Culture Clashesat MehtaInvestmentGroup: ACase Study KamleshT. Mehta, Peace College

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Culture Clashesat MehtaInvestmentGroup: ACase Study

KamleshT. Mehta, Peace College

ABSTRACT

ThecasestudyisaboutasmallmultinationalfinancialinvestmentfirmlocatedinEnglandwithover$43millioninnetprofit andemploys over500people.Thirteenemployees ofthefirmhavecomplainedaboutthedisplayofa“Swastika”byco-workersintheworkplace.Thecompanyisfacedwiththechallengesassociatedwithdiverseworkforcewithdifferentnationalities,culturalvalues,andreligiousbeliefs,andlegalcomplicationsintheEuropeanUnion.

THECOMPANY

MehtaInvestmentGroup[MIG]Inc.isaglobal,private,for-profit,financialinvestmentcompanyheadquarteredinLondon,Britain.TheownerandtheChairmanofthecompany,CameronMehta,startedthecompanywith$500dollarsasaresultofanargumentwithhisfatherattheageof20.Sinceitsinception,overthepast41years,companyhasgrowninthefinancialsectoroftheEuropeanUnion.Thefirm’scorebusinessisinvestmentonbehalfofitsclients.In2007,thecompanyreported$43millioninnetprofits,hasclientsfromthe20membercountriesoftheEuropeanUnion,andemploysover500employeesinBritain,France,Germany,andSpain.Thecompanyisintherapidgrowthstageandhasprojecteda$50millioninnetprofitin2008.MehtaInvestmentGroupattributesitssuccesstothecorporateculturethatstemsfromtheleadershipstyleandpersonalvaluesofCameronMehta,Chairmanofthecompany.Inaddition,CameronMehtaattributesthesuccessofthecompanytohisdiverseemployees.Thediversework-forceofthecompanyiscomposedofdifferentnationalities,religiousbeliefs,andculturalvalues.Withthegrowthofthecompany,Cameronplanstoincreasehiswork-forcefrom500employeesto700overthenextfour years.

THEEMPLOYEES

Overtheyears,companyhasnothadanyseriouscomplaintfromtheemployees.Thejobsatisfactionamongemployeeshasbeenveryhigh.Thecompanyhasenjoyedasteadygrowtheveryyearforthepast40years.Thegrowthandsuccessofthecompanyisduetodiversityofemployeesatalllevelsoftheorganization,whoarecharacterizedashard-working,dedicated,loyal,family-oriented,andreligious.Thediverseworkforceiscomposedofnumerousreligionsandnationalorigins.Also,thecompanyChairmanandthemajorityoftheemployeessharesimilarvalues,whichhavedriventhegrowthandsuccessofthecompany. Asaresult,morethan50%oftheemployeeshavebeenwiththecompanyfor15yearsormore.Theemployeeturnoverrateisat6%andwellbelowtheindustryaverageof26%.Thediversework-forcehasstrengthenedcompany’scontactsintheindustryandbroughtinclientsofdifferentnationaloriginsandfromall20membercountriesoftheEuropeanUnion.Table1presentsthebreakdownofemployeesbynationalorigin,location,andreligion.

Table 1: Company-Wide Employees

NationalOrigin Location Religion
Indian 60% Britain 80% Hinduism 50%
British 20% Germany 9% Judaism 25%
German 12% France 5% Christianity 22%
French 3% Spain 5% Islam 2%
Other 5% Other 1% Other 1%

THEDILEMMA

AllysaLiverpool,theCEOofMehtaInvestmentGroup(aBritishcompany)receivesamemorandumfromPriyaMehta,theVicePresidentofOperations,regardingdissatisfactionamongseveralemployees.ThememorandumaddressesacomplaintfromthirteenemployeesthroughinternalEmployeeFeedbackCard.TheemployeesattheBritainlocationhaveexpressedtheirdissatisfactionandoutrageregardingsomeof theco-workersdisplayinga“RedSwastika”intheiroffices.ThethirteenemployeesfindthedisplayofswastikaoffensiveandacommendationofactsofNaziduringtheWWII.Thethirteenemployees’nationalitiesare—British(9),Indians(1),French(2),andOther(1).Thereligiousfaithsofthethirteenemployeesare:Judaism(6),Christianity(4),Islam(1),andOther(2).

