Published in Corporate Dossier, ET, Oct. 21, 2011
Krishna brought the Parijata tree from Swarga, the paradise of the gods, and presented it to his wives: Rukmini and Satyabhama. Rukmini was Krishna’s poor wife who had eloped from her father’s house on Krishna’s chariot and had come to Dwarka with nothing except the clothes on her body. Satyabhama was Krishna’s affluent wife who had been given in marriage to Krishna by her extremely rich father Satrajit. She had entered Krishna’s house with a huge dowry. Satyabhama never lost an opportunity to dominate Krishna’s household with her wealth. So it was rather surprising that when Krishna presented the Parijata, Satyabhama insisted that it be planted in the garden of Rukmini. Everyone saw this as an act of graciousness, but Krishna divined Satyabhama’s intention.
A wall separated the gardens of the two queens. Satyabhama’s garden was located in the east, in the direction of the rising sun. The Parijata tree, planted in Rukmini’s garden would grow towards the sun and all the flowers would fall into Satyabhama’s garden. So while Rukmini would do all the work of taking care of the plant, Satyabhama would literally reap its benefits.
Realizing Satyabhama’s mischievous intentions, Krishna declared, “Since Rukmini will be taking the trouble of watering the plant and tending to its need, it is only fair that the plant bloom every time I spend time with her.” And so it came to pass that every time the flowers bloomed, Satyabhama knew her husband was with his other wife and so could never really enjoy the beauty of the Parijata. Satyabhama finally apologized to her husband for her pettiness that he clearly did not appreciate.
As a manager and boss, it is necessary to understand the intentions behind the actions of our team. Appearances are often deceptive. Krishna could have made Satyabhama’s mischief transparent but that would have only led to denials and rage. Instead, he took decisions such that the message was passed without anyone’s dignity being wounded.
When Jivan Seth decided to divide his business between his two sons, he saw the elder son more than eager to let the younger son get the car dealership business, so long as he got the restaurant business. Jivan Seth realized this was because potentially the car dealership business had more risks that the restaurant business which was older and on more solid ground. He did not like the public display of affection shown by his elder son. He was being clever and mocking Jivan Seth’s intelligence and he clearly did not care much for his younger brother’s fortune. Confrontation would only lead to angry denials so Jivan Seth came up with a different solution. He declared that the two companies would be divided unequally with the condition that the operations belong to the minority stakeholder. Thus, the elder son got the maximum share of the car dealership business but would operate the restaurant business while the younger son got the maximum share of the restaurant business with operating rights over the car dealership business. This was not completely viable, but by simply raising this suggestion, Jivan Seth clearly communicated his displeasure. And the two sons got the message.