I’m presently vacationing in Switzerland, using Lausanne as a base to explore the nearby mountains through day hikes.  Yesterday I was in the Vaud Alps region, and the weather was perfect for the walk from Leysin to LeSepey.



My drive to Lausanne takes about 5 hours.  I usually look forward to the Swiss part of the drive: the roads curve and climb just enough to keep things interesting, and the surrounding landscape – green meadows dotted with sloping roof cottages , with snow-covered peaks in the distance – gives an pleasing backdrop. 

The employer-employee relationship

And unfortunate side-effect of the Gaurav Sabnis – IIPM episode is the message it sends on the relationship between an individual and his or her employer.

From the beginning it seemed very strange that IIPM dragged IBM into the matter, in spite of being told (by IBM) that what Gaurav had to say was entirely his personal opinion which neither reflected the views of the company he worked for nor touched any area of business the company was involved in. This unreasonable strategy worked  –  Gaurav offered to resign, IBM accepted his resignation and IIPM thought they achieved what they set out to do. 

What if Gaurav had not resigned? Or if IBM had encouraged Gaurav to stay on, asking him not to worry about IBM’s reputation ? Would IIPM really have got down to burning laptops? Very unlikely, because that would have attracted the attention of mainstream media which would have led to more scrutiny of all of IIPM’s claims.  IIPM’s strategy has revolved around bullying weak targets (it assumed bloggers were in this category), and I doubt if it has the stomach to bring the matter into the view of the larger public. Even the legal notices were mere threats – they would not think of following up with legal action. As Dr.Amit Kapoor says, " If IIPM actually goes ahead with a legal recourse against Sabnis, they will end up axing their own foot. A defamation case eventually puts the truth to test."

But Gaurav did resign, which showed that despite dragging his employer into a matter completely unrelated to the employee’s role or the employer’s business, IIPM’s pressure tactics succeeded in severing the relationship between Gaurav and IBM. 

As employees, we have a contract with our employers. Breach the contract, and you are likely to be fired. But the corporate-individual contract has its borders, beyond which the individual is free to do as he or she wishes. What one does in personal life should not, normally, intrude into the official sphere and have an effect on the organization one works for (There are exceptions of course – a CEO’s action in the personal sphere can have an impact on the organization he leads).  By artificially linking the employee and his employer in an unrelated matter and succeeding in severing their relationship, IIPM has set a bad example.  And coming from a management institution – which probably teaches business ethics to its students – this act  cannot be condoned. Let us hope others do not follow the example set by IIPM.

IIPM’s behaviour

I’m still trying to figure out the bizzare behaviour of IIPM in the recent days.  The more I think about it, the more I wonder about the role – in this matter – of the perceived status of blogging. Would the same people – at IIPM – have come up with similar uncivilized threats if Gaurav Sabnis had published his views in mainstream media? Would they do it now, with the hindsight of observing the effects of all this on their reputation in the last few days? And does that mean this medium has finally come of age, and found a (collective) voice of its own?

People voicing strong opinions are bound to attract critcism and opposition, irrespective of the medium they choose to air their views in. However, the nature of critcism and the manner of opposition reveals how one party views the other. In the current episode, all the bullying by IIPM shows what they think of Gaurav in the role of a blogger – the perceived status of medium Gaurav used is behind the attitude adopted by IIPM. Is it any wonder, then, that we are all rallying behind him?