Althoughonly13employeeshavecomplainedaboutthedisplayofa“RedSwastika”,Priyastated“theproblemissevereandifanimmediatesolutionisnotreached,itcouldgetoutofcontrol”.Thepracticeofdisplayinga“RedSwastika”iscommontotheBritishandGermanlocationsandhasbeengoingonforover15years.However,shestressestheseriousnessofthedilemmaandemployeecomplaintsinceoneoftheemployeesmakingthecomplaint,aBritishnationalwithJudaismfaith,ismarriedtothesonoftheownerofamajorlocalnewspaper.Also,sheassessesthesituationtobeacompanywideissueandconnectedtothelawsofGermany,Britain,andtheEuropeanUnion.

Afterafewmonths,theissuewasbecomingamajorconcernasfewmoreemployeesjoinedinsupportofthecomplaint.Intheircomplaints,theemployeeshavedemandedthatthecompanyfiretheemployeesdisplayingthe“RedSwastika”,provideanapology(fromCameronMehta)totheemployeesandtheirfamiliesforallowingsuchaconduct,andpassacompanywidepolicy banningtheuseanddisplayofthe“Swastika”in anyform andinanyplaceinthecompany,immediately.

TheChairman

CameronMehta,theChairmanofMehtaInvestmentGroup[MIG]Inc.,hasalwaysworkedforhim-self.Anentrepreneuratheart,hispassionwastostarthisownbusiness.Hehasneverworkedinmanagementpositionsforanycompanynorhashestartedmorethanonebusinessofhisown.HespenthisentirecareerwithMehtaInvestmentGroup[MIG]Inc.CameronMehtais theprimaryreasonof thesuccess ofthecompany,today.HewasraisedinLondon,is59yearsof age,andhasanMBAdegreefromasmall,privateCollegeinLondon,Britain.HisparentsmetinLondonatanIndianfestivalcalledDiwali.HismotherwasanAnglo-GermanChristianandfatherwasanIndianmigratedfromIndiawithHinduismashisreligiousfaith.Camerongrewuptoappreciateboththeculturesand religiousfaiths.Also,thenameCameron Mehtais arepresentationofbothAnglo-GermanandIndiancultures.

DuringhispursuitoftheBachelorofBusinessAdministrationdegree,CameronMehta’sperformanceintheclasseswasbelowaverage(equivalenttotheUSeducationsystematorbelowC).Asaresult,oneday,inanargument,Cameron’parentstoldhimthat“hewillnotbeasuccessfulpersonunlesshehasthedisciplineanddrivetodosomethingwithhislife”.Theyadded,“Itseemstousthatyouarewastingyourlifeawayalthoughwehaveinstilledthebestvaluesoftwoculturesinyou”.Cameronhadatremendousamountofrespectforhisparentsandsawthemashisheroesandrolemodels.Hewantedtomakethemproud.So,hisparent’swordshurthisfeelingsandhetookthemtoheart.Ononeside,toprovehisparentswrong,andontheotherside,nottodisappointthem,Camerondecided to invest$500 dollarsinthe stockmarket.He hadsavedthis moneyfromthe summerodd jobsasnewspaperdelivery boy,busboy,andawaiter.Hehadaspecialinterestinthestockmarketandoftenusedtolookatthestockpricesinthenewspapereveryweektoseehowcompaniesweredoingwiththeirstockprices.Whiledeliveringthenewspapersatage16,hehadconceivedadreamofbecomingamillionairebybuyingandsellingstocksofdifferentcompaniesbythetimehereachedtheageof30.

