daring. However, it would also show that he does not care about human
relations. The second shows that the manager is too concerned with
human qualities. He wants to motivate the employee, but that is a long
process. The message he would send that he is too soft and does not
care about the efficiency in the bank. The third response is to buy
time by appointing an enquiry committee. This would make practical
sense, though it would show that the manager is indecisive. The last
response is perhaps the most practical: given such situations a real
bank manager will probably ignore the whole episode. Each response,
thus, has its positive points but would send a negative signal too.
What would be the best response in this case?
must be understood that any case is a situation and a candidate is not
required to show his business acumen or insight. What is required is
that the candidate shows some leadership skills and is able to
articulate his ideas. We give below a method which would be the best
response in doing any case discussion.
The idea is that the
candidate must keep the initiative and is able to interject at several
points in the discussion. Do not give your viewpoint, no matter how
wise you think it is. When you advise a particular piece of action, you
immediately paint yourself in a corner from where you have to defend
your thoughts without the possibility of shifting your stand later on.
There is no point getting into an argument. The best way would be to
assume a leadership position and, without committing any course of
action, to guide the group. Help it arrive at a consensus. Agree or
disagree to others' viewpoints. After sufficient arguments have been
made, take your stand and agree with the group. Your role should be of
Here are the steps you can follow to achieve the above:
Describe the problem.
Ask for different viewpoints.
Identify possible solutions.
Discuss pros and cons of each alternative.
Select the best alternative and agree with it.
following this strategy, you can make a contribution to any case, even
if you do not know anything about it. Start by paraphrasing the case
and put in your words, explaining it to others. Stick to the facts
mentioned in the case. Having made your introduction, ask for the
opinion of others. Do not criticise anybody but help analyse the
alternatives. Bring in advantages and disadvantages of each
alternative. Having thrashed out all suggestions, help the group select
the best one. Agree with the group consensus and conclude, bringing in
all the points that were brought up in the case.
You can show
your leadership abilities through this strategy. The selection
committee would no doubt be impressed by your contribution as also the
fact that you are able to guide the group. This would thus be the
winning strategy to succeed in any case discussion.