CameronMehtaattributeshisandMehtaInvestmentGroup’ssuccesstothevalueshereceivedfromhisparents,whichincludediscipline,hard-work,honesty,loyalty,passion,leadership,family,andreligiousfaith.Heliveshislifebythesevaluesonadailybasis.Forexample,healwaysarrivesatworkat7:30a.m.beforeanyemployeeandstartshisdaywithabriefprayerasperthereligiouspracticesinHinduismandChristianity.Accordingtohisphilosophyand leadership style, employeesarepartofhisextendedfamily.Thus,healwayswantstobeinformedofemployees’professionalaswellaspersonalgrowthandsuccess.

TheChiefExecutiveOfficer

AllysaLiverpool,theCEOofMehtaInvestmentGroup.(aBritishcompany),is50yearsofage.Priortojoiningthecompany,AllysawastheVicePresidentofFinance,DirectorofFinancialOperations,InvestmentAnalyst,FinancialPlanner,andInvestmentBrokerwithnumerousmultinationalcompaniesinFrance,Britain,GermanyandSpain.Although aChristian,sherespectspeopleofallfaith fortheirbeliefsandpractices.Although,inherpastexperiences,Allysa’sclientsincludedhighpoweredandinfluentialpeople,shedidnothavetheopportunitytoworkwithemployeeswithvariedreligiousandculturalbackgrounds.Someofherclientswereprominentlawyers,doctors,topexecutives,politicians,parliamentmembers,highlevelgovernmentofficials,andontheForbesTop100RichestPeopleintheWorldfromnumerouscountriesintheEuropeanUnion.Althoughsheisnotincontactwiththemonaregularbasis,herrelationshipswithsomeofthemareverygood.Herpastrelationshipswiththeclientshelp thecompanyestablishagood imageofthecompanyandpublic relationsstandingwiththepublicandmedia.

Afterthereviewofthecomplaintandpertinentinformation,Allysaconcludedthatthesituationandthecomplaintwasnotaseriousconcernanddidnotneedtobeclassifiedasahighpriority.Asaresult,shedecidedtonotbringtheissuetotheattentionofCameronMehta.SheconsideredCameronMehtatobeverysetinhisways,religiousinhisbeliefs,traditionalinhisvalues,andoldfashionedinhisthinking.ShethoughtthatbriningthecomplainttotheattentionofCameronwillonlymakemattersworsesinceheprobablywouldsupportthereligiouspracticesandfamilyvaluesofhismajorityemployees.SheisconfidentthatshecouldtackletheproblemwithoutgettingCameroninvolvedinthesituation.

VicePresidentofOperations:

PriyaMehta hasaDoctorateinHuman ResourcesManagementfromaprominentIvyLeagueUniversityintheUSA.SheisraisedinUSandBritainandis35yearsofage.AtMehtaInvestmentGroup[MIG]Inc.,shehasbeentheVicePresidentofOperationsforthepast5years.Priortojoiningthecompany,hercumulativeexperiencesof4yearsincludeDirectorofOperationsandAssistantDirectorofPublicRelationswithprominentcompaniesinUSandBritain.SheisthedaughteroftheChairmanofthecompany.Asherfather,shesharesthevaluesinstilledinherfromherparents.Sheiswellrespectedintheindustryandbytheemployeesathercompanyandmaintainsoutstandingrelationswiththeemployeesandhisfather.She regardsher father, Cameron Mehta,ashermentor, rolemodel, and hero, however,oftenhasdisagreedwithher fatheronkeyissuesinthe bestinterestofthecompany.SheregardsAllysaLiverpool,theCEOofMehtaInvestmentGroup[MIG],Inc.,tobelessconcernedabouttheemployeesandmorefocusedonthebottomline,i.e.,profitinmonetaryterms.DuetoPriya’sexpertiseinhumanresourcesandunderstandingofthelegalandregulatoryimplicationsrelatedtolaborissues,sheoftenfindsherselfopposingAllysaLiverpoolonmattersrelatedtohumanresourcesatthecompany.

RESEARCHINGTHECOMPLAINT

Inherresearchofthecomplaint,PriyaMehtalearnedthefollowingattheCompanylevel(inclusiveofsubsidiariesatalllocations):

Itwastruethatsomeemployeesweredisplayinga“RedSwastika”thatwasmentionedinthecomplaint.Noone inthecompanywasdisplayingthe“Nazi Swastika”.  IntheHinduism,Buddhism, andJainismreligions,the“RedSwastika”isusedduringmarriageceremonies,religiousprayers,housewarmingparties,grandopeningceremoniesofanewbusiness,NewYearcelebrations,inhomesandtemples,andpaintedon theforeheadofa babyonher/hisfirsthair-cuttingsacrament.Itisviewedasagoodluckcharm.Hindusregard“TheSwastika”inmuchthesamewayasChristiansviewtheCross.

NaziGermanscopiedtheoriginal“swastika”fromHinduismandwithaslightmodification,useditforNazipropaganda.TheHinduswastikafacestotheright,unliketheoneadoptedbytheNaziswhichfacestotheleft.Also,theHinduswastikaistraditionallyred,acolorregardedasauspiciousbyHindus,whereastheNaziSwastikaisblack.

Theemployeesdisplayingthe“RedSwastika”wereofdifferentnationality,Angloaswellasnon-AnglowiththereligiousfaithofHinduism.

Thetotalnumberofemployeesdisplayingthe“RedSwastika”was60%ofthetotalcompanywork-force.Table2presentsthecompany-widebreakdownbynationalorigin,location,andreligion,ofthoseemployees(60%ofcompanywork-force)displayingthe“Redswastika”.

Priya MehtanotedthatwhenPrinceHarry waspicturedwearing the“Nazi Swastika”,thepeople askedforan apology,which herendered.However,duetothelack ofsufficienttimeshedidnotincludespecificinformationpertainingtothelawsoftheEuropeanUnionrelatedtotheemployeecomplaints,butadvisedAllysaLiverpooltoreviewEUlawspriortomakinganydecision.

 

 

Table 2: Company-Wide EmployeesDisplayingthe“RedSwastika”

NationalOrigin Location Religion
Indian 37% Britain 45% Hinduism 54%
British 14% Germany 13% Judaism 00%
German 08% France 01% Christianity 05%
French 00% Spain 01% Islam 01%
Other 01% Other 00% Other 00%

PositionofEmployeeswithHinduismFaith

The“Red Swastika”display waspartof theritualinabrief prayer accordingtoHinduismreligionandwassymbolicallydrawninredcoloronthephotoofoneoftheGoddesscalledLakshmi—knownastheGoddessofMoney.Employees of Hinduismfaith believeinstarting everydaywith asymbolicritualandaprayerthatwas oneminutelong.InHinduismthegeneralbeliefisthatdrawinga“RedSwastika”bringsspiritual,mental, andfinancialsuccessand prosperityfor the dayineverythingtheydo,includingbringingnewclientstothefirm.Itisregardedasthesecondmostsacredsymbolafterthe“Om”andisusedtowardevilspiritanddevotiontoGod.Hinduismistheoldestdocumentedreligionintheworldandthepracticeofdrawingthe“RedSwastika”datesbackto5000years.TheHinduemployeesstatedthattheHinduismreligion,itsritualsandpractices,andthesymbolicuseofswastikahadbeenaroundbeforetheexistenceofwesterncountries,Nazipropaganda,andAdolfHitler.

Accordingtothepeopleof Hinduism,Buddhism, andJainismfaith,thecompanycannotbantheirreligioussymbols,whichhavebeenpartoftheirbeliefs,culture,andreligioustraditionswellbeforetheWesterncultureandcountrieswereborn.TheyremindedPriyaMehtathattheytooarethecitizensofEuropeandhavetherighttopracticetheirreligion.Inaddition,itistheirbeliefthatovertheyears,companyhasbenefitedfromtheirprayers.Theyraisedinterestingquestionsforthecompanyexecutives:Ifthecompanydecidestobanone,willitbanallothersimilarsymbolssuchastheOminHinduism,CrossorJesusFishinChristianity,TheStarofDavidinJudaism,CTR-Choose the RightinMormon,andthe Crescentand Starin Islam? Wherewillthecompanydrawthelineonwhatisacceptableandwhatisnot?Willthecompanybanthewaycertainemployeesdress?ShouldthecompanybanthedisplayofCrossjustbecausetheKuKluxKlanusedtoburnit?Shouldthecompanybanthedisplayofa“Swastika”justbecausetheNaziuseditforirreprehensiblepurposes?

PositionofEmployeeswithJudaismFaith

A“Swastika”usedbyNaziGermanshasbeenasymbolofatrocitytowardsJewishpeople,inparticular,andtheworld,ingeneral.Adisplayofsuchasymbolisoffensive,insulting,andacommendationofactsofNaziduringtheWWII.Suchamessagefromthe companywillnotbe tolerated.Allnationsandgovernmentsaround theworldhavecondemnedtheactsofNaziGermansandtherepresentationofthe“NaziSwastika”.Also,inordertolearnfromtheHistoryassociatedwiththe“Swastika”companymusttakeproactiveactionsonthisissueandeliminateitsdisplayanduseinitsentiretyfromthework-place.

PositionofEmployeeswithChristianandMuslimFaiths

Employeeswith Christian andMuslim faithdid notprovideanyexplanationforsuchadisplaynordidtheytakeapositioninfavororagainstthedisplayofthe“RedSwastika”bycoworkers.Although,thethirteenemployeesthat havebrought the complaintforward suspectthat the Christianand Muslim employees are displayingthe“redswastika”toalignthemselveswiththeChairmanandmajorityofHinduemployeesofthecompany.

PositionofEmployeesofEuropeanOrigin

ThenationalismandregionalismisontheriseinEuropeanUnion.Asaresult,severallegislationshavebeenintroducedintheEuropeanUnionParliamenttolegallybantheuseanddisplayofthefollowinginboththepublicandprivateplaces inthe EuropeanCountries:(1)“TheSwastika”,and(2)all religioussymbols.Inaddition,legislationshavebeenintroducedintheBritishParliamenttolegallybantheuseanddisplayof“TheSwastika”inboththepublicandprivateplacesinBritain.Theresultsofthevoteonallofthelegislationsarepending.TheymayormaynotgetpassedthroughtheParliament.AccordingtothelawsofGermany,itisillegaltouseordisplaythe“NaziSwastika”anywhereinGermany.In France,it isillegalforanyonetowearahijab(ascarfcoveringtheheadorface)inpublicplaces.TheFrenchlawdirectlyaffectedthereligiousbeliefsandpracticesofthepeopleofIslam.

PriyaMehtaattachedallofthedetailedresearchinformationassociatedwiththecomplainttohermemorandumforthereviewofAllysaLiverpool,CEOofMehtaInvestmentGroup[MIG],Inc.

Note:                  Toconcealtheidentityandtoprotecttheindividualsandinterestsofthefirm,thenamesofthecompanyandemployeeswerechangedandthestatisticalinformationprovidedbythefirmwasproportionatelymodifiedinthiscasestudy.

Student Instructions:

Prepare a case study addressing the following elements:

  1. Describe the cultural differences, views, values, and organizational culture of Mehta Investment Group (MIG).
  2. Discuss how these cultural differences impact the business practices and employee relations for MIG.
  3. Propose courses of actions as to how to solve the cultural issues presented in the case, fully explaining the process and implementation of the proposed actions.
  4. Determine and recommend the most appropriate course of action, outlining the decision making and reasoning behind chosen recommendation.